Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to be surrounded by family, friends and scrumptious food. Though, the holiday can present some dinner-table challenges for seniors because aging is frequently associated with a decrease in taste and smell, and their bodies do not metabolize foods the way they did when they were younger. While it is important for everyone to follow a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, proteins and whole grains, seniors need to be especially mindful of their salt, fat and calorie intake. Here are some tips to help you have a healthier Thanksgiving.
- Eat Breakfast & Lunch. It is helpful to eat a healthy breakfast and lunch on Thanksgiving Day to avoid severe hunger pangs when it comes time for dinner. This may reduce the urge to overindulge.
- Skip Salt & Sugar. Especially as you age, your sense of taste and smell may change and foods may seem to lose flavor. However, grabbing the salt shaker is not the answer. High levels of salt could result in high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart problems in seniors, says the American Heart Association. To add zest to your food on Thanksgiving, ask your host for herbs and spices, such as garlic, oregano, basil, pepper, thyme and sesame. Also, choosing citrus, vanilla and cinnamon as delicious substitutes in recipes can help sweeten things up without added sugar.
- Turkey Tips. A 3-ounce serving of skinless white meat is a top source of lean protein, containing 25 grams of protein, barely 3 grams of fat and less than 1 gram of saturated fat. Three small slices of skinless white meat contain only 102 calories. According to Harvard Health Publications, dark meat has more saturated fat than white meat, and eating the skin adds a heavy amount of bad fats. Opting for white meat over a thigh can save you loads of calories. Just one turkey thigh contains more calories than a slice of prime rib!
- Avoid the Gravy Train. Canned gravy is full of salt and sugar, as well as preservatives that have no nutritional value. Homemade gravy tends to be just as bad; a quarter-cup has little in the way of useful nutrients and 18 grams of fat, most of which are saturated. Try herbs or spices instead of gravy to add flavor. If you will be cooking your own Thanksgiving meal, the Mayo Clinic offers this low-fat gravy recipe and a full substitution guide for replacing ingredients with healthier choices.
- Focus on the Greens. Seniors need to pay special attention to their calorie and fat intake; it is a good idea to add a lot of vegetables and limit foods high in fat. There are great selections for filling your stomach with something that is good for you. If you will be a guest and don’t expect many greens at the table, bring a vegetable side and salad of your own to share. Green beans, in particular, are filled with vitamins A, C and K.
- Savor Slowly. Eat slowly by putting your fork down between bites. Taking the time to taste each mouthful is one of the best ways to feel satisfied. Choosing whole grains, vegetables, salads, broth-based soups and drinking lots of water will provide a well-rounded meal and should add to your feeling of fullness.
- Choose Desserts Delicately. After dinner, first take a break before eating dessert, so your dinner can settle; this may help you make better decisions on dessert. Try to select the lighter, healthier side of dessert, such as fresh fruits. Cakes and cookies contain large amounts of sugar. Whenever possible, use sugar-free substitutes.
- Check with Your Doctor. You may be on a special diet due to a health condition and/or certain medications. Talk with your doctor about the foods you should eat on Thanksgiving.
This holiday is not just about the delicious abundance of food. It is helpful to focus on enjoying the relationships with your family and friends. One way is to suggest taking a walk after dinner – you’ll spend more quality time together and get your exercise in for the day!