How Seniors Can Eat Healthy This Thanksgiving

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How Seniors Can Eat Healthy This Thanksgiving

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The holidays are upon us! Many of us are busy this week, planning our Thanksgiving menus, shopping for groceries and trying to figure out how to avoid the dreaded “Holiday 10.”

For caregivers of seniors living in Cincinnati, planning and preparing a healthy holiday meal can feel like a real challenge.

Many of the foods we Midwesterners enjoy at Thanksgiving sacrifice nutritional value for comfort. Deep-fried turkey, green bean casserole, candied yams, buttery mashed potatoes — all are laden with saturated fats and heart-damaging LDL cholesterol (for the record, that’s the “bad” one).

Beth Andrews, Manager of Culinary Services at Deupree Cottages, will be serving up a healthy salad at her traditional Thanksgiving to break up the heavy food.

Here in Ohio, some us even throw big hunks of fatback in the green beans! Sure, it tastes great, but all that down-home holiday cooking can have serious implications when it comes to senior health.

Today, let’s take a look at how you can plan and serve a great-tasting, traditional Thanksgiving meal that will provide the senior in your life with the most beneficial nutrition.


Cook from scratch

Emerson Stambaugh, Executive Director of Hospitality Services for Deupree House, suggests that cooking from scratch is the way to go when hosting seniors.

“Healthy and flavorful recipes are the key to a great holiday meal,” Stambaugh said. “Here at Deupree House, we make our sauces and salad dressings from scratch so that we can control what goes in that is bad for us, and the residents love it.”


Let vegetables be vegetables

Green and cruciferous veggies are super healthy for us. They provide vital minerals for bone and muscle health — calcium, phosphorous and iron — as well as many of the daily vitamins seniors need, including Vitamins A, C and K and folate.

They’re also excellent sources of fiber. Fiber absorbs water, so in tandem with proper levels of water intake, ingested fiber helps seniors to stay well-hydrated. That, in turn, helps seniors maintain bowel regularity (particularly important for older persons who take prescription pain relievers, which are constipating agents). Fiber also helps us to feel more full, so it plays an important role in helping seniors not to overeat and to keep trim.

Screenshot 2016-11-22 12.44.06.pngVegetables don’t need added sugar, tons of salt, meat stock or drowning butter to taste delicious. Try this recipe for salad greens with pears, fennel and walnuts, or this one for amazing roasted Brussels sprouts, to keep your family’s taste buds excited even as you ride high in the health saddle.

Beth Andrews, Manager of Culinary Services at Deupree Cottages, will be serving up a healthy salad at her traditional Thanksgiving to break up the heavy food.

“I am adding a spinach salad with persimmons, toasted walnuts and goat cheese with a light vinaigrette,” she said. “Persimmons are an excellent source of vitamins A&C, fiber and have a natural sweetness that balance out the earthy spinach. Walnuts are chock full of Omega-3’s, manganese, and vitamin E, among other health benefits. Dark leafy greens such as spinach are important because they provide our bodies with: Zinc, Dietary Fiber, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. Phew—they are a real powerhouse!

“If you keep the vinaigrette simple with olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, Dijon mustard and a touch of honey, you won’t be adding a lot unhealthy calories to cancel out all the goodness a salad like that can provide," she continued.

This Thanksgiving, let’s let our veggies breathe!


Rethink deep-fry turkey

You don’t need to fry your turkey to enjoy a moist and tender bird. When it comes to healthy, delicious turkey prep, it’s all about the baste.

Many infrequent cooks make the mistake sticking that turkey in that oven, firing and forgetting. Then they’re disappointed when the bird comes out dry.

Make sure that you’re basting about every 35-45 minutes. When you keep the surface of the turkey moist, the deeper juices won’t cook out as readily.

Before you begin to cook, make sure your turkey is completely thawed. Lightly butter it (for a healthier bird, use heart-friendly, vegan EarthBalance spread) and make sure that you give your turkey a tinfoil “hat” to wear while it roasts — that prevents over-browning and gives your bird a delicious, crispy skin.


Draw up the natural fat drippings and use them to baste; you don’t need to continually add butter or margarine. When you baste, baste every inch of the bird. And make sure you squirt juices back into the center cavity; that will allow your bird to steam from the inside, locking in the flavor.

All that accomplished, here’s a recipe for a healthier turkey gravy.


For dessert, go for flavor over carbs

During the holidays, many of us dish up big slices of pie a la mode, chocolatey cakes and ooey-gooey fudge.

But what would happen if we made a return to “Nature’s Dessert”: fresh fruit? Try layering up berry parfaits!

In a tall glass or mason jar, place a thick layer of blueberries, a thin layer of low-fat whipped cream, a thick layer of raspberries, another thin layer of whipped cream, a thick layer of strawberries and top with a dollop of whipped cream. Dust white chocolate shavings over it for just a little touch of indulgence.

Or, make a Jell-O salad. Jell-O is low-fat and relatively low-calorie (the sugar-free kind is a no-guilt option). Start with orange Jell-O and add any combo of pineapple, coconut, crunchy carrot shavings, mandarin or tangerine slices, pecan slices, marshmallows and low-fat whipped cream to form a delicious ambrosia!


This Thanksgiving, plan a heart-healthy meal for your senior loved one.

We love our traditions here in Cincinnati. But this year, if you’re hosting a senior loved one, maybe it’s better to leave some of the less healthy holiday meal traditions by the wayside and plan a nutritious holiday meal that doesn’t skimp on exciting flavors.

Planning Ahead Guide


Bryan Reynolds
November 22, 2016
Bryan Reynolds is the Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS). Bryan is responsible for developing and implementing ERS' digital marketing strategy, and overseeing the website, social media outlets, audio and video content and online advertising. After originally attending The Ohio State University, he graduated from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, where he earned a Bachelor of fine arts focused on electronic media. Bryan loves to share his passion for technology by assisting older adults with their computer and mobile devices. He has taught several classes within ERS communities as well as at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute run by the University of Cincinnati. He also participates on the Technology Team at ERS to help provide direction. Bryan and his wife Krista currently reside in Lebanon, Ohio with their 5 children.

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