Thanksgiving is a day for delicious food, friends, family, memories, and traditions, but one of those traditions doesn’t have to be unhealthy eating! Find a way to add these seven healthy foods for seniors to your Thanksgiving table and take a walk around the block. You may feel way better than if you just took a nap after you were done with your meal.
1. Turkey Breast
To many people, Thanksgiving isn’t complete unless you eat turkey. Turkey breast is a great source of lean protein, especially if you remove the skin. According to the USDA, 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of cooked skinless turkey breast has 32 grams of protein. Plus, there’s only 166 calories, and three grams of fat!
2. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a superfood, which means that they are packed with nutrients. Not only do sweet potatoes have four grams of fiber, but they have high amounts of antioxidants such as Vitamin A and Vitamin C.
We love a good sweet potato casserole, but if you skip the brown sugar and marshmallows, you can save a lot of empty calories with your Thanksgiving dinner, which may be kind to your waistline.
3. Green Beans
Many people serve green bean casserole at Thanksgiving. According to Campbell’s, the traditional recipe has 118 calories and seven grams of fat for only one-half of a cup. That’s about half the size of your fist. That 118-calorie figure is when you use reduced fat cream of mushroom soup. And you really don’t save that many calories with the lower-fat version of the soup. Campbell’s full-fat version only has 20 calories more.
When you add cream of mushroom soup, milk, and French-fried onions to green beans, you add a lot of unnecessary calories. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), three-fourths of a cup of steamed green beans has only 20 calories. They are also a rich source of vitamins A, C, and K. Green beans also have a lot of fiber and folic acid.
4. Fruit Desserts
It may be easier than you think to eat sweet foods without being unhealthy. The key is making the right choices. Pumpkin pie with whipped cream may be a Thanksgiving staple, but consider adding fruit tarts or baked apples to the table. Fruit is naturally sweet, so you don’t have to add much sugar to those desserts.
Fruit has many benefits for seniors. Not only is fruit loaded with antioxidants, it has a high water and fiber content, making it quite filling.
5. Veggie Trays
Consider having a veggie tray with low-fat dips as a Thanksgiving appetizer. You can add bell peppers, baby carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, and any other vegetables you want to include.
The vegetables listed above may be high in fiber, antioxidants, and minerals (like calcium). They’re also low in calories. Plus, if you fill up on vegetables before your meal, you may be less likely to eat excess calories during the main course.
Pro tip: You can save money by cutting and plating the vegetables yourself, rather than buying a pre-made tray.
6. Collard Greens
Medicare Plan Finder’s home office is in Nashville, Tennessee, so naturally we wanted to include a Southern holiday staple on our list of healthy foods for seniors at Thanksgiving.
Our location isn’t the only reason we wanted to include collard greens, however. Collard greens and other dark, leafy green vegetables are superfoods with a ton of nutritional benefits for seniors. Collard greens are packed with vitamin K — one cup has about 770 micrograms, which is much, much more than the dietary guideline of 90 micrograms. Vitamin K is great for bone health, because it helps improve calcium absorption.
Collard greens and other cruciferous vegetables may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, such as breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and kidney cancer.
When we say “cranberries,” we don’t mean cranberry sauce in can. Canned cranberry sauce has 418 calories and 105 grams of sugar in one cup. Also, many people don’t even like the canned stuff according to an Instacart survey.
Use fresh cranberries and make your own sauce at home. You have control of how much sugar you put in the recipe, and you can also reap the many benefits cranberries have. Cranberries have a ton of vitamin C, and they may also help prevent urinary tract infections.
Bonus: How to Use All Those Leftovers
After Thanksgiving is over, you may wonder how you can reuse all of those healthy, delicious leftovers.
Many people know about making turkey sandwiches, but did you know you can use the turkey carcass to make broth for turkey soup? Bone broth has many benefits such as vitamins and minerals, and it may protect your joints from wear and tear. You can even throw leftover celery and carrots from your veggie tray into the pot to make your soup a powerhouse of nutrients.
Cranberry sauce will keep in the refrigerator for several days, and you can serve it chilled or at room temperature.
You can easily reheat sweet potatoes in your oven or the microwave. Note: microwaved sweet potatoes may look brown in the center. It happens because of a chemical called polyphenol oxidase. It’s completely normal, and your sweet potatoes are still safe to eat, but they may not look as pretty.
