Despite its reputation for being unhealthy, candy is a beloved and often nostalgic treat for many seniors. A favorite variety is usually associated with a treasured memory or person from the past, such as the type of gum your parents always chewed or a lollipop your children always requested as a reward. Holidays also frequently feature sweets, which can cause seniors to crave specific treats during celebrations.
Moderation is the key when it comes to indulging in candy snacks. Though splurging on a regular basis can lead to unhealthy eating habits, an occasional sweet lets individuals enjoy their favorites without consuming large amounts of empty calories and sugar.
To help maintain a balanced diet and control the influence of a sweet tooth, here are five healthy alternatives to candy that seniors may wish to consider stocking in their senior living apartment or home during the holidays or year-round.
Fresh fruit is the top choice for many seeking an alternative to candy. Fruits and berries are naturally sweet but low in calories, and they're packed with vitamins and nutrients that can help reduce the risk of developing health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.
With several farmer’s markets nearby, seniors here in Thornton have many opportunities to eat fresh fruit picked in the prime of the harvest season. In Colorado, orchards start selling strawberries and cherries as early as May or June and keep going through October with offerings such as peaches, pears, apples and nectarines.
When harvest ends, seniors can turn to stashing frozen bags of fruit and berries in their assisted living apartments’ freezer for when they crave a quick sweet snack. Already washed, sliced and ready to eat, frozen fruit is just as nutritious as fresh, and unlike many canned varieties, they are easy to find packed without any added sugar or additives.
For an added punch of sweetness, seniors can also try dehydrating fruits and berries to concentrate their flavor. While there are many air fryers and dehydrators on the market, it's surprisingly simple to prepare dried fruit in a microwave without having to buy or store a dedicated machine.
Homemade popsicles are as simple to fix as pouring juice in an ice-cube tray, adding toothpicks and freezing them, but seniors don't have to stop there. Popsicles provide a nearly endless playground of flavor combinations to experiment with, such as strawberry and watermelon, blackberry and lemon or peaches and cream.
Additions such as yogurt and coconut milk transform the frozen sweets into cream pops, and honey, mint, maple syrup and vanilla can be used as flavorings instead of sugar.
Much like homemade popsicles, gelatin offers creative seniors a versatile base to build upon with favorite flavors. The jiggly treats can be made with just juice and gelatin powder or garnished with herbs, fruit chunks and berries.
Though the overall nutritional content of gelatin dishes will vary depending on the included ingredients, gelatin itself may offer seniors health benefits such as improved hair, skin and joint health, according to some medical studies. Research has also been conducted to see if gelatin might improve digestive health and the quality of sleep.
Gelatin also provides an ideal dessert to serve visiting guests. Recipes can be tailored to please both children and adults, and it's easy to prepare in large batches to hand out during parties and events.
While cookie dough isn't usually the first thing that comes to mind as a healthy snack, it can be a great alternative to sugar-packed candy with the right recipe. Generally, these recipes only take a few dishes and can be prepared in about 10 minutes, making them a snap to whip up in kitchenettes like those in the Park Regency assisted living community apartments. Since raw flour and eggs can contain dangerous bacteria, it's important to use alternative ingredients such as peanut butter, oats or chickpeas in no-bake recipes.
As with every snack, seniors should watch their portions. However, these doughy treats have almost three grams of protein to help keep individuals feeling full between meals. For cake lovers, the recipe author also has a sprinkle-covered dough ball flavored with almond extract.
Trail mix recipes can be as simple or complex as the creator wishes, making them perfect for individuals to customize to their taste. Many mixes consist of nuts, dried fruits, seeds or toasted grains, which makes them rich in fiber and protein.
Popcorn (air-popped to reduce fat), pretzels and cereal can also be added, though it's important to read nutritional labels and ingredient lists carefully and choose brands that don't overload the mix with hidden calories, fat or salt.
Spices, including cinnamon and cayenne, can also be stirred in to give the blend an extra dose of flavor. Honey, maple syrup and chocolate chips can be used to provide a touch of sweetness.