Healthy Snack Options for Aging Adults

The holidays are fast approaching and that means lots of pies, desserts, and plenty of candy. With the additional temptation during this time, it’s extremely important to help your aging loved ones limit their sugar intake, or help them avoid sugar completely. Too many sugary snacks can harm a diabetic, increase blood pressure levels, and negatively impact heart and brain health. Below are some tips for keeping you and your loved one healthy over the holidays.

Taste Buds and Sweet Tooth’s

Did you know that as you age you actually lose taste buds? When we are young we have between 10,000 and 15,000 taste buds but once we reach 65 years old we lose thousands of them. After this age, a person may only have 5,000 to 10,000 taste buds (almost 5,000 fewer!).  This piece of knowledge isn’t just great trivia information; it’s important to know because it means that older adults don’t taste food as well. This drop in taste buds can actually affect their ability to taste sweet and salty things. The result? Eating more sweets and salty foods to compensate. This is definitely something to be aware of and keep an eye out for.

Healthy Alternative Snacks

To avoid unnecessary harm, here is a list of some healthy, sweet snack alternatives:

  • Dried fruit as a substitute for chewy or gummy treats
  • Cut up fruit or berries (add a dollop of Cool Whip or flavored yogurt)
  • Seedless grape halves drizzled with honey
  • Yogurt (its cold just like ice cream)
  • Cut up veggies (dipped in a honey or peanut butter)
  • Popcorn (with cinnamon on top)
  • Rice cakes with some honey drizzled on them
  • Natural granola (add some chocolate chips for a little sweetness)
  • Cinnamon and applesauce
  • Fruit and cottage cheese on crackers

In addition to these alternatives, remember that the holidays may be one day but the season lasts for months. Here are some helpful tips to help manage cravings:

  • Practice balance with your food choices
  • Monitor portion control
  • Choose a healthy alternative (see above)
  • Get active and keep your heart healthy
  • Watch those leftovers (especially candy)

As you prepare food, make sure to check the ingredients and nutrition labels to see how much sugar is in it. Talk with your physician to determine the right intake for you and/or your aging loved one. Sugar is not the enemy but a balanced diet with fresh fruits and veggies is your best choice. Try out some healthy snack alternatives – you might be surprised at what you like!