Have a Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving
We hope you incorporate the above foods into your Thanksgiving menu. Not only do they taste great, but you can feel great about eating them. If you want to learn about Medicare Advantage and/or Medicare Supplement plans, we can have one of our highly trained, licensed agents contact you. To arrange a no-cost, no-obligation appointment, call us at 844-431-1832 or contact us here.
Why Vitamin C is Important for Seniors
Vitamin C is an essential vitamin with several health benefits, but the body does not produce it naturally. As you age, it becomes more and more important to keep up with your diet and make sure you’re getting enough vitamins and nutrients.
The recommended daily vitamin C intake is 75mg for women and 90mg for men. That might sound like a lot, but one orange can get you at least halfway there. There are several ways to incorporate vitamin C into your diet and to make sure you’re getting enough. No excuses!
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that it dissolves quickly in the body. While animals can “make their own” vitamin C, humans cannot produce it. Since it dissolves so quickly, it’s important to intake vitamin C every single day.
Vitamin C is necessary for the “biosynthesis of collagen, L-carnitine, and certain neurotransmitters,” and is “involved in protein metabolism,” according to the National Institutes of Health. Biosynthesis is the process of creating complex molecules that are essential for survival.
In layman’s terms, Vitamin C and biosynthesis are necessary for healing and healthy body functions.
Vitamin C Benefits: What is Vitamin C Good For?
Aside from assisting in the body’s natural biosynthesis process, vitamin C is a:
Antioxidant – Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant, meaning it helps defend the body against harmful diseases. It can also improve white blood cell function, making it an all-around fantastic immunity booster.
Blood Pressure Reducer – Studies have shown that Vitamin C can help relax the blood vessels, resulting in reduced blood pressure.
Heart Disease Preventative – Vitamin C has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, especially when taken naturally as part of a diet instead of through supplements.
Gout Preventative – Vitamin C may reduce uric acid in the blood, helping to prevent gout, a painful form of arthritis.
Iron Absorber – Vitamin C can help the body absorb iron properly, making it extremely useful for vegetarians and those who don’t eat enough red meat or who are anemic.
Memory Enhancer – Studies have shown that people with dementia had low levels of vitamin C, and low levels have overall been linked to forgetfulness.
Eye & Tooth Booster – The American Optometric Association cites vitamin C as an important vitamin for vision and dental health.
Vitamin C Side Effects
It is unlikely that you can have a vitamin C overdose, though it is recommended that you don’t take in more than 2,000mg per day. If you get all your vitamin C from food, it can be very hard to have that much in one day. However, it is possible to have 2,000mg or more in one day if you get your vitamin C from supplements.
It is unlikely to overdose and experience vitamin C side effects, but it can cause:
The Dangers of a Vitamin C Deficiency (Scurvy)
Scurvy is the body’s response to a lack of vitamin C. A vitamin C deficiency can cause:
Dry hair and skin
Easy bruising, bleeding gums, and nosebleeds
Weakened tooth enamel
Decreased ability to fight infection
Scurvy is a severe form a vitamin C deficiency, and it mostly affects older and malnourished adults.
How to Get The Right Vitamin C Dosage
The easiest and healthiest way to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C each day is to incorporate it into your diet. Most foods that have good amounts of vitamin C have other important nutrients in them as well. For example, oranges and orange juice are well known for being a good source of vitamin C, but they also have plenty of potassium, folate (vitamin B9), and thiamine (vitamin B1).
Vitamin C Foods
Many fruits and vegetables are high in vitamin C, including:
Vitamin C Drinks
If you prefer, fruit drinks can have a lot of the same value as pieces of fruit. However, be aware that many fruit juices are full of added sugars and may not be a healthy long-term solution. If you have the ability to make your own fresh-squeezed orange juice, that can be a great healthy alternative. An eight-ounce glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice can contain 125mg of vitamin C, more than the recommended daily amount!
Grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, and prune juice can also provide great vitamin C value.
Vitamin C Supplements
You can find vitamin C supplements in various forms, like serums, powders, tablets, gels, and gummies!
Vitamin C Tablets, Pills, and Gummies
You can find most any supplement you’re looking for in tablet, pill, or gummy form from your local pharmacy or grocery store. Consider these examples (which can also be purchased from Amazon):
Generics: Many drugstores will have generic versions of these supplements which may be cheaper than their brand-name counterparts (but usually include the same important ingredients).
Vitamin C Serum
Vitamin C serums are usually meant to be used on the skin, so it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor or dermatologist before using a product. This example we found from InstaNatural is designed to be an anti-aging and blemish defense as well as a hydrating serum.
