Senior Nutrition

Easy Ways to Reduce the Sodium in Your Diet

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You’ve just been diagnosed with high blood pressure and you’re hesitant to go on medication. There’s good news! With some lifestyle and diet changes, it’s easy to treat high blood pressure the natural way.

Doctors say that reducing sodium intake can be an important first step in reducing your blood pressure or even preventing high blood pressure. Limiting sodium intake to 2,300mg per day will help, and if you can reduce your intake to 1,500 mg per day, you should see optimal results.

It’s not as hard as you might think to cut the salt from your diet and reduce your sodium intake. When they’re not doused in salt, you may even find yourself enjoying the rich flavors of foods even more.

Read the Labels
Sodium sneaks into our diet even when we can’t taste it. For instance, cheese, many fast food and canned vegetables have close to 2,000mg of sodium per serving, and most of these don’t taste particularly salty.

Throw Away Your Salt Shaker
Aside from fast food and instant soups, adding table salt to your meals is one of the biggest culprits of sodium in a diet. Simply eliminate the salt shaker from your table and in a day or so, you’ll discover you don’t even miss it. Instead, use pepper and fresh herbs and spices such as garlic, oregano, basil or cilantro, depending on what you’re eating.

If you’re on blood pressure medication or have kidney problems, avoid salt substitutes, as many of these contain potassium chloride, which can be harmful. Certain salt-free seasoning blends, though, can add flavor to your food with just a shake, without harming your health. Just read the labels to be sure there’s no potassium chloride in the seasoning blend, or make your own seasoning blends from your favorite combination of spices.

Find Substitutes for Favorite Snacks
It’s obvious that foods like potato chips and pretzels are high in salt and sodium. If you crave that crunch, consider air popping your own popcorn and then seasoning it with a spicy, salt-free seasoning blend. Dehydrated apple chips you make yourself are also a tasty snack, or sprinkle fresh kale with olive oil and garlic powder and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes on each side, or until crunchy, for a unique treat that satisfies that chip craving while providing lots of added nutrition.

Choose Organic and Fresh Foods
Many people who grow their own foods in a garden or shop at local farmer’s markets comment on how much more flavorful these fruits and vegetables are. Likewise, many people who switch to organic fruits, vegetables, meats and poultry note a more pleasing flavor.

People commonly add salt to foods in order to give it more flavor (canned vegetables and processed foods are a good example). Instead, look for natural foods with a rich flavor to begin with and you won’t have to rely on added salt for flavor.

Allow Yourself a “Cheat Snack” Once in a While
A high blood pressure diagnosis and living on the DASH diet doesn’t mean you’re destined to survive without sweets or salty snacks forever. Allow yourself a “cheat” every few weeks. But keep in mind once your taste buds become accustomed to the myriad of bold new flavors that exist beyond salt and sugar, you probably won’t even be interested in cheating after the first few months.

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (877) 345-1706 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.

One in 12 Seniors Has Inadequate Food

One in Twelve Seniors Has Inadequate Food

It may be shocking to hear in a country as prosperous as ours that many seniors 60 and older are not getting adequate food. The primary reason many older adults are going hungry is attributed to the lack of financial resources. Termed  “food insecure,” those seniors without adequate food are at much higher risk for health problems and issues directly related to malnutrition. The research on senior food insecurity was done in a recent study by at the University of Illinois using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Dr. Greg Gundersen, who led the data analysis of the research study reports, “In 2011, 8.35 percent of Americans over age 60 faced the threat of hunger – that translates to 4.8 million people.” Gundersen advises that food insecurity with its reduced calorie intake, vitamins and essential nutrients put seniors at risk for diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, gum disease and other illnesses related to inadequate food.

The extensive data that resulted from this study allowed researchers to compare older adults over 60 to those 50 to 59. This gave foreshadowing for the younger seniors’ outlook in their older years. The younger subjects were already beginning to show similarities in their diet and resulting poorer health.

One startling statistic the researchers found was the rates of food insecurity were nearly three times as high if there were grandchildren living in the home. Gundersen speculated, “We think this may be because adults in households with grandchildren are foregoing health diets in order to make sure their grandchildren have enough to eat.” As a result of the study and this data, Gundersen feels the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program) is one proven way to address this problem of food insecurity in older adults. He is actively recommending policymakers and administrators work to increase participation in the program focusing on seniors that are affected.

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (877) 345-1706 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.

