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4 Convenient Steps to Healthier Eating for Seniors - Canada Version

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Maintaining healthy eating habits is important at every age, but for seniors who live alone, getting proper daily nutrition poses some unique challenges.

In addition to being solely responsible for the task of regular shopping, meal planning and meal preparation, seniors living alone face emotional challenges when it comes to mealtime. Eating alone can result in eating poorly or sometimes not at all.

A recent study conducted by Home Instead, Inc. titled Craving Companionship® reports that, of the 37 per cent of Canadian seniors ages 75 and older who live alone, nearly one-half have at least four warning signs of poor nutritional health. Realities like these are especially worrisome for family caregivers who strive to help their senior loved ones make good nutritional choices.

Here are four convenient steps you can take to address these unique challenges and promote good nutrition for seniors living alone.

1. Keep the refrigerator clean.
Cleaning out the refrigerator regularly may not sound convenient, but the result can significantly impact mealtime prep and nutrition. An over-packed refrigerator not only makes it difficult to find the ingredients you need, it can also be a breeding ground for food-borne illness. Keeping the fridge free of outdated items can make mealtime easier and healthier.

2. Replace convenience foods.
The Craving Companionship study reports that over half (58 per cent) of seniors who eat alone rely heavily on pre-made or convenience foods rather than self-prepared, healthful foods. Combat “convenience eating” by providing quick solutions that are as healthy as they are easy. Keep snacks such as yogurt, fruit and nuts handy for between-mealtime cravings. For heartier mealtime alternatives, try easy-to-prepare items like oatmeal, frozen vegetables and eggs.

3. Stick to the perimeter of the supermarket.
Shorten grocery trips and kick-start a healthier diet by shopping the outer aisles of the supermarket. Fruits, vegetables, dairy and other fresh food items tend to be located around the perimeter of the store. Focusing your grocery list on these items will not only increase the nutritional value of your diet, it will shorten your shopping trip and save you time as well.

4. Ask for help.
Living alone does not have to mean going it alone, even when it comes to grocery shopping and mealtime. Whether keeping a kitchen of healthy choices is a struggle or merely an inconvenience, in-home services can help. Consider professional non-medical in-home care services, such as the Home Instead® network’s Home Helper Services for assistance with grocery shopping, meal preparation and more.

For more information on good nutrition, visit the resource pages for the Cooking Under Pressure program and Craving Companionship program.

Last revised: February 21, 2014

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