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A Healthy Senior Diet? 5 Foods to Avoid

By February, most people have given up on their New Year Resolutions, especially those that focus on losing weight or living a healthier lifestyle. Most resolutions fail because of ambitious life overhauls when you try to change too much too fast. February offers us the opportunity at a second chance to set some more realistic goals. A great goal for February and the rest of the year may be to avoid one or two foods that you know are not good choices for your health. Here are the top 5 foods to avoid for a healthier senior diet.

5 Foods to Nix for a Healthy Senior Diet

Processed Meats

Processed meats like hotdogs, sausage, and deli meat have been linked to numerous diseases including cancer and heart disease.  All meat that has been smoked, salted, cured, dried or canned is considered processed.

The main issue with processed meats is they contain nitrite, related compounds like nitrates, and other preservatives. These compounds have been linked to many types of cancer. Limiting, or better yet avoiding processed meat altogether, will benefit your long-term health.

Sugary Cereals

From bagels to pastries, The American breakfast has always had a focus on carbs. Over the last decade, we’ve seen a shift to more protein-based breakfast items which has helped. But when convenience is a factor – say for a senior who isn’t able to cook themselves a meal- cereals are a staple, most often sugar laden cereals.

Sugary cereals have a ton of flavor but fall short when it comes to protein and fiber. Consuming the amount of sugar contained in these cereals can cause a blood sugar spike, leaving your ravenous before way before lunchtime.

When it comes to cereals, stick to high fiber, whole grain, and less processed choices. Here’s a list of good cereal choices:

And here are ones to avoid.

Processed Pastries

Continuing with our breakfast theme, most (if not ALL) nutritionists would tell you to avoid processed pastries and snack cakes like Twinkies and Pop-Tarts. The long shelf life of these items means that there are a ton of preservatives.  Also there is little to no nutritional value. So while you might appease your sweet tooth, a piece of fresh fruit or small piece of chocolate may be a better alternative.


Margarine used to be touted as a healthier option to butter, and at a time when butter was hard to come by, it was more available to the masses. The saturated fat in butter was what initially made the health community switch to margarine. But as science learns more about trans fat, which margarine is loaded with, it came to light that it was the less healthy option for a healthy senior diet. Trans fat is now known to raise LDL – the bad cholesterol, and lower HDL – the good cholesterol.

Butter still may not be the best option, based on the amount of saturated fat, if you are concerned about heart disease. Better alternatives to both butter and margarine are olive oil and vegetable based spreads.

Specialty Coffee Drinks

While a cup of plain black coffee can have some health benefits and can make you feel more alert, it’s best to avoid the blended specialty drinks served up by fancy coffee bars. That great taste comes at a price – sometimes upwards of 400 calories and upwards of 50 grams of sugar! For comparison, a 16 ounce can of cola has 190 calories and 52 grams of sugar. High doses of sugar have been linked to weight gain, insulin resistance, and liver failure.

A better alternative is simple cup of black coffee, if you can stomach it, or a cup of coffee with a very little bit of cane sugar or creamer. A healthy dose of coffee has shown in studies to lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, lower your risk of stroke, and can help fight the oxidative damage that can cause cancer.  Moderation is key when it comes to a “healthy dose” – no more than four 8-ounce cups a day.

Senior LIFE believes in caring for the whole you – including nutrition

Senior LIFE has dedicated staff of medical professionals including doctors, nurses, home care coordinators, social workers, physical and speech therapists, transportation and more. This dedicated staff is committed to treating the whole “you.”

Senior LIFE offers members an impressive list of medical care and home care where and when they need it. This list includes physicians and specialists, nursing care, physical, occupational and speech therapies, personal and home care, medications, and meals and nutritional counseling.

Senior LIFE can help with a healthy senior diet

Our nutritional needs change as we age, and it can be hard to make sense of the changes. The Senior LIFE staff helps members understand and manage those needs through nutritional counseling.

Our team is specially trained in the unique dietary needs of seniors. As part of that team, a registered dietitian provides members with nutritional counseling and diet planning, based on their individual needs and medical conditions––such as diabetes and hypertension.

Nutritional deficiencies are common among seniors. Our team of providers work together to address any deficiencies and make adjustments to diet accordingly.

To enroll in Senior LIFE, seniors must be 55 years or older, live in the service area, qualify for a nursing home level of care, and be able to live safely in the community.  Applying is free, and there is no obligation to enroll. To learn more about the LIFE Program, or to see if it’s the right fit for you and your loved ones, contact us today!

Senior LIFE is a Medicare Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) operating as a LIFE (Living Independence for the Elderly) program in the state of Pennsylvania.


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