Feature Articles - Aging
Healthy snacks for seniors
Amy Bartels, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Laclede County, University of Missouri Extension
Seniors often lose some of their appetite or change their eating habits as time goes by. A number of issues can affect your diet as you get older: You might have problems chewing or swallowing, or have a chronic condition that requires you to reduce the amount of fat and sugar you consume. You may not be able to cook, or no longer live in your own home with your own kitchen. Emotional issues also may take their toll on your appetite.
Nutritious “grab-and-go” snacks can help you maintain healthy eating habits even with a diminished appetite.
Spice up your snacks
Which healthy snacks you should choose depends in part on health issues, such as the ability to chew well, doctor recommendations, dietary restrictions, medications and allergies.
Though it’s common for older adults to snack continuously throughout the day, this snacking may sometimes be unhealthy. We all know that many snack foods lack any nutritional value, which is why we call them “empty calories.” Moreover, the sugar, bad fats and carbs in them are detrimental to an older person’s sensitive health, and can lead to all sorts of nutritional problems.
Replace those empty-calorie snacks with colorful fruits and veggies, which are visually appealing and provide an abundance of nutrients. Dips made with Greek yogurt or peanut butter can add both calories and protein to your diet.
Try using new seasonings — going easy on the salt — to spice up a snack and offset any decline in your sense of taste that you may be experiencing.
Good snack choices
Look for low-salt or no-salt snacks as often as possible, as well as reduced- or no-sugar foods. Also, make sure to choose foods that contain healthy oils, rather than trans or saturated fats.
In general, stick to foods that are closest to their “whole” or natural state. In other words, cutting up an apple is a much healthier choice than eating an apple-flavored snack cake. Snack-sized plastic bags are an easy way to portion out healthy snack foods to keep on hand. A bag of pretzels and a handful of grapes, or whole grain crackers with some slices of cheese, could help if you’re struggling to get enough calories at mealtime or simply aren’t hungry when traditional meals are served.
Healthy eating habits are crucial for maintaining balanced blood sugar levels, healthy vision, a positive mood, good sleep, energy, bone and muscle strength and proper digestion. Make selecting the right snacks one of those healthy habits.
Last update: Friday, August 04, 2017