Vitamin C Powder
If you don’t want to take a pill but you need another form of a vitamin C supplement, you might want to try a vitamin C powder. Powders like this one from Nature’s Way are meant to be stirred into an eight ounce glass of water. You can also mix it into a smoothie or juice! This powder contains 500mg of vitamin C and only has 15 calories in it.
Emergen-C has a similar product, but it contains other nutrients as well. This one produces an orange fizzy beverage which includes vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin B12.
We couldn’t go without mentioning the other host of products that Emergen-C offers (and no, they are not sponsoring this post)! Aside from vitamin C and adult immune health support, Emergen-C also has energizing products, sleep aids, and kids immune support!
Each Emergen-C product has slightly different ingredients, but we wanted to look at the Emergen-C Probiotics Plus product designed for daily immune health support. This product has an orange flavor and will provide 250mg of vitamin C (less than other products but still more than your daily recommended intake), and 110mg of potassium. It also lists out fructose, citric acid, maltodextrin, and malic acid.
While those extra ingredients can seem a bit scary, a lot of them are found naturally in the foods we eat. For example, malic acid is what contributes to the sour taste of many fruits. Additionally, nutritionfacts.org said that by weight, citrus fruits are about 10$ citric acid. So, you might be getting these ingredients in your daily diet anyway.
Still, taking supplements does not mean that you can always eat unhealthy foods. These supplements are meant to literally supplement your diet, meaning you should still focus on eating healthy.
Emergen-C vs Airborne
Airborne is another great product that advertises a “blast of vitamin C.” Both products contain very similar ingredients but come in different forms and flavors. For example, this product from Airborne has a “Very Berry” flavor and comes in the form of a tablet that will dissolve in a glass of water.
Yummy Vitamin C-Filled Meal Ideas
If you have a hard time incorporating vitamin C-filled fruit and vegetables into your diet, consider these sneaky tricks:
Add sliced strawberries to your morning cereal or oatmeal
Freeze fresh fruit juices in a popsicle mold for a natural alternative to the sweet treat
Include leafy greens in your sandwiches and burgers
Use berries instead of chocolate chips in your pancakes and muffins
It may seem like you hear about a different celebrity toting a new diet every time you turn the TV on. Some people say that eating lots of protein and cutting carbs is the way to go. Other people say to keep the bread and pasta in your diet and to not eat dietary fat.
The diets on this list may be considered fad diets, however, they are diets that work*. Experts in health and nutrition created and reviewed these diets, and they may offer overall health benefits along with additional support for specific health conditions such as dementia, heart disease, and diabetes.
*Always check with your doctor before starting any diet or exercise program.
1. Mediterranean Diet
According to US News, the Mediterranean Diet is the best diet for overall health, heart health, and diabetes management. The people who live around the Mediterranean Sea “live longer and suffer less than most Americans from cancer and cardiovascular ailments.”
The diet itself “is more of an eating pattern than a structured diet.” In other words, you’re “on your own to figure out how much to eat to lose or maintain weight.” With the Mediterranean Diet, you focus on fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts.
You should also have fish “at least a couple of times a week,” and eat poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt “sparingly.” The diet does not prohibit sweets and red meat, but it does encourage you to eat them only on special occasions.
2. DASH Diet
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The diet is promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to stop or prevent high blood pressure. DASH ranks third in the “Best Heart-Healthy Diet” category.
The diet focuses on lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy in an attempt to help manage blood pressure, because these foods contain nutrients such as potassium, calcium, fiber, and protein. All of these nutrients have been shown to “deflate blood pressure.”
DASH also recommends limiting sodium to 2300 mgs a day.
According to US News, the diet works because it’s easy to follow long-term.The DASH diet recommends making small changes such as:
Adding one vegetable or fruit serving to each meal
Introducing two or more meatless meals per week
Using herbs and spices rather than salt to flavor food
Snacking on almonds or pecans instead of chips
Swapping whole wheat flour for white flour whenever you can
Taking a 15-minute walk after lunch or dinner (or both)
DASH, according to US News, can be used as a weight loss diet if you burn more calories than you take in.
3. Flexitarian Diet
“Flexitarian” is a combination of two words — flexible and vegetarian. The term basically means that you’re a vegetarian most of the time, but you can eat meat when the urge hits. The diet is based on a book called The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease and Add Years to Your Life, by Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietician.
