Vegetarianism is a growing trend in America today, and it has been for some time. In some other countries, vegetarianism is the norm, and eating meat is seen as the “trend!” If you are a caregiver or a home care aide, though, you might want to think twice about switching your loved one to an all-vegetarian diet.
Aside from the fact that seniors need a lot of protein in their diets to stay healthy, strong, and at a proper weight, there are also many other factors that may make vegetarianism risky. Here are a list of some of the problems that come along with vegetarianism, along with some ways you can work around them.
- Choking hazards – Seniors often have a more difficult time chewing and swallowing than their younger counterparts. Luckily, though, this problem can be avoided by the caregiver simply cooking vegetables until they are very soft to make them easier to chew and swallow. Cutting them into very small, bite-sized pieces can also be helpful, because these don’t require as much chewing, and are less likely to get caught in the throat.
- Not enough protein – As mentioned above, getting the right amount of protein in your diet can be tough if you are a vegetarian. Lean meats are often the best choice for this, but if your loved one wants to be a vegetarian, they can get their protein from other sources, such as seeds, nuts, beans, legumes, and whole grains. A lack of protein in the diet can cause a lack of energy (as well as a lot of other problems), so make sure that your loved one is getting enough of it.
- Unbalanced diet – In addition to protein, seniors need to ingest a certain amount of calories and nutrients. They can get these nutrients from vegetables, but it is very tempting to try to fill up on empty calories by eating too many sweets. An unbalanced diet can lead to a whole host of health problems like diabetes, high blood sugar, obesity, and heart disease, so it is important to make sure that your loved one’s diet includes pieces from every food group included in it. Vegetables aren’t always the most filling dish, so make sure to include some whole grains as well. These provide calories without all the added sugars and fats that come with junk food, which is usually used as a filler because people are too hungry after eating such a light meal.
There is no rule that says that vegetarian diets are not a great choice for seniors. In fact, it could help them to lose weight in a healthy way. However, it is imperative that you keep the above issues in mind as a caregiver or home care aide, because what seems like a healthy lifestyle actually has a lot of possible holes in it. Many elderly men and women enjoy a full, rich array of food as vegetarians, but others who don’t do enough research or have enough variety don’t get the full effect of a vegetarian lifestyle. It is up to you as the caregiver or home care aide to make sure that your loved one’s diet is not just healthy, but safe and filling as well!