Life can be challenging for seniors in a number of different ways. With such a fast-paced world, the more methodical and deliberate pace of life that best suits most seniors can be difficult to achieve but, thankfully, is certainly not impossible.
When it comes to specific dietary needs, a well-organized approach not only makes a healthier lifestyle possible but, more importantly, convenient and simpler than most might imagine for seniors with unique dietary demands.
A perfect example of this idea is planning for the particular dietary restrictions of seniors living with diabetes. Since most seniors don’t have the same mobility they once had, planning ahead and being highly organized is a necessity for seniors to maintain as healthy a diet as possible.
Just a handful of straightforward tips can greatly improve a senior’s diabetes-friendly diet and, thus, their overall health. While every set of circumstances is unique, these tips can prove to be very beneficial in providing guidance for seniors to plan ahead and make sure the specific demands of dietary needs from diabetes are always taken into account.
Diabetes Isn’t Just About Limiting Sugar Intake
Chances are every senior that is living with diabetes has already heard from doctors, nurses, family and friends about the most obvious hurdles towards eating healthy. That said, either severely limiting or completely eliminating the intake of sugar and simple carbohydrates is likely already understood.
However, a healthy diet with a constant mind towards diabetes involves much more than monitoring sugar. For maximum effectiveness, it should also be mindful of overall fat consumption, along with the proper types of fats. Furthermore, as alluded to, not all carbohydrates are created equally, and some metabolize quickly into sugars that can have sudden and drastic effects on blood glucose levels.
The following should be closely monitored to make sure seniors with diabetes avoid accidentally derailing their healthy eating habits by consuming different foods that are detrimental to a diet designed to manage diabetes:
- Alcohol: Whether beer, wine, mixed drinks or spirits, alcohol quickly metabolizes into sugar once consumed, capable of immediately spiking blood glucose levels.
- Fat: Certain amounts of fat, particularly of the healthier variety, can be very beneficial to anyone’s diet, even seniors living with diabetes. However, limiting foods that are high in saturated or trans fats — primarily those found in animal-based foods — can help keep obesity in check. When seniors are no longer capable of exercising to ward off obesity, taking the proper dietary steps is critical in minimizing the impact of diabetes.
- Sodium: Since diabetes puts people at greater risk for heart disease, limiting sodium intake is important in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. Items like canned vegetables and other packaged and processed foods can be a source of hidden sodium that can undermine a senior’s healthy diet.
- Cholesterol: Similar to both fats and sodium, the two different types of cholesterol have different impacts on heart disease that diabetics are already more prone to develop. Limiting LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol by minimizing consumption of animal-based foods, along with fried foods high in trans fats, is a heart-healthy choice that can minimize the impact of diabetes.
Have a Gameplan at the Grocery Store
Many seniors have limited ability to drive or access to transportation. Therefore, every trip to the grocery store should be well-planned and organized to maximize efficiency. Those needing to adhere to a diabetes-conscious diet need to be particularly organized to make sure they always have healthy food options available to them.
Before heading out to the store, make sure to check the pantry, refrigerator and food storage to see how much of the following is already stocked, roughly calculate how much will additionally be needed until the next trip to the store, and create a list of all needed items. These foods are beneficial for seniors dealing with diabetes and should always be on hand:
- Fiber: Foods high in fiber like nuts, oatmeal, whole grains, fruits, bran and vegetables are all healthy choices for seniors with diabetes. Such foods can help maintain a healthy digestive system, limit the absorption of cholesterol and better regulate blood sugar levels.
- Specific Fruits and Vegetables: Some fruits and vegetables can provide greater benefits than others. As a rule of thumb, seniors with diabetes should try to stick to dark green vegetables like kale, spinach and broccoli, as well as orange vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes to maximize positive impact.
- Low-Fat Proteins: Although red meat can be consumed on occasion, everyday choices should rely on lower-fat options like poultry, fish and leaner cuts of meats. Milk and other dairy items should always be from the low-fat or nonfat options.
- Complex Carbohydrates: While carbohydrates are necessary for energy, diabetics should rely on the complex variety found in brown rice, bran-based cereals and whole-grain breads. Different types of legumes — including beans, peas and lentils — can also be extremely helpful in providing healthy sources of energy. In general, white carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, and bleached, all-purpose flour tend to be simpler in structure and quickly metabolize into sugar, therefore severely limiting any positive health effects.
Aside from these tips, seniors with diabetes should also be mindful of their own particular circumstances. In winter months, when trips to the store are even more difficult, make certain to have ample supplies of low-sodium canned vegetables and other foods easily stored for long periods of time. This would include different types of dry beans, brown rice and lean meats that can be frozen for months at a time. Following these guidelines can make eating with diabetes simple, healthy and convenient for seniors trying to maintain good health and quality of life.