Habits are hard to break, and that’s especially true at the grocery store. Baskets get filled with sugary items, food with high cholesterol and other forms of junk food. But as people age, low-calorie meals and a heart-healthy diet are more important, especially for those with medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.
Diabetes affects one-third of people aged 65 and older, and even more in the Black community. Heart disease also rises with age, and heart disease for Black adults is more often fatal. A healthy budget grocery list is vital for people with these chronic illnesses to shop within their means and keep wellness within reach.
How to Start a Balanced Diet Meal Plan
A good place for people to start is by talking to their doctor or a dietician about their health requirements and get advice about the foods they should be eating and the harmful ones they should shy away from. Most will benefit from a low-carbohydrate, high-fiber diet, with more vegetables and lean proteins in their daily menus and more healthy fats to cook them. Some chronic conditions require a diet with less salt or sugar, which call for strict attention to the nutrition labels on grocery products. Label details can help anyone keep calories from getting out of hand.
A balanced diet will most likely mean substituting healthier ingredients for high-calorie pasta, potatoes, or rice—and while it’s hard to give up long-time favorites, it’s necessary for a longer, healthier life. And older adults don’t have to give up “bad” foods completely. It’s perfectly fine to have a treat once a week or two.
Healthy grocery shopping can be more expensive. Salt, sugar, and fat are cheap ingredients, so healthy packaged foods will cost more. But it’s thrifty to plan a clean eating menu with less processed food, and cooking from scratch may head off the costs of a serious medical issue. Planning meals ahead of time will allow people to know the recipes they will be cooking and the ingredients needed.
Planning saves money by using fruits and vegetables in season, along with what’s on sale or already purchased. Never go food shopping while hungry, the saying goes, but going to a grocery store without a plan and just buying foods on impulse can be just as costly.
Healthy Menu Planning Tips for Older Adults
Shoppers should write down their grocery list for the items that aren’t in their fridge or pantry. Here are strategies for making a healthy budget grocery list and sticking to it:
- Buying pantry items in larger quantities will save money in the long run. However, with perishable food, never buy more than needed or you risk the chance of food spoiling and wasting money.
- Coupons save on the grocery bill when people make time to work them into their meal plans. Buying store brands instead of well-known manufacturers will also make for a lower bill at the register, and often they are very similar in taste and quality.
- For those who are just beginning to adopt a heart-healthy diet or a diabetes menu plan, the internet makes it easier to find new recipes, using "low carb” or “diabetes friendly” as search terms.
- Gardeners should try growing more of their own food at home or buy from a farmers market, where food is fresh. Many vendors take SNAP benefits.
- When older people cook for themselves, often there are lots of leftovers. They can stretch meals by making dishes that freeze well or think about inviting some neighbors over.
With a little know-how and planning, people can enjoy nutritious foods without breaking the bank—and they will live longer in doing so.