Snacking between meals is important for the elderly to maintain energy levels and get vital nutrients. But finding snacks that are both tasty and nutritious can be tricky. Read on for tips and healthy snack ideas to keep your elderly loved ones satisfied.
Overcome Chewing and Swallowing Difficulties
Many elderly people have dental issues or other conditions that make chewing and swallowing difficult. This can limit snack options. Here are some tips:
- Choose soft, smooth snacks that are easy to chew and swallow like yogurt, pudding, mashed fruits or steamed vegetables.
- Cut fruits and vegetables into small pieces. Banana slices and apple slices are great options.
- Avoid hard, crunchy, sticky, or dry snacks that require a lot of chewing.
- Opt for nutrient-rich smoothies or shakes that are drank with a straw. Blend fruits, yogurt, milk, protein powder, greens, etc.
- Moisten dry snacks with broth, sauce, dressing or dips like hummus.
With a little creativity, you can find tasty snacks that meet chewing and swallowing needs. Consult a doctor or speech therapist for guidance.
Focus on Nutrition
It’s important for snacks to provide nutritional value and not just empty calories. Here are some healthy, nutrient-dense snacks to consider:
- Greek yogurt provides calcium, protein and probiotics. Top with fruit, granola and cinnamon.
- A hard-boiled egg is packed with protein to keep you full.
- Nut butter on whole grain toast provides filling protein and fiber.
- Whole grain crackers with hummus, avocado or low-fat cheese give you fiber, protein and healthy fats.
- Fruits like apple slices with peanut butter provide fiber, vitamins and antioxidants.
- Veggies like bell pepper strips with guacamole or ranch dip provide vitamins, minerals and fiber.
- Air-popped popcorn sprinkled with nutritional yeast is a healthy, low-calorie snack.
- Baked kale chips seasoned with olive oil and sea salt offer antioxidants and vitamins.
Choose nutrient-rich snacks to optimize nutrition between meals. Avoid empty calorie options like chips, cookies and candy.
Keep Portions Small
Since snacks are meant to tide you over between meals, keep portions on the smaller side. Follow these tips:
- Measure out one serving of nuts, seeds or snack mix into a bowl instead of eating from the bag.
- Cut larger fruits like apples into slices rather than eating the whole fruit.
- Use a smaller bowl or plate for snacks to control portions visually.
- Drink 8 oz smoothies instead of 16 oz or larger sizes.
- Allow yourself just 2-4 crackers with cheese or nut butter rather than eating more.
- Try mini or fun-sized candy bars instead of regular bars if you want a sweet treat.
Keeping portions reasonable will prevent overeating and weight gain while still satisfying hunger.
Dehydration is common among the elderly. Be sure to drink water and other fluids throughout the day. Here are tips:
- Carry a water bottle as a visual reminder to drink water. Infuse with fruits if desired.
- Consume water before, during and after snacks and meals.
- Choose hydrating foods like fruits and veggies which have high water content.
- Opt for smoothies, shakes, juices and soups which contain hydrating ingredients.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol which can have a dehydrating effect.
Proper hydration is crucial for overall health and digestion. Encourage fluid intake by making water readily available.
Follow Any Dietary Restrictions
If the elderly person you care for has medical conditions like diabetes or food allergies, it’s important to follow dietary guidelines.
For diabetes, choose snacks that are:
- Lower in carbohydrates
- Higher in protein and healthy fats
- Have a low glycemic index
If food allergies or sensitivities are present, read labels carefully and avoid any problem ingredients. Common food allergens include:
- Tree nuts
Following dietary restrictions carefully protects health. Speak to a doctor or dietitian for personalized recommendations.
Keep Snacks Accessible
Make sure healthy snacks are readily available by having them pre-portioned in the refrigerator or pantry. Here are some ideas:
- Pre-cut veggies and fruits so they are ready to grab and eat.
- Individual baggies of nuts, seeds or popcorn.
- Yogurt cups or pouches of applesauce.
- Snack boxes with separate compartments for fruits, veggies, crackers, cheese, etc.
- Homemade protein or granola bars wrapped individually.
- Single-serve hummus, guacamole, nut butter or cheese portions.
Having grab-and-go options makes it convenient to reach for a nutritious snack. It prevents relying on less healthy packaged snacks.
14 Healthy and Delicious Snack Ideas
Here are 14 nutritious and tasty snack options to try:
- Apple or banana slices with almond or peanut butter
- Greek yogurt with berries and chia seeds
- Hard-boiled egg sprinkled with salt and pepper
- Nutrition bar made with oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit
- Cottage cheese or ricotta cheese with pineapple or mango
- Whole grain toast with mashed avocado and red pepper flakes
- Celery sticks with hummus or nut butter
- Frozen banana blended into a smoothie
- Oatmeal with milk, cinnamon, raisins and almonds
- Edamame pods sprinkled with sea salt
- Rice cakes or whole grain crackers with nut butter
- Kale chips seasoned with olive oil and garlic powder
- Fresh figs or dates stuffed with goat cheese
- Air-popped popcorn tossed with parmesan cheese
With a variety of flavors, textures and nutrients, these snacks are sure to satisfy without sacrificing health. Rotate options to prevent boredom.
When choosing quality snacks for the elderly, keep these key tips in mind:
- Accommodate chewing and swallowing limitations
- Focus on nutritional value
- Control portions
- Promote hydration
- Follow dietary restrictions
- Provide convenient, ready-to-eat options
- Vary flavors and textures for enjoyment
Snacks shouldn’t just be an afterthought between meals. With some extra consideration for the needs of elderly loved ones, they can be a tool to optimize nutrition, hydration and overall health on a daily basis.