According to WebMD (www.mebmd.com), more than 20 million Americans live with diabetes, and most are persons aged 65-and-over. Seniors with diabetes are placed at high risk for developing other serious medical conditions, like heart disease, kidney failure and nerve damage. If you’re currently assisting an aging in place elderly loved one who has diabetes, getting them to stick to a healthier diet is a must. To assist your efforts, here are 5 diabetic-friendly healthy food that your senior can enjoy.

Healthy Food Guidelines for Diabetics

Based on recommendations from the Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.org), the overall goals when preparing healthier foods for a senior with diabetes should be:

  • Managing their weight; as 80% of seniors with type 2 diabetes are overweight.
  • Controlling other heart disease risk factors, including high blood pressure and fat levels (cholesterol) in their blood.
  • Providing them with 3 portion-controlled meals a day that are served at set mealtimes.

Overall, the Mayo Clinic’s “Diabetes Diet” features foods rich in essential nutrients and fiber that are also low in fats and calories. Other tips for diabetics from the Mayo Clinic include:

  • Restrict sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day.
  • Keep the senior’s daily cholesterol intake below 200 mg per day.
  • Avoid trans fats that are found in processed snacks, baked goods, stick margarines and shortening.
  • Avoid saturated fats found in high-fat dairy and animal products like butter, beef, hot dogs, sausage and bacon. Also, limit oils like coconut and palm.

5 Foods That Diabetics Can Have

Based on the above guidelines, here are 5 healthy foods that the Mayo Clinic includes in their Diabetes Diet:

Fresh Fruits

Yes, contrary to what you may have heard, fresh fruits are good for diabetics. Fruits like berries, bananas, apricots and apples are tasty low-carb sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Be sure to choose whole fruits in their natural form, while avoiding those that are highly processed or in syrups. Fruit juices with added sugar should also be avoided. And, don’t forget about avocados, as they are technically a “fruit”!

Vegetables

Choose fresh, frozen and canned vegetables and vegetable juices without added sodium, fat or sugar. Most veggies are a great source of fiber and essential nutrients, including broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery, cucumber and fresh spinach. Be careful to not use too much salt or stick margarine while cooking, and only use low-fat oils like canola or peanut when sautéing.

Nuts

Serve your loved one low-fat nuts that are also high in protein, like black walnuts, almonds and pistachios. Those nuts are high in fiber, contain healthy fats, and help reduce weight. Studies have found that nuts can also lower the LDL, or “bad”, cholesterol in a person’s blood that’s linked to clogged arteries and heart disease. The next time your loved one asks for chips when it’s snack time, place a bowl of nuts in front of them instead!

Fish

Heart-healthy fish selections that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like tuna, salmon, sardines and mackerel, are also good for someone with diabetes. Eating them at least twice a week will help protect their heart and keep their blood sugar under control. However, avoid serving them fried fish and fish that contains high levels of mercury.

Legumes

The American Diabetes Association (