As adults reach a certain age, the basic nutritional habits they’ve developed over the years can become problematic. Even if a senior has lived a fairly healthy life, a diabetes diagnosis can quickly pull the rug out from under them in a snap. It’s never easy to balance a specific diet with the added concerns of aging and eating for health, strength, and stamina. That’s why it’s so important for seniors who suffer from diabetes to be exposed to a diet of healthy foods that are easy to keep and prepare on a daily basis. Whether they get the nutritional help they need from friends and family, community potlucks, or an in-home cooking session with a friend from Seniors Helping Seniors, making healthy eating part of the routine is absolutely crucial for aging adults and seniors. If you have a senior in your life who’s struggling with a diabetes diagnosis and doesn’t know where to turn, here are a few easy, low- or no-sugar options that don’t require a trip to the specialty food store.
Fiber is a crucial component of any balanced diet. Not only does it help to lower cholesterol and help tamper our blood sugar levels (which is hugely important for diabetic adults,) it promotes a healthy balance in our system to keep us regular and to help our digestive system stay as strong as it can be. While many diabetics may steer clear of fruit due to its high sugar content, many fruits actually come with a high enough fiber content to balance everything out. Fruit isn’t the only great fiber source out there, though. Any iron-rich leafy greens like kale and collards as well as beans, peas, and whole grains can help you bulk up the fiber in your diet. Fiber, along with protein, is also great for helping muscles rebuild after a workout. Though most seniors probably aren’t doing the kinds of workouts that require a lot of protein powder and reparative supplements, seniors can be at risk for muscle loss as they grow older, making fiber a must-have for diabetic diets.
We’ve all heard about the virtues of lean protein. From helping you lose weight to boosting energy and helping build up body mass, there’s virtually no end to the benefits of keeping a protein-rich diet balanced out with a lot of healthy fat and fiber. Protein is also easy to find in most staple foods, such as grilled chicken, lentils, beans, and fish. For diabetic individuals, protein can also help increase energy and promote a feeling of fullness in the way that most traditionally sugar-packed foods, such as breakfast cereals and energy bars, are known to do. Protein can also help curb appetite and keep us from reaching for sugary snacks during the day. So many foods already contain unexpectedly high levels of sugar, from granola bars to yogurt to potato chips, so staying full through the day without resorting to snacking is especially important for diabetic seniors.
Back in the day, Americans were convinced that fat was something to be avoided at all costs. Today, we know that sugar is actually the main culprit when it comes to weight gain, high cholesterol, and general poor health. In addition to staying away from sugar, diabetic seniors should bulk up their “good” fat intake by eating more fat-rich vegetables like avocado and adding raw or cooked fish into their diet. If a daily serving of fish gets to be too expensive, taking Omega 3 supplements (which are tiny, highly potent version of the “good” fat found in raw salmon) can also do the trick. Taking a daily dose of healthy fat is a great way to foster heart health, lower cholesterol levels, and decrease insulin resistance, which is crucial for diabetic patients. While some fats are healthier than others, older individuals usually benefit from an increase of dairy in their diets as well. Even adding a serving of full-fat milk or yogurt (provided it’s sugar-free) can help seniors regain strength and stay stronger.
While carbs may be trending downward, there’s no denying a diet rich in whole grains such as whole wheat bread and pasta, oats, and brown rice can help boost a diabetic diet and keep energy levels high. Along with good fat, full-fat dairy products, and protein-rich entrees, whole grains are a staple of the diabetic diet for seniors who are looking to strengthen their bodies and feel fuller throughout the day without spiking blood sugar and cholesterol. Some whole grains, such as wheat bran, can also help bulk up the diet by providing a good additional source of fiber as well.