Helping Seniors Manage Doctor Prescribed Diets During the Holidays

It can be a struggle to help your senior loved one maintain a diet intended to help them manage a chronic medical condition like diabetes.

This gets even more difficult during the holiday season when potential diet-busting foods are offered everywhere they go. Unfortunately, candy, cookies and baked goods are the treats that are in abundance during this time.

Our senior loved ones may have trouble avoiding these temptations – as do the rest of us – and could experience negative health consequences.

Given all the fat and sodium that can find their way into what we eat in this season of overindulgence, a few missteps could give us a serious health setback. Overdoing the salt in our holiday meals could result in congestive heart failure or too many sweets could cause dangerous blood sugar responses.

It’s not just those with diabetes, either, but any of us who are watching our weight.

Too many enticements to overeating or choosing unhealthy foods could lead our senior loved ones to the hospital faster than we might think and potentially result in long term consequences.

Resisting Temptation During the Holidays

During this holiday season, it will be more important than ever to plan ahead for those moments when temptation will be hard to resist.

Thinking ahead about what could happen will help you and your senior chart a path of wellness and diet control instead of danger.

  1. What family get-togethers or holiday parties will your senior be invited to attend? Can you bring some healthy foods along with you so that you will be sure there will be foods that fit into their diet plan? Should they go to them all or be selective to attend only the ones that won’t include unlimited temptations?
  2. When offered treats that could raise blood sugar or affect blood pressure to the extreme, how will your senior respond? Are there some answers you can help them create so that they can be thankful for the loving offer without accepting it? Can you agree to eat only one treat the entire party?
  3. If there are moments of cheating, what is the plan to overcome that indulgence? Will they be able to increase their exercise that day or will they need adjustments to medications? Can they discuss medication management with their doctor before a crisis occurs in temptations can’t be avoided?
  4. Are they aware of the consequences to their health if they do overindulge, especially on holiday goodies? Do they understand the physical symptoms that could signal danger? Do they know how to react to harmful changes in blood sugar or blood pressure?
  5. Will it help you and your senior to make a bargain in the form of a paper contract that you can post on the refrigerator to remind both of you of holiday goals? Some items could be “I will take a 20 minute walk every day” or “I will fill half my plate with vegetables no matter where I eat dinner”. For many, it helps to have it in writing as a daily reminder of what will be healthy to do.
  6. Are they clear about the appropriate portion sizes of foods that would be allowed or do they overeat even foods that are good for them so those foods become not-so-good-for-them foods? Can they take a taste of foods that are not in their meal plan to satisfy their temptation without blowing the diet altogether? Can you prepare traditional family favorite foods using healthier alternatives and Recipe Renovations™ that remind them of their favorites but without the unhealthy ingredients.
  7. Can they avoid alcohol, which will add only calories and carbohydrates without providing nutritional value? Remind them that alcohol could interfere with the effectiveness of their medications, potentially making a party lose its luster.
  8. Can you help your senior be mindful of the foods they are eating and focus on enjoying all the foods available that are appropriate for their health condition — and focus instead on maximizing the friendships and family interactions instead of making the food the star of the party? The most important part of the holidays should be spending time with family, friends and neighbors who support each other all year long and not the delicacies on the table.

Doctor’s Recommendations

If your senior’s doctor has advised they follow a particular diet to manage chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or their weight, they should follow their diet plan every day of the year.

Be sure to let them know their health is that important to you.

When we accept temptation, one ‘cheating’ episode can quickly become a daily habit and pretty soon the diet is totally disregarded and the health consequences become overwhelming. It is easier to stay focused on eating well all year long.

If you or your senior loved one are unsure about what foods are healthy for them and which should be skipped, it would be a good time to take advantage of the services of a registered dietitian. They are experts in nutrition and will separate fact from fiction and help you both arrive at a meal plan that meets all your health needs that will be based on science. Your senior’s doctor can refer you to a qualified dietitian near you so you can begin making healthy food choices.

Let’s enjoy the holidays by staying healthy by avoiding temptation! I know your senior can enjoy healthy food choices and family traditions with a little help from you!