April 20, 2012
We all know that getting proper nutrition and staying hydrated are the keys to leading a healthy life. But what if you have a senior loved one who recently returned home from the hospital and is not well? Are there certain foods that can help speed recovery and help him or her feel better sooner? According to WebMD and other research, the answer is "yes."
Eating the right foods can help your senior loved one prevent complications such as dehydration, and constipation. Among the first suggestions are to include lots of fiber and lean protein in his or her diet.
Fiber will help keep your senior loved one regular and may prevent long-term issues such as intestinal problems and diabetes. High fiber foods include whole grain breads, fresh fruits, vegetables (fresh or frozen), oatmeal and certain cereals. Before purchasing any cereal, make sure to read the label to see that is has high fiber content.
Some fresh fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries, apples, broccoli and sweet potatoes, contain numerous vitamins, antioxidants, calcium, iron and other nutrients that are essential for healthy living, bone building and cell recovery. Be sure to include as many of these as possible in your senior loved one's diet.
WebMD's guide, "Healthy Eating When You're Sick" says, lean proteins such as chicken, pork, and fish, are important for helping your senior loved one to build and repair cells, prevent the loss of muscle mass, maintain fluid balance and improve his or her body's ability to heal. Some good non-animal sources of protein are beans, soy products like tofu, and nuts. Jennifer Heisler, RN, writes in an article on About.com titled, "What To Eat During Your Recovery After Surgery," that it is recommended that your senior loved one not eat red meat while recovering because it can cause constipation and is high in saturated fats.
Dairy products are also rich in protein. But it is best to have your senior stick with low-fat dairy products such as skim milk, cottage cheese and yogurt. Yogurt in particular is rich in calcium, and may contain good bacteria, which may help with digestion.
Eggs are another good healthy food option because they have only about 75 calories per serving, and contain 13 essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D.
Heisler also recommends, if possible, make sure your senior eats whole foods versus processed products as the latter tend to have much higher amounts of fat, sugar, salt and chemical additives. An orange is an example of a whole food, but orange juice from a carton is not.
Some seniors recovering from illness or surgery may have a hard time eating and thus may not get enough calories. Failing to eat can slow recovery. If chewing is a problem, try to serve your senior a smoothie made with yogurt, milk and some fresh fruits. If getting enough calories is a problem for your senior, exchange cream or whole milk for skim milk; try an avocado over a green salad; or boost the amount of proteins in his or her diet since proteins are calorie-rich.
Use this dietary plan (PDF 160k) to help plan your loved one's meals when they first return home from the hospital. You can also find many additional resources in the Maintaining Proper Nutrition for Seniors section of CaregiverStress.com.
If you find your senior loved one needs more meal and dietary assistance than you can provide, non-medical in-home senior care providers, like your local Home Instead Senior Care office, offer meal preparation services including grocery shopping, meal planning, and assistance during mealtimes.
Get helpful tips and articles like these delivered to your email.