As a person ages, they can revert back to the picky ways of their childhood (or close to being that picky), yet it’s more important than ever for older adults to incorporate nutritious snacks into their everyday lives.
What kinds of snacks should you encourage your senior family members to eat?
Here are some good choices for healthy snacks for seniors:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Greek yogurt with fresh fruit
- Veggies and hummus
- Unsalted mixed nuts
- Homemade granola
- Baked fruit chips
- Berries in oatmeal
- Frozen or room-temperature fruits
As you can see, there’s no shortage of nutritious foods for elderly people to nosh on that ensure they’re ingesting proteins, healthy fats, and some carbs for energy without too much sugar, sodium, and saturated fat content.
Keep reading for more tasty snack suggestions, including snacks for seniors to avoid!
Want to know more about healthy foods for seniors? Click here.
What Is A Healthy Snack For The Elderly?
When you’re feeling the mid-afternoon slump, do you reach for the chips or chocolate from the vending machine, or do you choose something healthy?
Sometimes, it’s better to go for convenient snacks, but family caregivers have to make healthier choices for the senior in their life.
In the senior years, elderly individuals need a nutritious, balanced diet to ward off cancers, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis.
They also need the energy that food can give them.
Here are some things to look for in healthy snacks for the elderly.
Moderate Amounts Of Calories
Do you know how many calories a senior should eat per day?
Since they’re less active than younger adults, medical resource Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology states that the elderly need only about 1,600 calories a day.
I remember my parent’s diet when they were in their 80s and 90s. Mom ate a tiny bowl of cereal for breakfast and a half sandwich for lunch, because “I just don’t get that hungry anymore.”
I couldn’t (and still can’t) understand that – I think I would have starved on that diet. But I am definitely more active than they were, so it does makes sense.
A snack should provide some calories but not to an excessive degree, as a senior should still eat three other meals per day. That’s what the bulk of their calories should be allotted toward.
High In Protein
A 2004 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition reports that when seniors fail to get enough protein in their diets, they can experience “a decrease in reserve capacity, increased skin fragility, decreased immune function, poorer healing, and longer recuperation from illness.”
For each pound they weigh, a senior should ingest between 0.45 and 0.55 grams of protein each day.
That’s up to 83 grams of protein per day if you or your senior loved one weighs 150 pounds.
Contains Healthy Fats
There are four types of fats one can choose from: trans fats, saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and monounsaturated fats.
Not all fats are bad. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are actually healthy foods.
These two fats lessen bad cholesterol and could help a senior avoid some medical conditions, like stroke and heart disease.
Trans fats, however, can raise one’s risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart attack while saturated fat increases LDL cholesterol (the bad kind).
Low In Sugar
Sugar may taste delicious, but it’s not good to eat it in large quantities at any age.
A senior can easily pack on the pounds if their diet is full of too many sugars and sweet treats, and their risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes go up significantly as well.
Some Carbs But Not Too Many
Carbohydrates get a bad rap, but at the end of the day, carbs are energy, and a senior needs energy.
That said, they do have to keep carb consumption to reasonable levels.
A senior shouldn’t ingest more than 130 grams of carbohydrates per day.
Be sure to read the nutrition labels of the store-bought snacks and prepared foods you are eating to manage your carb load.
Low In Sodium
Sodium in moderate amounts is okay but overdoing it on the salts can increase a senior’s risk of stroke, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
In addition, sodium can pull calcium from the bone, leading to less calcium in a senior’s diet. That can decrease bone health and increase the risk of fractures.
Good Source Of Fiber
The elderly sometimes struggle with staying regular, but getting enough fiber in their diet will prevent that.
A high fiber diet can help to control blood sugar. It can also keep a senior’s weight down, and reduce cholesterol, so fiber is certainly a great option for a senior’s snack choices!
What Are Good Snacks For Seniors?
Knowing all you do now about what constitutes healthy snacks, let’s go over the list of healthy choices of snacks from the intro that are perfect for seniors.
Clocking in at under 100 calories per egg and containing under one gram of carbs, hard-boiled eggs are chock-full of protein at 6.3 grams a serving.
They make a nice light breakfast or a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack.
Greek Yogurt With Fresh Fruit
Plain Greek yogurt will fill up your senior with carbs (but not too many, as seven ounces of yogurt has 7.8 grams of carbs) and tastes yummy to boot.
Mix in some fresh fruit for natural sugars as well as antioxidants.
Veggies And Hummus
Vegetables always make a smart snack!
Low in calories and carbs, sugar-free, and sodium-free, veggies will also add hydration into a senior’s diet if they haven’t been drinking enough water.
Serving vegetables, like bell peppers or baby carrots, with hummus makes this snack more substantial, or add whole grain crackers for a delicious dip.
A 100-gram serving of hummus has 214 calories, 10.71 grams of protein, 28.57 grams of carbs, and 7.1 grams of fiber.
Unsalted Mixed Nuts
Nuts are calorie-dense and are an excellent source of dietary fiber to promote satiety.
We’d recommend unsalted nuts if a senior has been asked to watch their sodium intake.
Granola from a grocery store, even the quote-unquote healthy stuff, often contains far more sugar than you realize.
By making your own, you have a healthier option that you can enjoy after breakfast or before dinner. You can even make granola gluten-free and organic if you want!
To help you get started, here’s a recipe for homemade granola from CookieandKate.com.
Baked Fruit Chips
Baking fruit chips brings out a whole different level of texture, so it’s quite a yummy way to enjoy fruits like apples, pineapples, or bananas.
Although fruit chips make a sweet snack, they can still satisfy a senior’s craving for potato chips.