Red Is the New Healthy: 3 Items Seniors Must Eat to Stay Healthy

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You may have noticed the produce department at your grocery store is bursting with color. Those pale winter tomatoes are actually starting to look deep red again. Strawberries are bountiful and big and more seasonal offerings like asparagus are arriving. While the comfort starches like potatoes kept us warm this winter, it’s time to embrace these spring choices. But not only are these fruits and vegetables brightening up our day, they are also some of the healthiest. Red fruits in particular have some of the best health benefits for seniors.

According to an article in a recent AARP magazine, three of these red fruits are packed with nutrients, disease-busting properties and are heart healthy when combined with other foods on a low-fat diet. Here are three items to choose for your good health.

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3 Healthy Spices for a Container Garden In Your Senior Home

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Spring is the best time to begin planting a garden that will reap rewards throughout the summer and into fall. Even if your senior community apartment is short on space, you can still enjoy a container garden.

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Surprising Anti-Aging Benefits of Spring Fruits and Vegetables

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Spring is right around the corner. Every year, we look forward to the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables that come with the season. But you may not think about the amazing health benefits of these foods.

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6 Ways Seniors Can Spice Up the Kitchen with Cooking Classes

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Whether you’re in an independent senior community or an assisted living facility, you probably do some of your own cooking. You might even enjoy gathering in the community kitchen to help with meal prep on certain nights. Activities directors in senior communities, similarly, seek food-related activities to keep residents engaged and stimulated.

Why not consider bringing in pros to teach some unique cooking classes for the residents? Inquire about chefs who can hold classes on-site or at another location at high-end culinary stores, community colleges and even the public library. Or plan a day trip for seniors in the community to take classes outside the community.

Here are five unique cooking classes to consider offering to residents in a senior community.

Paleo Cooking Class
The Paleo Diet should not be confused with a raw food diet. The Paleo Diet, instead, focuses on foods that are not processed, even if they are cooked. The diet includes staples like free-range or gas-fed beef, pork, lamb, and poultry, fish and other seafood, fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and healthy oils.

Cake Baking/Decorating
From food coloring gels and bakery-quality cake mixes that make it easy to incorporate swirls and patterns of various colors and designs into any cake, to vast improvements in the quality and ease-of-use of fondant, making and decorating fun-to-eat cakes has never been easier.

Invite a baker to teach residents the basics, and then hold a cake contest. Who can come up with the most original (and best-tasting!) design? Don’t forget to share your creations on Pinterest.

Chocolate Prep
Chocolate’s many health benefits have been proven in recent years. In addition to stimulating the release of endorphins and serotonin to evoke feelings of happiness and well-being, dark chocolate also contains high concentrations of flavonoids, the same phytochemicals found in tea, red wine, and many fruits. Flavonoids slow oxidation of cells to help prevent cancer and slow the signs of aging, and also can help decrease blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Making chocolate with molds is an easy and fun creative outlet that requires minimal instruction, but a teacher can demonstrate advanced techniques to create fun treats.

Vegetarian
Even if senior community residents don’t opt for a vegetarian lifestyle, it can be fun to pick up some low-cal, low-fat healthy recipes that incorporate vegetables and grains as the main ingredients, with protein coming from sources like beans and soy.

Ethnic Foods
Activities directors in senior communities can turn this into a fun, and inexpensive, activity everyone can enjoy… no help from professional chefs required.

Many seniors still remember their parents’, and even their grandparents’, Old World recipes. In many cases, they’ve already been passed down through several generations. Residents can share recipes for their favorite Italian, German, Irish, English, Greek and other dishes, instructing the other residents in the preparation and then enjoying the meal together.

What cooking classes would you like to see available in your senior community?

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (877) 345-1706 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.

6 Memory-Boosting Foods and Drinks for Seniors

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Seniors experiencing lapses in memory may worry it’s an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease. It may be, but there are other reasons people forget names, details and even important facts some times. Check out our list of five conditions that may look like Alzheimer’s – but aren’t.

There’s even more good news. You can improve your memory power with a few simple additions to your diet. Here are six brain-boosting foods and beverages.

Green Tea
This drink, enjoyed hot or cold, has long been touted as a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants prevent the formation of free radicals, which can damage brain cells. In recent years, researchers discovered the antioxidant epigallocatechin-3 gallate (EGCG), an organic chemical, also helps the brain produce neuron cells in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for shifting information from short-term to long-term memory. In laboratory tests, EGCG-treated mice showed superior memory and spatial learning skills.

Red Wine
In addition to red wine’s positive effects on your heart and cholesterol levels, there’s another reason to enjoy one glass a night. The same resveratrol that shows amazing anti-aging properties also increases blood flow in the brain for better memory. Additionally, research shows that properties found in both resveratrol and EGCG may actually stave off or prevent Alzheimer’s disease in people who carry a genetic marker for the disease.

