This article was checked for nutritional accuracy by: Kathryn Bubeck, Registered Dietician
Seniors go through quite a few major changes as they pass through milestones like 50, 65, and 75. The body stops storing fat and slows down the accumulation of muscle mass. Various health conditions can impact how they enjoy food, how they are able to consume certain foods, and how their body is able to absorb nutrients.
Staying ahead of these changes for a senior often means making some major dietary changes. The same well-balanced meal plan from 20 years ago might not be enough anymore. Whether you’re a senior yourself or you’re a provider who cares for a senior, you need to make a point of building a new, balanced meal plan with the key nutrients that the elderly body requires.
But what if you or the senior you care for doesn’t want to completely overhaul their meal plan? Blending up a delicious (and healthy) nutritional smoothie might just be the answer!
Here are some of the best foods to keep around the house for your next homemade nutritional smoothie.
1. Protein Sources
Protein is one of the most important essential nutrients available to seniors. The amino acids in protein create the foundation of many of the cells throughout the body, ranging from organs to hair. Protein also plays a vital role in the maintenance and formation of new muscle tissue.
Remember, seniors struggle with muscle loss and this can be a major problem. A decrease in muscle loss causes a lack of mobility and strength, which can increase the risk of suffering from a fracture after falling by more than 200 percent.
Traditionally, lean meats and fish are excellent sources of protein for seniors. But we don’t recommend adding any tuna or chicken to your nutritional drink. However, there are plenty of vegetables, seeds, and dairy products that count as quality protein sources for this purpose.
A few examples include:
- 1% Milk: 8g of protein per 1 cup
- Coconut Milk: 5g of protein per 1 cup
- Oats: 11g of protein per 1 cup
- Greek, Nonfat Yogurt: 17g of protein per single 170g container
These are all excellent sources of protein and most of them can help create that rich, creamy smoothie that everyone loves. They also contain other beneficial nutrients, antioxidants, probiotics, and vitamins.
If protein seems to the main thing lacking in a senior’s diet, there are pre-formulated protein drinks available for seniors that are ready made for convenience.
2. Calcium Sources
Calcium deficiency is a problem that affects billions of people. A 2015 study revealed that roughly 3.5 billion people across the planet suffered from a calcium deficiency.
When the body is short of calcium it tends to pull it from other sources in the body like our teeth. That’s why tooth decay and weak teeth are common symptoms of this condition. Other symptoms include osteoporosis, eczema, muscle weakness, and fatigue.
Some of the common staples for calcium in a smoothie are the same as protein, such as milk and yogurt. So, with these foods, you get to double dip!
Here are several worthy sources if you’re interested in adding a variety of calcium sources to the smoothie.
- Greek Yogurt: 187 mg of calcium per container
- 1% Milk: 305 mg of calcium per cup
- Almonds: 246 mg of calcium per 1 cup
- Chia Seeds: 179 mg of calcium per 1 ounce
- Kale: 101mg of calcium per 1 cup
3. Fiber Sources
Fiber is a unique carbohydrate that is not always broken down during the digestion process. Many experts recommend a high-fiber diet for seniors who suffer from type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that a diet high in fiber can improve glycemic control and lower harmful plasma lipid concentrations.
Leafy greens are considered some of the best quality sources of fiber. Not only do they contain high concentrations of fiber, but they are often loaded with other minerals and vitamins that are beneficial to the senior’s diet.
Adding a handful of greens to a smoothie can improve it tremendously. The best smoothie recipes often include a mix of fruit, leafy vegetables, seeds, and dairy products.
- Spinach: 4.32g of fiber per 1 cup
- Arugula: 1.6g of fiber per 100 grams
- Canned Pumpkin: 7g of fiber per 1 cup
- Cocoa Powder: 2g of fiber per 1 tbsp
There are several essential vitamins that should be added to nutritional drinks for seniors according to the National Institute on Aging.
The most important are vitamins A, B, and D. Vitamin D works alongside calcium to help build strong bones. It is used by the body to absorb calcium to strengthen the bones. It also impacts the immune system. Vitamin C also helps the immune system by boosting blood cell production. Vitamin B12 is used to make new red blood cells and improve the functioning of existing nerve cells.
Some vitamins like vitamin D and B12 are found most often in animal foods like eggs and meat. However, many dairy and dairy alternatives are fortified to contain these essential vitamins. This makes the vitamins readily available to those who do not eat meat products or take supplements.
- 1% fat milk(fortified): 115 IU of vitamin D per cup
- Orange: 70mg of vitamin C per 1 small orange
- Chocolate soy milk(fortified): roughly 1.7mcg of Vitamin B12 per serving
A Healthy and Homemade Nutritional Smoothie For Older Adults
With all of these nutrition sources in mind, you can start to build your own recipes that include foods you like along with the nutrients you need. There are hundreds of recipes available online that you can use as a starting point.
Here is a very simple nutritional smoothie recipe that contains nutrients from all of the key categories above.
- ½ cup of nonfat, Greek yogurt.
- 1 small orange. Peeled and separated.
- 1 cup of arugula
- 1 cup of spinach
- 1 ½ cups of ice cubes
Making the smoothie is incredibly simple. You simply add all of the ingredients to your blender, close the lid, and turn it on at the lowest speed. You then immediately increase the speed to maximum and hold the lid in place. Let the smoothie blend for one minute or longer if you prefer a different consistency. You can store any of the nutritional smoothies that you do not drink immediately in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Making Healthy Nutritional Drinks for Seniors at Home
Feel free to modify or add to the ingredients as you see fit. If you add more solid ingredients, then increasing the ice or milk will help maintain the correct consistency. Just watch the sugar and sodium to keep your nutritional drink from becoming a delicious smoothie that has poor nutritional value overall.
It’s entirely possible to make nutritional smoothies that are personally tailored to your specific needs. If you are dealing with medical conditions that normally limit your intake of specific nutrients, then you can compensate by adding quality sources to your smoothies.
It’s a good idea to keep track of your nutritional smoothies so that you can ensure you are getting enough nutrients each day without going overboard. Reach out to a dietician or your health care professional for more information about monitoring nutrients for specific health conditions.
Ready-Made Nutritional Drinks for Older Adults
If you or your loved one is active and lives life on the go, you may opt for a ready-made nutritional smoothie. These are often shelf-stabilized without needing any refrigeration. Plus, no chopping, slicing, or blending is required.
Also, if you choose the right product, these premixed drinks and smoothies can be very nutritious. I have personally used the nutritional shakes from Kate Farms because they are plant-based, all natural, and (most importantly) taste great too! You can see all my recommended nutritional drinks for seniors here.
About the Expert
Because I strive to provide you with accurate information, I had this article fact-checked by Kathryn Bubeck, RD, LDN a registered dietician in North Carolina. She has dual bachelor degrees in Nutrition and Health Behavior Management and is currently pursuing a medical degree with a focus on oncology.