The idea is that if you consume more vegetables than meat, you can lose weight and improve your overall health. The US News panel of experts agree, because the Flexitarian Diet ranks third for the “Best Diets Overall,” “Best Diets for Weight Loss,” “Best Diets for Healthy Eating,” and “Best Weight Loss Diets.”
According to US News, the diet is easy to follow. The diet emphasizes plant-based protein (beans, peas, lentils), eggs, dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Blatner’s book offers a customizable meal plan that includes two snacks. If you follow the plan, you’ll consume about 1500 calories a day.
You can adjust your food intake as necessary for weight loss or maintenance. How much you consume depends on your age, weight, height, and activity level.
4. MIND Diet
The MIND Diet is designed to help promote brain health. Note: There is no guaranteed way to prevent Alzheimer’s, but eating leafy greens, nuts, and berries may lower your risk of developing the progressive brain disorder.
MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, and it’s a mixture of the DASH and Mediterranean diets. The diet was developed by Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center.
If you follow the MIND Diet, you’ll eat at least three servings of whole grains, a salad, and one more vegetable. You also get a glass of wine, which is good for brain health, according to Morris.
You’ll snack on nuts most days, and every other day you should eat half a cup of beans. You’re supposed to include poultry and blueberries twice a week, and fish once a week. When you cook at home, you should use olive oil instead of other cooking oils.
5. Volumetrics Diet
This diet was created by Barbara Rolls, a nutrition professor at Penn State University. Like the Mediterranean Diet, Volumetrics is an approach to eating, rather than a structured diet.
Volumetrics groups foods by energy density. Basically, the lower a food’s energy density, the more likely it is to fight off hunger.
For example, non-starchy fruits and vegetables, and broth-based soups have a very low energy density because they’re mostly water. Those foods are in Category One.
Low-density (Category Two) is the next step up. Those foods include starchy fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat meat.
Medium-density (Category Three) foods include meat, cheese, pizza, ice cream, pretzels, and cake.
High-density foods make up Category Four, and they include chips, chocolate candy, cookies, butter, and crackers.
To follow the diet, you’ll use Rolls’ book to categorize your food choices. You’re supposed to focus mainly on Category One and Two foods, keep Category Three portions small, and eat Category Four foods rarely.
Volumetrics can help you lose weight if you stay in a caloric deficit, which may be easy to do if you eat mainly filling, low-calorie foods.
6. Mayo Clinic Diet
The Mayo Clinic Diet is designed to promote “weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.” The diet uses the Mayo Clinic’s “unique food pyramid” that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
The diet works on some of the same principles as the Volumetrics Diet by focusing on foods with low energy densities. For example, two cups of broccoli has the same amount of calories as one quarter of a Snickers bar.
The Mayo Clinic Diet is effective for weight loss. According to the Mayo Clinic, you can lose “6-10 pounds in two weeks, and continue losing 1-2 pounds each week until you hit your goal weight.” You do this by adding a healthy breakfast, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
7. TLC Diet
In the diet’s case, “TLC” stands for Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes. The National Institute of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program created the diet with the goal of cutting cholesterol for heart health. It focuses on vegetables, fruits, bread, whole grains, pasta, and lean meat.
If you want to lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) level, men are supposed to eat 2,500 calories a day, and women are to eat 1,800. If you also want to lose weight, men are to eat 1,600 calories a day, and women are supposed to aim for 1,200 calories a day.*
Then you’re supposed to limit saturated fat to less than seven percent of your daily calories. If you do that and our LDL level hasn’t dropped by 8-10 percent, then add “two grams of plant stanols or sterols and 10-25 grams of soluble fiber every day.” You can find stanols and sterols in vegetable oils.
Other daily guidelines include:
Keeping meat to a maximum of five ounces per day, and sticking to skinless poultry and fish
Eating 2-3 servings of low-fat or nonfat dairy products
Loading up on fruits and vegetables — up to four servings of fruit and 3-5 servings of vegetables daily
Eating 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice, pasta, or other grains
*The exact appropriate number of calories to eat may differ for each individual person. Speak to a doctor before beginning a new diet.
Healthy Choices for Your Overall Health
The above diets may be a great starting point for getting or staying healthy. Go to your doctor with specific questions about diet and exercise, and check out our blog for information about Medicare. To learn more about Medicare Advantage and/or Medicare Supplements, call 844-431-1832 or contact us here to arrange a meeting with a licensed agent.