Critter Corner: Celebrating Senior Nutrition Month – Eating Healthy on a Budget

Dear Angel,

I just read somewhere that March is National Senior Nutrition Month. I have gained 15 lbs during the COVID-19 pandemic from sitting in my house and doing way too much eating. I want to get healthy, but I don’t know where to start. Do you have any suggestions for eating healthy on a budget for seniors?

Thanks for your help!

Eden Better

Dear Eden,

You are correct. Back in January, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) sent out a draft of the March activities for Nutrition Month. Based on the feedback they received, they decided to adjust the focus of their celebration. So, instead of it just being National Nutrition Month during March, Americans will now celebrate the “Older Americans Act (OAA) National Senior Nutrition Program,” as well. This program began in March of 1972, and has a rich and vibrant history across the Nation. ACL is hoping that this change will bring more awareness to older adult nutrition programs and the OAA.

Eating Healthy on a Budget

As you realize, healthy eating and proper nutrition can be difficult at any age. But, for seniors, maintaining good nutrition poses an even bigger challenge. Many aging adults no longer cook for themselves, have limited transportation options to go to the grocery store, or are on a small budget, so seasonal, healthy foods may feel out of reach. However, a well-balanced diet is critical. Together with an active lifestyle, healthy eating is thought to be one of the keys to longevity and a higher quality of life.

To help seniors maintain a healthy diet and in honor of the Older Americans Act (OAA) National Senior Nutrition Program, here are some tips for simple shopping and healthy eating on a budget:

Make a list: Sit down with your senior loved one and make a list of what he or she wants to eat for the week. Preplanning saves time and money.
Consider store brands—they usually cost less: These products are made under a special label, sometimes with the store name. You might have to look on shelves that are higher or lower than eye level to find them.
Ask about discounts: Ask your local grocery stores if they have a senior discount or a loyalty or discount card. Besides getting items at a lower price, you may also get store coupons.
Think variety: It’s easy to get in a rut, so encourage seniors to try new foods or recipes.
Look at labels: Look at calories, carbohydates,sugar content, salt content, fat, and other important things before you buy items in the store.
Avoid convenience foods: Shoppers are always tempted to buy something that doesn’t require a lot of time to prepare, but these foods usually lack nutritional value.
Budget wisely:  Remind your senior to use their food budget wisely. For the price of a large bag of chips and a box of cookies, you can buy a good supply of apples, bananas, carrots, peppers, and other healthy options.
Keep healthy foods accessible: Keep cut up veggies and fruits in your fridge, so when you are grabbing for a snack you snack on them instead of something less healthy.
Look for hydration options: In addition to water, look for foods like watermelon, popsicles, and other fruits that are hydrating. Or, look for ways to enhance water, such as adding a splash of juice or squeezing some fruit like lemons and limes into water.
Think about the foods you throw away: For less waste, buy or cook only what you need.
Resist temptations at the check-out: Those snack foods and candy are put there for impulse buying. Save money and avoid empty calories!
Sign up for meal delivery: While some older people have trouble finding enough money to buy food, others need help preparing meals. There are a variety of groups around the country that deliver meals to people who have trouble getting out of their homes. These groups usually offer one hot meal a day. One of the largest is Meals on Wheels America.


National Resources for Locating Help with Food Costs

There are several ways to learn more about programs that offer help with meals or food costs. Use one of these services:

Eldercare Locator or call 1-800-677-1116 (toll-free)

Federal and state benefit information or call 1-800-333-4636 (toll-free)

Local Harvest

National Association of Area Agencies on Aging

National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs

No matter how careful you are, the cost of food can still eat up a big part of your budget. There may be additional help. For more resources to help with shopping and food costs, visit the National Institute on Aging’s healthy eating resources here. Also check out this article on “Shopping for Food That’s Good for You.”

Hope this helps!


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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.