Eating nutrient-rich food has a positive impact on your overall health. InnovAge PACE dietitian, Christine Barney, explains how she helps older adults at our Lakewood PACE center maintain healthy, balanced diets to optimize their nutrition and healing.
A Whole Person Approach
Christine is part of the InnovAge Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)
care team of doctors, nurses, dentists, physical therapists, home health aides, and social workers. Together, they ensure that every aspect of a PACE participant’s care is covered — including nutrition support and education.
For example, an InnovAge wound care physician once asked Christine for her support in treating a participant. Christine suggested specific foods that promote healing, and the participant began to see progress.
“Wounds take longer to heal if you are malnourished,” says Christine. “Incorporating vitamin C, protein, and plenty of fluids will speed up the healing process.”
Making a Meal Plan
A nutrition plan should be individualized. There’s no “one size fits all” plan. InnovAge PACE dietitians assess participants’ eating habits and suggest foods that could fill their nutritional gaps. According to Christine, most aging adults should include more foods with vitamin B-12, vitamin D, fiber, calcium, and protein in their diet. These nutrients are found in foods, like eggs, milk, beans, broccoli, collard greens, and lean cuts of meat.
A balanced diet is possible, even if you have a small kitchen or difficulty standing to prepare meals. Aim to fill half of your plate fruits and vegetables, a quarter with lean protein, and a quarter with whole grains or starchy vegetables. Below are a few healthy, nutrient-rich options that Christine recommends:
- Plain Greek yogurt, thinly sliced peach, and a dusting of cinnamon
- Scrambled eggs with spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes with a side of either fruit or whole grain toast
- Oatmeal with berries and a few walnuts
- Salad topped with a protein source like beans, tuna, or chicken
- Chicken, beans, cheese, spinach, and salsa in a whole grain tortilla, topped with some avocado
- Lentil soup with a mixed green salad and whole grain toast
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Hummus and pre-sliced vegetables
- String cheese
- Salmon, broccoli, and a sweet potato
- Vegetables sautéed in a pan with rice, tofu, or chicken
- Whole grain pasta with beans or chicken, tomato sauce, and any medley of vegetables you have on hand, like zucchini, spinach, asparagus, and mushrooms
- A piece of dark chocolate
- Apples sautéed with walnuts, butter, and cinnamon
Aging adults tend to opt for microwave meals because they are easy to prepare. Christine warns participants not to rely on microwave meals. “Not all microwave options are healthy. Review the nutritional information and look for meals that are low in calories and sodium, and high in fiber.”