Advice on Aging: Healthy Winter Foods for Seniors

By Donna Lazartic, MBA, LNHA
Executive Director/President Green Hill Inc.

The groundhog in Punxsutawney, PA has emerged from his burrow and declared that we have six more weeks of winter ahead. That means we need to stay focused on our healthy winter food choices. For the senior citizen, making sure they stay healthy during the winter means replenishing vitamins and minerals at risk during the cold months and providing nutritional support for any health issues such as emotional health, inflammation, cholesterol, heart disease, and ease of mobility.

Getting outside in the cold and weather may be prohibitive for seniors so exposure to the sun, a good source of vitamin D, may be limited. Vitamin D and calcium are found in low fat dairy products, milk, cheese and yogurt, and are great choices to include in one’s diet. Levels of serotonin naturally lower with the reduction in daylight and can affect mood. Boost serotonin levels by including whole grains and good carbohydrates into your diet like oats, quinoa which are high in protein, brown rice, yams, pumpkin and squash. Winter squash is also high in A, C, B6, potassium and folate.

Dark leafy greens available in winter like kale, chard, escarole and collards are rich in vitamin A, C and K. Lean proteins like chicken or fish, high in omega fatty acids, are necessary for muscle health and strength. Eggs and legumes are an excellent source of protein. Root vegetables like the erroneously maligned potato are an excellent source of two immunity boosters—vitamins C and B6, delivering 25% and 29% of your daily needs per medium potato, respectively.

Vitamin C found in citrus is very important and help boost good cholesterol. Utilize the juice of lemons and limes liberally. Eat oranges and grapefruit whole, not juiced, to include the natural fibers. Hesperidin in these fruits is credited with boosting “good” HDL cholesterol and lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

Purple, and red vegetables like beets and purple potatoes are rich in anthocyanins—antioxidants that are linked to a host of health benefits, from lowering cancer and heart disease risk to quelling inflammation. Blueberries in the freezer section are a great source as well. Making sure your senior citizen eats the nutrients they need to remain happy and healthy this winter can be easy and delicious. Here are some quick recipes ideas for healthy foods for your senior this winter.

  1. Bake a potato and top with cheese, yogurt and steamed broccoli, or a chopped sautéed leafy green vegetable for a delicious meal or snack. You can do this with a Yam as well to boost antioxidant levels.
  2. Make a soup with a chicken stock or water base. Add legumes, leafy green vegetables, diced squash and a dash of lemon juice, with or without brown rice or another whole grain, for a warm and tasty meal.
  3. Blend a smoothie with low fat yogurt, frozen blueberries, lime juice and cooked pumpkin or squash for a delicious breakfast drink or snack.
  4. For a breakfast treat or dessert, bake up an oat crumble by slicing cooked pumpkin or squash, and apples or frozen fruit into a baking dish, mix oats and honey or sugar substitute, if necessary, with some coconut butter and lay over top. Bake until brown and bubbly. This dish is great cold too.