Choosing Healthy Snacks for the Elderly

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A well-balanced diet is always important for your health, especially as you age. Snacks keep you energised throughout the day, and they’re also a great way to keep your blood sugar levels in check.

You might be an older person looking for snack ideas, or you might be trying to encourage an older family member to eat more nutritious foods. Here’s what you need to know to choose great snacks for you, or an older loved one.

Why are snacks important to seniors?

Be mindful of your snacking – what, and when! While it’s easy to grab salty treats, they can be high in sodium and sugar. Medications may also reduce an older person’s appetite, trigger nausea, or increase lethargy, which all affect snacking habits.

We need to be aware of healthy snack options that still taste great, to encourage an older person (or ourselves!) to eat nutritious foods.

Benefits of snacking for seniors

The following are some of the benefits of snacking to the elderly:

  • Healthy snacks are nourishing and fill in nutrition gaps with variety.
  • Healthy snacks keep the body energised.
  • Healthy snacks can be incorporated into social interactions. Seniors can serve up a home made snack to enjoy while socialising.

Things to consider in an elderly person’s diet

Planning a senior’s diet is not always easy and takes various factors into account. Here are some things to consider.

  • Snacks should be tailored to the person’s specific health requirements. For example, some seniors may require calcium or certain vitamins.
  • Consider the person’s food interests and preferences. Find a healthier substitute for a favourite snack, like baking sweet potato chips to satisfy a potato chip craving or finding a sugar-free brownie recipe.
  • Take eating ability into account. Although apples provide natural sugar for energy, some seniors may find them too difficult to eat. There are plenty of recipes online to make traditional foods softer and more edible.

What foods are best for the elderly?

Snacks should be selected based on the person’s preferences and nutritional needs. Here are some healthy snack ideas!

Protein 

Proteins are essential for tissue repair and immune system strength, among other things. Since most seniors do not consume enough protein, snacks can help as extra protein sources:

  • Whole grain toast with hard-boiled eggs
  • Dark chocolate-covered nuts
  • Chicken or tuna salad
  • Cheese
  • Apple or celery paired with peanut butter
  • Mixed nuts or seeds
  • Eggs

Carbohydrates 

Carbohydrates are great in moderation:

  • Oatmeal (there are so many ways to make oatmeal – think chocolate, blueberry, pumpkin spice…)
  • Baked sweet potato chips
  • Pita bread with hummus
  • Granola bars
  • Oatmeal cookies
  • Whole-grain crackers with cheese or avocado spread
  • Whole-grain popcorn with cheese or butter
  • Pasta

Fruits and vegetables 

Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals, but they might not appeal to some! Here are a few ideas to make these foods more appealing:

  • Banana or kale chips
  • Baked apple chips
  • Fruit shake or vegetable smoothie
  • Frozen grapes
  • Orange slices
  • Greek yogurt with berries or peach slices
  • Carrots with hummus
  • Yogurt-covered dried fruit
  • Berries in oatmeal
  • Mixed veggies salad

Fibre and fluids 

Constipation and dehydration are often caused by mobility issues and inadequate fibre and fluid intake. Here are tasty beverages and fibre snacks for seniors:

  • High fibre cereal
  • Low-fat milk
  • Decaffeinated coffee
  • Fresh fruit and vegetable juices or smoothies
  • Tea
  • Whole-grain food
  • Dark chocolate (low sugar) hot chocolate

On-the-go snacks 

Travelling can make it difficult to stick to a healthy eating plan. Here are some quick bites tips:

  • Dried fruit
  • Whole wheat crackers, pretzels, or chips
  • Rice cakes
  • High-fibre cereal
  • Natural granola bars or trail mix
  • Vitamin-rich juice
  • Chocolate energy bars

What foods should the elderly avoid?

Keep in mind that there are plenty of unhealthy snack options that can bring more health problems. Here are some food choices to avoid:

  • Snacks rich in saturated fats and salt may cause or exacerbate heart disease.
  • Prepackaged snack goodies that usually contain high levels of salt, sugar, and synthetic additives.
  • Sugary desserts and pastries can cause or worsen diabetes.

Things to Remember

You might be changing your own diet, or that of an older family member. But if you’re taking care of a senior loved one or bringing them snacks in an aged care home, keep in mind the following:

  1. Prepare nutritious snacks that won’t spoil if left on a bench or bedside table.
  2. Sometimes sharing a snack with the person can make it more enjoyable. Pay attention to how they eat and whether they like the food.  
  3. Check if they need vitamin supplements to ensure they receive all their nutrients.
  4. In an aged care home, check if the meals are appealing and if any medication can be altered to improve appetite.
  5. If seniors are not eating enough, talk to the staff about how to improve the food on offer.

Snacks are meant to taste nice, be easy to eat, and nutritious. Getting them right is super handy for meeting nutrition requirements.

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