A Healthy Cooking Guide for The Holidays

Throughout this week, we’ve covered several holiday food guides, from 4 foods you should avoid, to 5 great foods to enjoy.

Today, we’re going to talk about cooking for your aging parent over the holidays–both through what to avoid when cooking for them, and what you should cook instead.

Here’s a little bit of our healthy coking guide for the holidays:

Reduce the salt

We’ve mentioned this one before, but salt is something that is always in abundance, especially when it comes to holiday meals. Not only does salt increase high blood pressure and increase the risk of dehydration–products such as canned goods with particularly high salt content are usually highly processed, which can cause other issues such as bloating and cramping.

What to do instead:

As we age, our taste for salt becomes muted, meaning that food generally becomes a little more bland. But salt isn’t the only thing that can add flavor to a dish.

This is what Lynne Rossetto Kasper of the Splendid Table suggests, as she did with her own aging mother:

  • Add aromatics such as fresh herbs, spices, onions, garlic and ginger
  • Cook with wine or acidic flavors such as citrus or vinegar to deepen the flavor of the dish

We also suggest reading the labels of all canned goods and packaged foods for sodium content. When possible, make your own items (sauces like gravies are a great example) in order to know how much sodium is actually going into the product.

Reduce the fat

Fatty foods are another big problem during the holidays. We’ve all seen the amount of butter and cream that can go into mashed potatoes, and holiday treats. As we’ve mentioned before, foods high in fat can cause weight problems and cholesterol issues.

What to do instead:

As the Harvard School of Public Health notes, the percentage of calories from fat that you eat, whether high or low, isn’t really linked with disease. What really matters is the type of fat you eat.” To see our list of Good fats, check out our previous post here.

Mashed potatoes without all that extra fat might seem bland, but consider adding extra flavor by mixing other root vegetables such as rutabagas, parsnips or turnips which are high in vitamin C and much more flavorful than potatoes, yet similar in texture. You can also add pureed cauliflower for extra nutrients and added texture, as well as roasted garlic.

If all of this seems like too much work, consider skipping the mashed potatoes and go for mashed sweet potatoes instead–just keep away from the marshmallows and butter.

Other considerations:

Avoid frying food

In recent years, fried turkey seems to be all the rage, but it really doesn’t do much to help the belt line. And, in many cases, fried foods like turkey tend to be too dry and tough, making it difficult for the elderly to chew. Instead, stick with the classic baking method.

Naturally sweet versus adding sugar

Sweetness is one of the last tastes to go from our sensations; as a result, the elderly tend to gravitate towards the sugary foods. Avoid adding sugar by incorporating naturally sweet foods such as fruit, peppers, caramelized onions, and sweet potatoes. Just remember to keep their diet balanced with lean proteins and whole grains as well.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean bad-tasting food. If you follow our simple holiday food guide, you should be well on your way to a healthy holiday season!

If you have any questions or comments, let us know by connecting with us in the comments or on Twitter. We’d love to hear from you!

Physicians’ Choice Private Duty Assisted Living currently serving Omaha, Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa provides seniors and their families a complete understanding of geriatric care options and helps families maneuver through the challenges of the system. Get your free Cost Comparison guide by clicking here. Or contact us for a free consultation or just to say hello!

photo credit: lynn.gardner via photopin cc

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