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Helping Aging Adults Switch to Plant-Based Fare

A plant-based diet eliminates animal products and processed fare while emphasizing whole foods. With this shift, seniors gain better health along with saving money. Here’s how seniors can smoothly switch to a plant-based regimen.

Prioritize Produce

Picture your senior loved one’s dinner plate divided into four sections. This is the image created by the Harvard School of Public Health to guide meal planning for this diet. Next, visualize half the plate occupied by produce, with two-thirds reserved for vegetables and one-third for fruits. This image is helpful to keep in mind when serving meals.

When grocery shopping, head to the fresh produce and frozen food sections. Here’s where you’ll find the highest-quality fruits and vegetables. Choose produce in a rich rainbow of colors. Deep hues are clues to the presence of vitalizing plant compounds, enzymes, minerals, and vitamins. Also, select produce that’s high in fiber. Serve your loved one 4½ cups of fruits and vegetables daily, the amount advised for older adults by the US Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP).

Top fruit picks include apples, strawberries, bananas, oranges, pineapple, mangoes, and melons. Avoid serving grapefruit, as it can interfere with medications. Choice vegetables are broccoli, spinach, bell peppers, carrots, mushrooms, beets, Swiss chard, tomatoes, avocados, squash, and sweet potatoes. The skins and peels of produce are packed with fiber and nutrients, so don’t exclude them, provided your loved one can safely chew and swallow them.

Some seniors need extra help with simple daily tasks such as eating. If your senior loved one needs around-the-clock assistance at home, the Boca Raton live-in care professionals at Home Care Assistance are here to help. Our proprietary Balanced Care Method was designed to promote longevity by encouraging seniors to focus on healthy eating, regular exercise, mental engagement, and other important lifestyle factors.

Favor Whole Grains

Unlike refined grains, whole grains have their outer hulls intact and hold stores of B vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Seniors who consume adequate fiber have a lower risk of hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, stroke, and heart disease. They’re also less prone to constipation and obesity. The B vitamins in grain kernels unlock energy from food and reduce the impact of stress. The minerals in hulls fortify bones, muscles, blood, and the immune system. The ODPHP recommends that seniors get at least 22 grams of fiber per day. To reach this goal, spread five servings of whole-grain foods across daily meals.

Hearty whole-grain options include millet, quinoa, barley, brown rice, oats, amaranth, corn, and whole wheat. When shopping for cereal products, scan the nutrition panels on packaging. Choose foods with whole grains leading the ingredient list, signaling their predominance. Also, look for the words “rich in fiber,” “high in fiber,” or “excellent source of fiber.” Foods labeled “multigrain” may still be refined, stripped of their nutritious kernels. To entice your loved one to eat whole grains, serve them in tempting forms, such as pancakes, pastas, muffins, crackers, cereals, and breads.

It may be challenging to monitor your loved one’s diet as closely as you’d like. Some seniors need occasional assistance at home, and oftentimes the family members who take care of them need time away to run errands, take a nap, go to work, or take a vacation. Boca Raton respite care experts from Home Care Assistance are available on an as-needed basis, giving your family peace of mind that your loved one will remain safe and comfortable while you relax or focus on other important responsibilities.

Showcase Legumes

On a traditional diet, meat would be served for protein. Instead, offer beans. One-half cup of beans has the protein equivalent of one ounce of meat. Seniors need ample protein for the integrity of their skin, bones, and muscles. Beans also balance blood sugar, lower cholesterol, boost satiety, and feed beneficial intestinal bacteria.

Among legumes, soybeans are unique. As a “complete protein,” soy contains all nine essential amino acids. Additionally, soy brims with vitamins and minerals, and its fiber curbs cholesterol. This versatile bean is sold in many forms, such as soy milk, butter, pudding, yogurt, tempeh, edamame, and tofu. Since soy absorbs the flavors of other foods, it blends seamlessly into meals. For example, pair cereal with soy milk. Stir-fry tempeh with vegetables. Crown tofu with brown rice.

The bean family is vast, encompassing lentils, chickpeas, and black-eyed peas. Other savory bean varieties are kidney, pinto, black, navy, and white. To prepare one serving, measure out ½ cup of dry legumes. Then add the cooked beans to soups and salads. Also, top crackers with hummus, a chickpea spread. A recent addition to grocery shelves is pea milk, resembling almond milk in taste but creamier.

Serve Healthy Snacks

Eating nuts markedly cuts the risk of heart disease, as demonstrated by the Physicians’ Health Study and the Iowa Women’s Health Study. Plus, according to research reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013, a daily serving of nuts boosts longevity by inhibiting cellular inflammation. Controlling inflammation can reduce the risk of dementia, manage diabetes, and slow arthritis progression.

Nuts are good sources of protein, healthy fats, minerals, vitamins, fiber, and plant sterols, which are compounds that tame cholesterol. A serving is one ounce, with the number of nuts varying by their size. One ounce of nuts equals 12 hazelnuts, 14 walnut halves, 24 almonds, 35 peanuts, or 47 pistachios.

Seeds are nutrition powerhouses, with attributes similar to nuts. Pumpkin seeds are notable for promoting prostate health. Other potent seeds are sunflower, hemp, and sesame. To optimize digestion of flaxseeds, buy them ground. Add chia seeds to oatmeal, pudding, yogurt, and muffins. Spread whole-grain crackers with sesame butter, also known as tahini. A general guideline for whole seeds is 1 tablespoon, while a serving of nut or seed butter is 2 tablespoons. Unsalted products are best. Along with nuts and seeds, replace junk food with raisins, fresh fruit, rice cakes with peanut butter, dried figs, roasted soybeans, low-sugar granola bars, prunes, veggie sticks with almond butter, and low-fat popcorn.

Making sure seniors get proper nutrition is one of the most important ways to help them stay healthy, and a plant-based diet is a fantastic choice. Some seniors may need help maintaining a nutritious diet. In Boca Raton, home care agencies can be a great boon to seniors. With the help of the caregivers at Home Care Assistance, your aging loved one can lead a happier and healthier life. We offer a revolutionary program called the Balanced Care Method, which encourages seniors to eat nutritious foods, exercise and socialize regularly, and focus on other lifestyle factors that increase life expectancy. If you need professional care for your senior loved one, Home Care Assistance is just a phone call away. Reach out to one of our Care Managers today at (561) 826.9282.