In this time of COVID-19 nursing homes are dangerous environments. Since January, when the first outbreak in Washington State killed hundreds of people in nursing homes, the trend has continued: Fully  30 percent of the total US coronavirus cases have occurred in nursing homes or long-term care facilities. Now nursing homes are offering vegan options in New York, California, and other localities as healthy options to keep residents strong, safe, and well. A plant-based diet helps build immunity and can lower the lifetime risk of disease.

It's never too late to start eating plant-based for your health, and it's never too early. In just three weeks on a plant-based or vegan diet, you can see a significant improvement in biomarkers such as blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin sensitivity. So how do you get a senior to want to make the switch?

A Plant-Based  Diet Benefits You At Every Age

Many of us are wondering: How can we keep our parents and grandparents safe, healthy, and help them boost their immunity? The coronavirus has targeted the elderly population across continents and more than ever we want the people we love who are over 65 to stay safe, well, and strong. The best move? Help them go plant-based.

There are well-known health benefits to switching to a plant-based diet, but the most important is that it can lower the risk of all major diseases (heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer's to name a few) and also help individuals boost immunity. It's never too late to switch to a plant-based diet and see major health benefits in as few as three weeks, and now is the perfect time to help someone you love to make the change.

Help Your Loved One Go Plant-Based.  Do It Together

Switching to a plant-based diet is easy, with the right support, and sometimes may even be more affordable if done right. Plant-based eating is so popular among the senior population that many nursing homes, including a senior living community in NJ, make it a point to offer plant-based meal options. If you (or a loved one) are thinking about switching to a plant-based diet, here are the things you need to know.

Here's a hint for the resisters in your life. Grandparents love a project to share or a topic of conversation to bring them closer to you. If your curmudgeonly grandpa loves to regale you with tales of his youth, tell him you'll happily listen and share your stories too, but do it over a Zoom call where you cook a plant-based meal together. Try sending them farm boxes of fresh veggies and making smoothies together. Keep it fun, light, and easy and offer to share a meal a week (or more) of plant-based food together.

How to Start a Plant-Based Diet as a Senior

Switching diets can be challenging, but it can be especially so for a person that has been eating the same for many years or decades and is partial to the food from their youth: meat, butter, cream, and poultry. First step is to share with the person all the outstanding benefits to switching to a plant-based diet, including:

  • Weight loss
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Healthier heart
  • Diabetes prevention
  • Improved cholesterol
  • Decreased risk of certain cancers
  • Increased immunity to fight viruses
  • Lower inflammation; Fewer aches, and pains
  • Better digestion and fewer gut issues

With these motivating benefits, it's no wonder that many seniors want to make the switch to a plant-based diet. If this sounds like something you would be interested in, here are the first three steps you should do to make the switch. For anyone who relies on a shake or supplement such as Ensure, they now make a plant-based formula called Ensure Plant,  that offers 20 grams of protein, 180 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and only 7 grams of sugar.

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Start the Switch Slowly, Meal by Meal

Switching to a plant-based diet by going cold turkey (pun intended)  isn’t the best method to try when someone not used to big changes wants to switch diets. Moving too quickly can shock the body and cause weakness or irritability so it's better to start with breakfast, such as oatmeal, wheat toast, and vegan butter, or JUST eggs, or another plant-based substitute. Smoothies are popular and The Beet has a Smoothie of the Day newsletter if you're lacking for ideas.

Next switch lunch from egg salad or chicken soup to avocado toast, a lentil soup, or other delicious plant-based lunch. For more recipes check out The Beginner's Guide to Going Plant-Based, which has a full week of breakfast, lunches and dinners. East into it.

Talk to a Doctor or Nutritionist

Before switching to a plant-based diet as a senior, make sure that you talk to a doctor or nutritionist first. Usually, a plant-based diet is a beneficial diet change for seniors, however, in rare cases it may not be so it’s best to find out what those cases may be.

It’s also important to consult a doctor before switching to a plant-based diet to learn some alternative foods and supplements that your body may benefit from after making the switch. You may not know any protein substitutes, or you may need to take certain supplements and vitamins to replace those that you were consuming in meat and dairy products. Your doctor will be able to help you figure out the appropriate way to switch your diet.

It’s also crucial that you do your research before switching your diet. Make sure that a plant-based diet is right for you and decide why you want to switch your diet. Look into the kinds of foods you should be eating to make sure that you are getting the right amount of proteins and fats, and make sure that you don’t gravitate to unhealthy, carb and sugar-heavy vegan options.

It will also be worth your while to look up plant-based recipes so that you have an idea of the kinds of things you will be making. Doing research will ensure that you are making this switch properly and will help you do so easily.

Make the Switch to a Plant-Based Diet Today

Switching to a plant-based diet doesn’t have to be challenging, in fact, it's fairly simple as long as you follow the right steps, such as the ones listed above. Whether you are switching your diet for health reasons, or you simply want to try something new, a plant-based diet is a great choice.

About the Author

Kelsey Simpson enjoys writing about things that can help others. She lives in South Jersey and is the proud companion to two German Shepherds and spends her free time volunteering in dog shelters.