Not into imbibing? Purple grape juice can have the same benefits, since resveratrol is concentrated in the skins of grapes.

Peanuts
Deemed one of the “best nuts for your brain” by Health.com, peanuts not only contain the same resveratrol antioxidants as wine and grapes, but they are also loaded with folate, a mineral that has been shown to potentially protect against cognitive decline.

Salmon
Omega-3 fatty acids are important as the brain rebuilds itself and grows new neurons. That’s why doctors recommend pregnant women and infants consume lots of Omega-3s; the brain is in overdrive before and just after birth creating neurons. But for seniors who want to keep their brain strong, Omega-3s are equally important. Omega-3s are readily available in vitamin supplements, but there’s nothing like getting important nutrients like fatty acids from a natural source. Salmon is packed with Omega-3s, as is albacore tuna. Wild-caught Alaskan and Pacific Coast salmon are also “very low” in mercury content, making them safe to eat several times a week.

Spinach, Broccoli and Kale
Vitamin E, a proven antioxidant, has been shown to prevent the death of neurons. When neurons in the brain start to die, it can kick off rapid cognitive decline. Vitamin E from natural sources has been shown to prevent this chain of events. Leafy green vegetables, including spinach, kale and broccoli are chock full of vitamin E. You can also find vitamin E in canola oil, avocado, and many nuts and seeds, including peanuts.

Water
Yes, there’s yet another reason to drink enough water (between six to eight glasses a day). When your energy and mental capacity drops, your memory suffers. Memory lapses due to dehydration can lead to concerns about impending Alzheimer’s, and stress and worry isn’t good for your body, either.
SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (877) 345-1706 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.

Senior Living Industry Sees Dining Services Leading Growth

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The dining services component of the senior housing industry hasn’t always been a primary focus of senior living. In the past, it certainly was an important factor in residents’ care and comfort, but now this service segment has begun to be one of the star attractions. From flexible dining schedules, the option of specialty diets, to the employment of gourmet chefs, the food is drawing in residents and leading to occupancy growth.

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Feeding Alzheimer’s Patients: Tips to Make Sure the Senior In Your Care is Eating Enough

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When you’re caring for an aging parent or another senior loved one, it’s natural to be concerned about whether they are eating enough. We recently discussed the optimal dining experience for seniors in a nursing home or assisted living facility. But how can you ensure the senior in your care gets enough to eat at home, whether it’s a small weekday meal or a large holiday gathering?

Obviously, you want to replicate the calming atmosphere you’d look for in a nursing home dining hall. At home, the onus is on you as the caregiver to make sure the senior gets enough nutritious foods. The good news is that you have the freedom and flexibility to create an environment where your loved one will thrive. Follow these tips to make mealtime pleasant for your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Serve food quickly.
Seniors with Alzheimer’s tend to have short attention spans. It’s not fair to expect them to sit and wait or make small talk before dinner. Make sure the food is served before you call everyone to the table. For Thanksgiving or other holiday celebrations where food is served family style, prepare the senior’s plate first so it’s ready when they sit down and they don’t have to struggle with passing dishes.

Create a routine.
Familiarity helps alleviate anxiety and agitation. From the choice of place settings to the senior’s seat, as well as the times meals are served, the more factors you can keep the same from day to day, the better your loved one with Alzheimer’s will thrive.

Create a calming atmosphere.
Soft music may help keep seniors calm during mealtime, but some research shows that slow music may actually cause people to eat less. You can also create a calming atmosphere through the colors in your dining room or kitchen, relaxing and scenic artwork, and quiet conversation.

That doesn’t mean you can’t, or shouldn’t, enjoy loud, boisterous conversation with other relatives during holiday gatherings. Just be respectful and keep an eye on your loved one with Alzheimer’s to make sure they are handling the situation okay.

Clear the clutter.
Remove any unnecessary serving bowls, decorative table centerpieces, and extra utensils. Experts recommend plates and bowls in bright, bold colors, and a place mat to clearly delineate the senior’s space and help eliminate confusion.

Remind your loved one to eat.
You may have to remind your loved one to take small bites, chew their food, and even to swallow. Monitor them throughout the meal. You can model eating tasks for them so they will follow, promoting independence. If your loved one seems to have trouble manipulating utensils, serve finger foods or even give them permission to pick up certain foods (like cut-up pieces of chicken or chunks of vegetables) with their fingers.

