Maintaining a balanced diet is important for people of all ages. After all, when we eat better, we feel better, right? Eating a healthy, balanced diet is the key to maintaining good health throughout a lifetime, but it becomes even more important as we age. Many seniors face health issues, but maintaining good habits through diet and exercise can often prevent them or be part of a treatment plan.
According to the Center for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., and the Heart and Stroke Foundation in Canada states that strokes kill 32% more women than men. Those numbers may seem scary, but the good news is that you can reduce your risk of these conditions when you eat a heart-healthy diet.
How to create a balanced diet
With so many different diet fads out there, it can be hard to figure out what to eat. In reality, you don’t need to follow a super strict fad diet. It’s as simple as following a few general principles and eating foods that make you feel good!
1. Eat the rainbow
Put as many colours on your plate as possible. Keep this in mind throughout your day and you’ll naturally choose a wide variety of fruits and veggies at every meal.
2. Keep it low fat
This is something to keep in mind if you buy meat or dairy. A heart-healthy diet is low in saturated fats, so look for lean cuts of meat and dairy products with 2% milk fat or less.
3. Go for high fiber
Fiber can make us feel full and can also lower cholesterol. Nuts, beans and whole-grain breads, cereals, fruits, and veggies are all excellent sources of fibre. Nuts are particularly good for heart health, as a study at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine found that patients who ate at least five servings of nuts per week cut their risk of heart disease in half.
4. Pay attention to nutrition labels
If you do decide to eat packaged food, watch the labels. Packaged foods are notorious for high amounts of sugar and sodium. Most seniors don’t need more than about 1500mg of sodium per day. You generally want to avoid foods with more than 250mg of sodium per serving.
Foods that Promote a Well-Balanced Diet
Once you have some healthy guidelines to follow, you can seek out certain foods that offer extra benefits when it comes to heart health. Here are a few specific foods that are great to focus on in your new heart-healthy diet.
Berries: Blueberries are especially good, as they are high in antioxidants. However, all berries are great for heart health and tend to be lower in sugar too! Add in a serving of berries to your morning yogurt, or enjoy them as a snack or light dessert.
Whole Grains: Carbs are not the enemy! It’s perfectly fine to include bread, cereal, pasta, oatmeal, and snack foods like crackers in your diet. But if you do, be sure to choose options made with heart-healthy whole grains.
Fish: Fatty fish like salmon is high in omega-3s, which are good for a healthy heart. Aim for wild caught varieties over farmed if possible.
Leafy Greens: Any sort of vegetables are a good addition to your diet, but leafy greens such as spinach and kale are good to include as often as possible. They’re easy to incorporate into almost any meal – just toss a handful into your soups, smoothies, pasta dishes, or add them to a salad.
Dark Chocolate: Who said you had to give up treats? If you have a sweet tooth and love chocolate, swap your regular milk chocolate for a darker variety. Look for chocolate that is 70% cocoa or more, as this variety is rich in flavonoids, which may have an antioxidant effect.
At Bria Communities, we understand the importance of maintaining a heart-healthy diet for seniors. Our residents enjoy meals freshly prepared by our Red Seal certified chefs, who carefully plan out the weekly menus. Heart-healthy choices are always available and we aim to offer a range of options specifically suited to the nutritional needs of seniors. Of course, if residents have special dietary needs, we always ensure we have custom options that work for them.