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Eating a balanced diet is essential for seniors, but between 15 to 50% of seniors have poor nutrition and malnutrition. For the sake of convenience, many seniors turn to processed food to save the hassle of cooking and the expense of using fresh ingredients. Unfortunately, a diet high in processed foods and restaurant food can have negative health effects because of the high amounts of unhealthy fats, sodium and sugar.

A study by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was released this year and reported that only 1 in 10 Americans stay within the recommended daily guideline of 2,300 milligrams of sodium. Sodium increases blood pressure, which is a key aspect in heart disease and strokes. Nearly all restaurant meals are high in sodium unless it displays a healthy heart or equivalent symbol. Many everyday packaged household foods have high sodium content; some of the biggest culprits are soup, deli meats, cheese, microwavable meals and foods found in the frozen food section. Breads and salty snacks also are known to have high sodium content. Check the serving size to make sure you are clear on how much sodium you are actually consuming. It is common for a can of soup, which is easily a meal for some people, to contain about 50% of the recommended daily sodium intake.

Processed and fried foods can also be high in trans fat, which increases the chance of coronary heart disease. Trans fat negatively affects your cholesterol levels by lowering your “good” (HDL) cholesterol, and increasing your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. Many fried foods and packaged baked goods (crackers, cookies, donuts, cakes) may contain trans fat. On labels trans fat can be listed as the ingredient “partially hydrogenated” vegetable oil.

Many foods have high amounts of sugar and can lead to a variety of health issues including obesity and diabetes. Sugar is found “hidden” in many packaged foods including spaghetti sauce, soups, ketchup, barbeque sauce, and many other household staples including cereals and juices.

Grocery shopping and meal preparation is often difficult for seniors. If you or a loved one would benefit from help with meal preparation and cooking, consider hiring a professional caregiver from Care From the Heart. We have been providing quality, compassionate and affordable non-medical in home care for over 25 years in Sun City and the Northwest Valley.