Eating better is one of the Heart Association’s “Simple 7” factors for improved heart health. When you maintain a healthy diet along with regular physical exercise and other good habits, you’ll not only feel better, but you’ll live longer — and of course we want our senior loved ones to stay healthy and vital for as long as possible, too. Here are some tips on what to eat, what not to eat, and how to succeed when the going gets tough.
1. Buy colorful fruits and vegetables.
Low in calories, high in vitamins, minerals and fiber — adults should get at least five servings per day of these nutrition powerhouses.
A Place for Mom senior nutrition expert Heather Schwartz recommends, “When getting ready to head to the check-out line, check the basket to make sure you have a variety of colored fruits and vegetables to ensure you get the rainbow of benefits each color has to offer. Colors indicate a concentration of a specific nutrient; for example, tomatoes are dense in lutein, which is great for your heart and eyes.”
2. Avoid buying high fat dairy or meat.
Look for skinless cuts of lean meat with the least amount of visible fat. Cuts that say “loin” after them, like sirloin and tenderloin, are often leaner cuts. Ground meats should have less than 20% fat, whether it’s chicken, turkey, pork or beef. Yogurt, milk, cheese and other dairy products should also be low in fat — 2% “reduced fat” or less.
The one kind of fat you do want your loved ones to get plenty of is fatty fish: two servings a week of salmon, trout, or other oily fish can help lower the risk of heart disease and increase the body’s level of healthy omega-3s.
3. Buy plenty of nuts and high fiber foods.
Fiber can help lower blood cholesterol, and it keeps you full, which helps you maintain a healthy weight. You can find fiber in fruits, veggies, beans and whole-grain breads and cereals, as well as in nuts. Almonds and walnuts also have plenty of other valuable nutrients and have been shown in recent studies to have a significant impact on heart health.
We all know these are the culprits of poor dietary health, but this is particularly important advice for seniors. Avoiding these three can help lower cholesterol. A few easy tips to remember: try to eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day, avoid foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and follow the tips above for consuming lean protein and dairy.
Also, Heather Schwartz says, “Consider replacing butter with a more healthful spread like Smart Balance, Brummel and Brown, Benechol or Promise. Unlike butter, they have healthy fats in them and contain plant sterols which may help lower bad cholesterol.”