Harvard Health Letter

Malnutrition alert: Load your freezer with healthy foods

Plan ahead so you have nutritious food on hand at all times.

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Stocking your freezer isn't just a precaution to take when bad weather may prevent you from getting out of the house. For older adults who can't always go to the store, it's smart to keep the freezer stocked with healthy foods all year round. "Fresh foods are extremely important in terms of nutrients," says Melanie Pearsall, a registered dietitian with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

Malnutrition risks

Fresh vegetables, fruits, lean meats, dairy products, and whole grains are loaded with vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber your body needs to function properly. "But older adults may not buy enough fresh food because they feel it won't keep, or they'll cut back on meals when the good food runs out," says Pearsall. Consuming fewer calories can lead to malnutrition, low energy levels, and poor concentration. "You may be weak or too tired to do anything, and trip and fall," says Pearsall.

If you turn to processed canned or packaged meals that last longer, you'll likely consume extra sugar, salt, trans fat, preservatives, and other additives. Even canned vegetables may have salt or other preservatives, and canned fruit may be packed in sugary syrup. Those poor-quality calories can make it harder to manage your blood sugar, blood pressure, and other chronic conditions.

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