Healthy Eating for Seniors

Healthy Vegetables

Eating the right types of food can play an important role in healthy aging. However, proper nutrition can look differently as we age. Some older adults tend to lose muscle mass, making it important to consume higher amounts of protein, while others may find their bodies absorb certain nutrients at a slower rate. Eating what is right for our aging bodies can help us stay energized, maintain a healthy weight, lower the risk of developing chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. In addition, maintaining a healthy diet can also extend your quality of life and promote longevity. The first step to eating right is to learn about the ways age can affect our appetite.

How Aging Affects the Appetite

Medical issues and normal changes that come with aging can interfere with nutrition for older adults. It’s important to be able to recognize and identify these issues in order to address them in a timely manner. According to the National Institutes of Health, here are a few of the most common dietary changes older adults may experience:

  • Taste Disorders. Taste disorders can cause older adults to lose their appetites. As we age, it’s common to lose taste buds, causing food to taste differently than it did before. While it can be tempting to add sugar and salt to enhance the flavor of food, it’s recommended to flavor with herbs and spices instead.
  • Medications. Certain medications can affect how food tastes, which can cause a change in appetite. Medications can also interfere with how our bodies are able to absorb nutrients. If you’re taking a medication, you might consider asking your healthcare provider if there are any changes you need to make to your diet.
  • Oral Health. Problems with your teeth, such as loose fillings, uncomfortable dentures or missing teeth can make eating a painful experience. If you have any discomfort while eating, you might consider speaking with your dentist. Softer foods, such as soups and smoothies, can provide nutrients while also reducing the feeling of pain while eating.

Tips for Cooking for One or Two People

If you are used to cooking for a large family, learning how to prepare enough food just for yourself without wasting can be difficult. However, this doesn’t mean you have to forego cooking healthy meals completely. Instead of settling for frozen dinners or take-out, you might consider the following cooking tips provided by the Mayo Clinic:

Make a plan

You’re less likely to waste food when you plan out all of your meals in advance. Try jotting down meal ideas for the week and preparing a shopping list. This way, you’ll have everything on-hand when you are ready to cook your meal.

Stock your pantry

Having healthy food options on hand will make cooking and preparing food feel much easier. Keeping canned vegetables, beans and fruits stocked in your pantry will make fixing a healthy meal possible at any time. You may consider purchasing whole grain foods such as brown rice, quinoa, barley and pasta to make meals more satisfying.

Take advantage of your freezer

Buying foods in bulk can help keep your grocery costs down. You can always store extra ingredients in the freezer to keep them fresh for longer. You can freeze many foods including bread, meats, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Freezing is a great way to prevent food waste. Always make sure to write the date on whatever foods you are freezing.

Prepare one-dish meals

Dishes that serve as a whole meal are great options for those cooking just for themselves or one other person. These dishes usually include items from different food groups such as meats, whole grains, legumes and vegetables. One-dish meals might come in the form of stews, casseroles or chili. While one-dish meals might produce a lot of food, most make excellent freezer meals.

Cook once, but use twice

Plan your meals so that you can freeze extra into individual servings or eat throughout the week. For example, if you roast a chicken for dinner one night, you can use leftovers to make chicken soup or chicken salad and eat that for several meals.

Prioritize convenience

We all have days where we feel under the weather or run out of time to prepare a healthy meal. It’s best to plan ahead for these days! Low sodium canned soups and healthy frozen meals make great options for times like these.

Healthy Recipe Ideas for One

If you’re having trouble finding inspiration for your next meal, look no further. BBC Good Food has compiled a variety of recipes that are specifically designed to feed one person, but can be adapted to feed more. Here’s one to get you started:

Chicken Breast with Avocado Salad


  • 1 skinless chicken breast
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika

For the salad:

  • ½ small avocado, diced
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • Half small red onion, thinly sliced

Step one:

In a skillet, heat 1 tsp of oil over medium heat. Rub chicken with paprika. Cook chicken on 4-5 minutes each side until cooked through.

