It can be tempting to buy those frozen dinners from the store or order in food delivery, but these foods can be high in sugars, fats, and salts—just when your doctor said to cut back! It can be tricky eating on a senior’s budget but still gain all the nutrients that a senior body needs. You can’t afford to buy 20 ingredients to make that great lasagna recipe, but you can still eat well.
Here are a few tips to help you eat healthier on a senior’s budget.
Essential Meal Planning
It’s best to plan for an entire week of meals instead of blindly pushing your cart throughout the store to figure it out. Look through your recipe books for simple meals to prepare. You can actually double a recipe, so you’ll have enough for the entire week, or freeze it for next week.
Dedicate a notebook and pen for this purpose. Remember that each meal should have a protein, a fruit, a vegetable, and a carb. If you have diet restrictions, you may have to cut back on the carbs or not add salt.
Did you know that making rice or boiling carrots takes no more time than nuking a frozen dinner in the microwave? So, you might as well eat healthier, starting now.
Choosing Healthier Foods
Many of the seniors today were brought up on a “meat and potatoes” type of diet that has been proven to be one of the worst diets on record. The human body needs more than fats or carbs. As for the protein, it’s present in every single food so you won’t starve to death if you skip the meat for one meal—unless you’re a dog or cat?
Now that frozen foods are off-limits, what do you buy to eat? There are plenty of fresh vegetables in the store. Some can be cooked, and some can be made into salads so you don’t even have to cook those. Remember to shop for all colors of the rainbow.
Healthier proteins often take less time to cook, such as fish, beans, or tofu. If you don’t have the time to cook steak, pot roast or chicken, that’s fine as they’re too high in fat for a senior person anyway!
Don’t forget that there are many more carb types than rice, bread or cereal. Try quinoa, bulgur, or wild rice instead. But unless you’re diabetic, don’t forget to include a few carbs each day. These provide the B vitamins you need, and also fiber. They are also the foods that fill you up. Sure, salad is good, but you’ll still feel hungry after consuming it, so mix in some brown rice to fill you up.
Dealing with Physical Limits or Time Limits
You can double your recipes so you can reduce your weekly cooking time. Some people like to prepare all these meals a week in advance. Then, on the day of, they can simply add fresh veggies and heat up their leftovers.
Making a larger amount at one time will also decrease cleanup. Instead, you’ll just have the daily dishes to do, instead of pots or pans.
Remember to label your food with the date you have made it, so you can consume it within a reasonable length of time.
If you find it difficult to remain standing while you prepare your food, grab a stool and sit on it to do your meal preparation.
Staying Within Budget
There are many recipes which may look good at first, but can be of considerable cost to make. Unless you’re royalty, you can always make variations, or find something more affordable to make. You don’t really need 4 different kinds of cheese to make that lasagna, or to make a trifle with that expensive sherry.
Instead of tossing those supermarket flyers in the bin every day, set them aside and look for the best sales. Shop the sales and make the most of your money.
Another way to stay within budget is to reduce portion sizes. Most people eat way too much food. Did you know that you can have a plate full of vegetables, about a 1/2 cup of carbs, but only a card-deck-sized serving of protein? This is the best way to stay full but to avoid fat and salt. You can add a piece of fruit to complete each meal of the day instead of consuming pies, cakes, or cookies.
Coping When Eating Out
Eating out can always be tricky as these foods are often high in salt and sugar. Look for health-conscious foods on the menu, or simply have a salad. You can add seafood to the salad, and often a piece of bread is included. You don’t really need a 3- or 4- course meal.
If you’ve been presented with a big bowl of food, you don’t have to eat it all at once. Simply ask for it to be packaged up so you can take it home and eat it the next day. And that also solves the problem for the next day’s lunch.
Create a Supper Club
Get your friends to sign up, then once a week someone hosts a meal. This is not only a great way to socialize but can also ensure that there are no leftovers that you would just toss in the bin the next day, anyway.
Make a pact with your friends to serve only healthy meals. When you socialize over your meal you can share meal and menu preparation tips.
Begin with Small Steps
You may not be able to do a full conversion to healthier and smaller meals within budget over the next week, but you can make small steps that lead to healthier meals.
The best aspect of eating healthier is that your overall health will benefit. They say that food is the best medicine. You may even be surprised to discover that some health problems you’ve been battling are now much easier to manage!
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