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From Garden to Table: Seniors Can Enjoy Fresh Flavors Year-Round

Summertime brings a wealth of fresh vegetables and fruits, but as cold weather moves in, they become scarce. But there is no reason to cut back on the consumption of vegetables and fruits, as well as other fresh foods, and the nutrients they provide during the winter months.

Keeping up with the intake of these nutrients year-round is especially important for seniors. According to the National Council on Aging, “If older adults don’t get the nutrients they need, they’re more susceptible to malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, and chronic diseases.”

Important Nutrients and Foods That Provide Them

So, what essential nutrients do seniors (caregivers, too) need to stay mentally and physically healthy during the winter months, and which foods contain them?

Vitamin C – Vitamin C protects the immune system, which is so vital for seniors during wintertime. But did you also know it helps lower cholesterol and is a good source of fiber? Abundant in the fresh fruits and vegetables available during the summer months, vitamin C also can be found in the following foods in winter:

  • Avocados
  • Cashew nuts, almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts
  • Dried fruits
  • Root vegetables, such as carrots and turnips
  • Broccoli, red cabbage, and bell peppers
  • Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale and lettuce
  • Oranges and grapefruit

Vitamin B6 – Seniors’ mental health is as significant as their physical health. Vitamin B6 helps improve mood and ease depression. Certain studies indicate vitamin B6 also can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. The same foods containing vitamin C also include this vitamin.

Protein – Important for muscle health, consuming adequate protein can lower the risk of falls and speed recovery in the event of an injury. Foods high in protein include:

  • Spinach
  • Avocados
  • Broccoli
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Asparagus
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Dairy products
  • Chicken and turkey
  • Eggs
  • Seafood

Vitamin B12 – A lack of vitamin B12 can lead to long-term physical and mental consequences for seniors, including lower metabolism, weaker red blood cells, and poor bone health. Dementia, Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders also are associated with B12 deficiency. Foods containing vitamin B12 include:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Beef liver
  • Eggs
  • Low-fat milk and yogurt
  • Fortified cereal

Antioxidants – Winter brings the risk of respiratory infections. Seniors are often more susceptible to severe illnesses such as pneumonia, so it’s crucial that seniors eat foods high in antioxidants. Purple and red fruits and vegetables are known for their high antioxidant content. In addition to minimizing the effects of infection, antioxidants lower the risk of heart disease and cancer and help keep skin and hair healthy. Antioxidant-rich foods include:

  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Seafood
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Grapes and berries

For a deep dive into the importance of nutrients for seniors in winter and year-round, read these tips for people ages 60 and over.

Fresh Alternatives

If you think fresh is best when it comes to fruits and vegetables, think again. According to Produce for Better Health, “The nutrient content of canned and frozen fruits and vegetables is comparable to fresh and, in some cases, it may be higher than fresh. Produce to be canned or frozen is processed immediately after harvesting, so nutrient losses after picking are minimal.”

However, when purchasing canned or frozen produce—like all processed foods—be sure to read the labels. Check that the label states no sugar or salt has been added, which means no sauces or syrups. Canned vegetables should be packed in water, and canned fruits should be packed in their own juices. Note the expiration dates, too. According to Produce for Better Health, frozen vegetables should be consumed within eight months of purchase, and frozen fruits should be used within 12 months of purchase (four to six months for citrus).

We Can Can, Too

An often-overlooked option in addition to store-bought items is to help a loved one home-can fresh foods during harvest time. Along with the quality time you will spend together, canning is a great way to preserve the harvest for the winter months. If you or your loved one has never canned produce, check out Midwest Living for step-by-step instructions.

Explore Ways To Help Your Senior Loved One Eat Healthy Year-Round

If you find a senior loved one is not eating enough fruits, veggies and other nutrient-rich foods during the winter months, the National Council on Aging offers tips that range from experimenting with herbs and spices to sneaking healthy produce into foods they like.

Right at Home Is Here To Help

If an aging loved one is homebound or has limited mobility, Right at Home’s compassionate caregivers can help with a wide range of services, including grocery shopping and meal preparation, medication reminders, and mobility assistance. They can also help with transportation for the older adult’s annual checkups and other appointments. Use our office locator to contact the office nearest you for more information.

If you are interested in receiving tips and helpful information about the aging journey, subscribe to our Caring Right at Home e-newsletter today.

Marsha Johns, blog author

Marsha Johns is a veteran health care marketer and award-winning writer. She strives to make medical topics understandable and relatable for all readers.

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