Step two:

Mix the salad ingredients together, season and add the rest of the oil. Thickly slice the chicken and serve with salad.

Brain Exercises for Older Adults

Sunrise in the Morning

As we age, our bodies undergo a number of physical changes. Just as our joints and muscles can stiffen up with age, so can our brains. In fact, according to the National Institute of Health, aging causes changes to the brain size, vasculature and cognition. The normal aging process can bring subtle changes in cognitive abilities that can impact our ability to learn something new, recall names, and cause us to occasionally forget appointments. However, we have the ability to slow down the aging process by instilling healthy habits that promote brain stimulation and sharpness.

Supporting a Healthy Brain

Our bodies and brains are interconnected and when we take care of one, we take care of the other. Implementing small, healthy changes into our daily routine can help protect our brains from cognitive decline and help prevent mood disorders such as depression. According to U.S. News, here are a few ways you can support brain health each day:

Exercise. Physical exercise isn’t only good for our bodies, but also for our brains. They work to control our muscles and coordination and help us slow down and speed up. Exercises such as ballroom dancing, yoga and biking require our brains to think about next steps and move sequences.

Stay socially engaged. Human interaction is proven to keep our brains sharp by reducing feelings of stress and promoting the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural feel-good hormone. Spending time with friends and family members can provide the mental stimulation needed to strengthen our cognitive skills and mental clarity.

Quit smoking. While smoking is bad for you for a number of health reasons, it can also severely impact brain function. Smoking just one cigarette a day for an extended period of time can actually reduce cognitive ability, thinking and memory. When you stop smoking, circulation can improve almost instantly.

Eat a healthy diet. Heart-healthy diets can support brain health, help maintain a healthy weight, and reduce the risk of developing chronic illnesses and cognitive issues. Gut health and cognitive function are closely linked. The more we focus on creating a healthy gut microbiome, the better our brains will be able to function.

Focus on good sleep. Sleep helps our bodies repair from both emotional and physical stress. When we don’t get enough quality sleep, it can disrupt our brain’s ability to perform certain biological changes.

Mental Exercises for Brain Sharpness

In addition to implementing healthy habits into your daily routine, there are other ways you can support brain health. Doing certain brain exercises can help boost your memory, improve concentration and focus. Improving brain health can make daily tasks, like remembering appointments or balancing your check book, feel easier. According to Healthline Magazine, here are a few evidence-based exercises that can help support brain health:

  • Jigsaw puzzles. Research has shown that puzzles require us to use multiple cognitive abilities including spatial awareness and problem-solving. Working on a jigsaw puzzle for just a few minutes a day can improve cognitive thinking and help keep your brain sharp.
  • Cards. Like puzzles, card games also ignite different areas of the brain and help improve memory and thinking skills. Card games such as solitaire, bridge, gin rummy, poker, hearts and crazy eights are entertaining and help support brain health.
  • Dancing. Certain types of dance can actually help increase your brain’s processing speed and memory. Salsa, tap dance, Zumba and ballroom dancing require you to anticipate next movements and remember a sequence of steps, all of which require the brain to work hard, improving cognitive function and memory skills.
  • Listen to music. Research has shown that happy, upbeat music can help generate creativity and brain power. This can help us with problem-solving and make learning new things feel easier.
  • Meditate. Daily meditation can promote calmness and reduce stress and anxiety. However, most people don’t know that meditation can also improve memory and increase our brain’s ability to process new information.
  • Practice tai chi. Regularly practicing tai chi can help reduce stress, enhance sleep quality and even improve our memory. Some studies suggest that long-term tai chi practice can even increase brain volume.

Prioritizing Brain Health at Maple Knoll Village

At Maple Knoll Village, we know how important it is to preserve cognitive function well into our later years. That’s why many of our offerings, from meal options to activities, are designed to support brain health in a number of different ways. To learn more about these offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us!