Healthy Summer Eating Tips for SeniorsAhh, summer! The months when food becomes superbly fresher, bedecked in dazzling colors, grilled to perfection, and packaged up in willow picnic baskets! While delicious and potentially very healthy, please be careful: summer foods are also very often laden with un-healthy amounts of salt, sugar, fats and even potentially harmful ingredients that you should try to avoid as much as possible. And, while by no means, should you put away your picnic attire just yet, here are a few tips and tricks for what you should try to get as much of as possible and what you want to avoid.
Good News First
I’m a firm believer one should always get the good news in any situation first! So, for starters, let’s break down what you should be trying to get into your diet and the best summer options for that. Stick with me: two crucials: water and B12, plus a variety of foods you don’t want to miss out on.
Water is probably, or maybe even most definitely, the most crucial "nutrient" you should be taking in all summer long. It transports essential nutrients, regulates your body temperature, keeps you hydrated and energized and helps with digestion. And, when it comes to summer time, the heat and activity definitely calls for an increase in your normal intake level. Plus, if your skin is feeling more “wrinkly” or “saggier” than normal, it’s not necessarily just a sign of aging, it can also be a lack of water. Get in some green leafy juices and cucumber juice to see if it helps. Now, here's where summer comes in handy! If you already feel like you’re drinking a lake every day, you really need to take advantage of fresh summer fruits and vegetables! You can up your intake without having to "drink" it. Here are some of the highest achievers when it comes to water content:
Vegetable/Percentage of Water
Raw Carrots: 88%
Fruit/Percentage of Water
Oranges / Grapefruits: 90%
B12 is very easy to become deficient in, particularly as we near the age of 70. One of the biggest causes is the condition atrophic gastritis, which causes inflammation and prevents proper absorption. This means: you should aim for summer foods should be high in B12! (Extra bonus for us: solving B12 deficiency can improve anemia, fatigue and depression. A little boost of B12 might leave you set to go walk those beaches all day long.) Good sources include: crab, lobster, fish, yogurt, and eggs. Translated to summer, here are some light and refreshing ideas you might want to request:
Yogurt “parfait” with fresh berries and a sprinkling of granola
Fresh berry and yogurt smoothie (no added sugar needed!)
Fresh fish tacos with mango salsa
Fresh crab or lobster (you might have to order this one out on your own)
Mini breakfast frittatas with fresh veggies
*Side note for some added bonus foods: eating blueberries may help with memory and coordination, and tossing in an apple or two can help with management of diabetes. Start your day with oatmeal and fresh berries to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Eat a bowl of cold, crunchy broccoli for an afternoon snack, offers vitamins K, C, E, B, calcium and iron and can help protect you from cancer, stroke, heart disease and even macular degeneration.
Okay, now that you’ve got a solid list of all the foods you should look for to get your nutrients and to enjoy, here are some recommendations for the temptations you probably don’t want to over-indulge in. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), some picnic foods are big offenders because they can be contaminated with the bacteria Listeria, cause of listeriosis, a very serious disease for older adults. It’s more dangerous and sneaky via the fact that unlike most germs, it can not only survive, but it will actually grow in the cool temperatures of a refrigerator. Older adults, those with compromised immune systems, and those with cancer, diabetes or liver or kidney disease rank as the highest risks. So, what to stay away from to stay away from listeriosis? Unfortunately, many picnic style foods make the list:
Hot dogs, lunch meats, cold cuts, deli meats, meat spreads, refrigerated smoked seafood and soft cheeses including: camembert, queso fresco, brie, feta and queso blanco.
Avoid these when out picnicking, and cut your risk completely.
There you have it! See what foods you can add into your daily diet and make requests as needed. But, probably most importantly, simply try to eat regular, well balanced meals to power you through those long summer days. Preferably aim for 4 or 5 small ones to go easy on your stomach and make sure to take advantage of fresh foods from the summertime that you can only get for a brief time!