Berries In Oatmeal
Berries are such a great fruit choice for elderly folks.
They’re high in fiber, full of healthy antioxidants, low in calories, and rich in important nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin K1, folate, copper, and manganese.
By mixing some berries into oatmeal, a senior has a well-rounded snack (or breakfast!) that contains even more antioxidants (yep, oatmeal has antioxidants too).
Oatmeal can control blood sugar as well.
Frozen Or Room-Temperature Fruits
Citrus fruits come the most recommended for the elderly to maintain their vitamin C levels, but any fruits are better than none.
If eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice, however, be aware that it can interact with certain medications, so it’s a good idea to ask your doctor or pharmacist whether you should avoid this citrus fruit.
Fruits are sweet (but not too sugary), handheld, easy to eat, and delicious.
Try freezing fruits or making a delicious fruit salad in the summer for a special treat any senior will love!
Is Popcorn Healthy For Seniors?
As a senior with a hankering for popcorn, it is okay to eat?
It can be, but you have to watch your preparation methods. Making fresh, plain, air-popped popcorn is best.
According to the USDA, a one-ounce or 28.4-gram serving of popcorn contains only 106 calories, 1.2 grams of total fat, 21 grams of carbs, two milligrams of sodium, 3.6 grams of dietary fiber, 0.3 grams of sugar, and 3.1 grams of protein.
Popcorn is a decent source of iron, vitamin B6, and magnesium.
Lightly salted or unsalted popcorn is best for seniors. Avoid slathering the snack in movie theater butter and don’t sweeten popcorn by drizzling it in caramel or chocolate.
I got this microwave popcorn popper for my daughter this past Christmas and she loves it. It is collapsible, so it’s easy to store (it’s only 2.2 inches tall when collapsed).
It’s also dishwasher safe and doesn’t require oil to pop the popcorn.
Which Foods Are High In Protein For Seniors?
After your senior’s latest doctor’s appointment, you discovered that they’re not eating enough protein.
You want to change that ASAP, so what kinds of foods should they consume moving forward?
Here are some to try making today!
If your senior isn’t eating a seafood-based diet with plenty of fish, they should.
Fish is an excellent source of omega-3s, which most people know, but they also contain lots of lean protein!
A 178-gram fillet of cooked Atlantic salmon contains 39 grams of protein, 204 grams of Mahi Mahi has 38 grams, a 154-gram fillet of skipjack tuna has 43 grams of protein, and 87 grams of cooked tilapia contains 23 grams of protein.
One of the best sources of protein for an elderly person’s diet is undoubtedly meat.
An 85-gram serving of 85-percent lean ground beef has 22 grams of protein, a cup of chopped chicken contains 38 grams, one flank steak has 106 grams of protein, and three ounces of cooked lamb with ¼-inch fat has 21 grams of protein.
We already talked about how hard-boiled eggs are a fantastic source of protein, but that’s not the only way to eat eggs for protein!
Whether boiled, scrambled, or made into an omelet, one large egg contains about 6 grams of protein.
From green lentils to brown lentils, your senior can’t go wrong by incorporating kidney beans, black-eyed beans, adzuki beans, white peas, and other lentils into their diet.
A cup of boiled lentils, which is approximately 198 grams, has 18 grams of protein.
If your senior parent or loved one is a vegetarian or vegan, they can still get plenty of protein packed into their diets by eating tofu.
A 124-gram or half-cup serving of tofu has 10 grams of protein.
What Foods Should Seniors Avoid?
A senior’s diet should be varied, but avoiding the following foods is in the best interest of their health.
There is no good that comes from eating candy, and that goes for people of all ages, not only seniors. If you have a sweet tooth like I do, it can be hard to stay away from sugary treats.
Candy contains nothing but sugar and empty calories, though.
If you snack on a sugary snack, you’ll experience a sugar crash within an hour or so that will leave you wanting more.
If you or your senior are craving candy, eat some fruit instead.
You’ll get good health benefits from fruit and the natural sweetness should satisfy the craving.
Just as bad for you as candy, if not more so, soft drinks are sugar-laden, trans-fat-containing, poor beverage choices. Drinking soda regularly increases one’s risk of health issues, like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and tooth decay.
As a dental hygienist, I can tell you that soda is no good for your teeth either.
The acids from the sugars and carbonation (diet soda isn’t a good choice either) will give you cavities pronto. This is especially true for seniors who have a dry mouth, either due to age or to medications they are taking.
This one might surprise you. After all, isn’t grapefruit healthy?
Yes, it is, but as we pointed out in a prior section, if a senior is taking certain medications, they shouldn’t consume grapefruit.
Why not? Grapefruit can raise the medication levels in the blood, potentially making blood pressure, anxiety, and insomnia medications dangerous.
It doesn’t matter what kind of fast food we’re talking about, it’s all pretty much bad for you.
Fast food puts the eater at risk of cardiovascular conditions, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and obesity.
Fast food is full of calories, processed ingredients, trans fats, saturated fats, salt, and sugar. Senior don’t need it in their lives.
At their age, the elderly are already prone to slips and falls and general unsteadiness on their feet.
When you add alcohol to the equation, the above effects can become even more pronounced.
An occasional drink is okay, but if your senior parent or loved one is having more than one alcoholic drink per day, then you need to curtail their drinking before they get seriously hurt.
A healthy diet never goes out of style no matter your age. As an adult gets older, it’s even more important to prioritize proper nutrition and healthy snacks, no matter the time of day.
The occasional indulgence is okay, but making it healthy is always best, such as eating dark chocolate with almonds.
Lastly, seniors should not drink alcohol, fast food, sugary soft drinks, or candy, as these foods have no nutritional value.