Nutrition In the Winter

By Sarah Blunden

Even in the best of times, seniors are at risk of nutritional deficits due to many factors. Now with the winter months upon us, colds, the flu and injuries are at their highest. The nutritional needs of seniors are at an increased risk of suffering.

So, how can seniors ensure healthy and nutritionally sound eating habits? There are some steps seniors can take to increase their overall energy and to boost their immune system to help fight off illness. Eating well and staying active is the key.

Eat from the 4 food groups at least 3 times a day

  • Group 1 – Fruits and Vegetables: aim for dark green, red, orange and yellow ones. They contain natural disease fighting ingredients. Try eating spinach, oranges, bell peppers, etc.
  • Group 2 – Grains: look for the ones with more fiber since it helps with digestion.  Remember to increase fiber slowly and to increase fluids at the same time. If you have an intestinal disease check with your doctor first before increasing your fiber.  Try eating whole wheat pasta and breads, oatmeal (porridge), etc.
  • Group 3 – Milk and Milk Alternatives:  This is an important group for bone and muscle health and especially important in the prevention of osteoporosis. This food group provides us with vitamin D, which mainly comes from the sun.  In some areas there is limited sun exposure during the winter months.  Try having milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.
  • Group 4 – Meat and Meat Alternatives: This group provides us with protein, vitamins and minerals. Protein helps repair muscles and keeps us well nourished. Try eating fish, poultry, lentils, chickpeas, nuts and seeds.

Drink Plenty of Water

A key point that must also be stressed is the importance of fluid.  Water makes up most of our body and it is used in the transport of medications, for digestion, for circulation and for our joints and muscles. Water is also essential for our concentration and for our cognitive functioning.  Staying hydrated in winter is important, too! Try adding a soup to your meal, have decaffeinated coffee/tea, herbal teas, vegetables and fruit juices (100% pure) or milk.

How to Start Eating Better

If you or your loved one is having difficulty eating well it may be beneficial to look into a retirement or an assisted living community where nutritionally balanced meals are provided. Additionally, eating is generally a social activity. A community environment provides the motivation for seniors to attend meals as a way to connect with others and to decrease overall isolation and loneliness. Studies have proven that seniors who eat with others are generally better nourished.


Another way to stimulate one’s appetite is through exercise. Physical activity is equally important to overall health, unfortunately during the winter months this can be a challenge due to winter conditions which may keep seniors indoors. There are solutions, such as a retirement or an assisted living community, where seniors can participate safely in planned group activities in an indoor environment.  There is greater success in numbers and with success comes a healthier winter!

Have Someone Do the Cooking For You

The majority of assisted living communities and independent living communities include three prepared meals a day with the cost of the apartment or housing. By having a trained chef prepare meals for the residents, they can spend more time on enjoying retirement years!

To find an assisted living community that’s right for you or your loved one, call your local Care Advisor at (866) 662-0435.

Sarah Blunden, Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, McGill University Bachelor in Human Nutrition 2003, Dietitian for Erickson Resource Group