Be aware of medical risks.
As the disease progresses, Alzheimer’s patients may have trouble swallowing, which leads to choking risks. Again, remember to cut food into very small pieces and remind your loved one to eat slowly. Learn the Heimlich Maneuver so that you can act fast if your loved one begins to choke.

Learn from experience.
At mealtime, pay attention to what works and what doesn’t work. For instance, if a variety of colors and textures on the plate confuses your loved one, serve only one food at a time.

If your loved one becomes overwhelmed by large portions and won’t eat if there is too much food there, or if he or she tends to overeat in an effort to clear the plate, dole out much smaller portions. You can always offer a second helping.

Most importantly, stay upbeat, yet soothing throughout the meal. A large part of being an effective caregiver is watching the signals around you and how your loved one with Alzheimer’s reacts in different situations, so you can do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. By following these tips, mealtime can continue to be a pleasant family bonding experience for you and your loved one even as the disease progresses.

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (877) 345-1706 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.

Evaluating Mealtime Before You Choose a Senior Community

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When you’re evaluating an assisted living community or nursing home for yourself or a loved one, you’ll undoubtedly consider a number of factors, including the size and quality of the rooms, the quality of the care, and the programs offered. But have you considered the mealtime experience?

Studies show that residents in long-term care facilities tend to lose weight quickly following the move and change in lifestyle. Ten percent of residents lose 5 percent of their body weight within a month. This is not necessarily a positive change, either. Other research shows that as many as 85 percent of nursing home residents are undernourished. This is one reason why considering the dining experiences and nutrition plans of an assisted living community or nursing home is crucial. Positive experiences during mealtimes contribute to seniors’ overall well-being, can reduce depression symptoms, and can lead to a longer, happier life.

Of course, there are many quality nursing homes and senior communities that offer residents nutritious, restaurant-quality food in a nurturing environment. It helps to know what to look for in terms of a positive dining experience when you choose an assisted living or nursing home community.

Flexible Mealtimes
One way to ensure seniors are getting enough to eat is to give them an opportunity to eat whenever they are hungry. This could mean looking for an assisted living community which includes a small kitchen in each resident’s room, where they can heat up a can of soup or even bake cookies with or without help.

Some senior communities offer a number of different breakfast, lunch and dinner times. This gives residents the opportunity to choose not only when they eat, but to choose (to some extent) their mealtime companions. Making sure that seniors are comfortable in their environment and enjoying the company of those around them is an important part of mealtime success.
At the very least, seniors should have some high protein, calorie- and nutrient-dense, tasty snacks available to them 24/7, giving them the power to choose to eat when they are hungry, just as they would at home.

Comfortable Dining Arrangements
The dining areas in some senior communities look like five-star restaurants while others are more like high school cafeterias. Of course, budget will be a driving factor in the overall atmosphere and quality of the senior community’s décor, but any environment can be joyful and pleasant, regardless of budget.

Is staff attentive to the seniors? Is the overall dining environment pleasant and happy, with plenty of conversation going on? Do seniors make it a point to talk to each other, and does staff help to encourage conversation?

Even in a more functional, versus decorative, dining hall, the staff can create a fun experience and maintain a positive environment.

Proper Nutrition
Seniors should always be offered a selection of nutrient-dense, high-protein foods. Of course, special diets should be available for those who may need heart-healthy, low-sodium or diabetic meal plans. Assisted living communities and nursing homes may grapple with the dilemma of feeding seniors doctor- and dietician-approved meals, vs. making sure they get enough to eat by feeding them what they want. Some senior care facilities take an extreme view in either direction, giving seniors, especially those with Alzheimer’s, freedom to choose everything on their plate, regardless of its nutritional value, while others adhere to strict nutritional guidelines. That’s not to say either approach is right or wrong, but you will want to choose a senior community where the philosophy is in line with your own about what’s best for the aging senior in your care, and you certainly want to know that at least some of the food options are healthy and nutritious.

A Variety of Food Options
Even nutritious food can be fun. In a best case scenario, the assisted living community or nursing home will offer a variety of cuisines from different cultures, perhaps hosting food-centric events like taco nights, ice cream sundae bars, or food related to specific holidays like St. Patrick’s Day. They might even let residents share their own family recipes and even participate in cooking and food prep.

Getting enough of the right foods to eat is an important aspect of thriving in the later stages of life. Seniors gain an advantage if they are in a nursing home or assisted living community that places a high value on the food that is served and the way it is presented in a comfortable, welcoming environment with the flexibility adults deserve.
SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (877) 345-1706 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.

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