We all have our traditional kosher favorites—and for many this means
Ashkenazic fare, like slow-roasted brisket, matzo ball soup, lockshen
kugel, and perhaps cholent and blintzes. Unfortunately, such kosher
classics aren’t the best choices for us as we get older. Toby Smithson,
RD, CDE, is a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
and founder of DiabetesEveryDay.com. She says, “Age 50 appears to be the
time when some of our nutritional needs change.” Our metabolisms begin
to slow down, so we need fewer calories—yet at the same time, we still
need food that is high in nutrients.
The challenge, then, is to
get all the nutrients we need without overeating. If you are physically
active, great—though most people are not scaling the same number of
mountains at 60 or 70 that they were at 30. There are also specific
vitamins and minerals we need more after we hit 50, Smithson says,
notably potassium, calcium, and vitamins B12 and D. We also need fiber,
but slightly less than we do when we’re younger.
Sodium is a
concern in the opposite direction—too much can contribute to high blood
pressure, and we need to significantly reduce consumption as we get
older, to about 3/4 teaspoon per day (1500 milligrams)—that includes
both what we add to our plate and what occurs in foods naturally. Unless
specifically made for seniors, prepared kosher foods can be high in
Too much sodium is a concern regarding blood pressure,
and potassium helps blunt sodium’s affect, Smithson says. Calcium,
coupled with vitamin D, helps with bone strength, and vitamin B12
protects against anemia. Fiber serves multiple purposes—it helps with
digestion and heart health, and can help prevent certain kinds of
cancer. Good sources include fruits and vegetables, as well as whole
grains like oatmeal and brown rice.
For many in their 50s and
above, choosing meals and preparing their own food may not be an issue.
But as the Jewish population ages, more and more people are living on
their own, with family far away. Jewish organizations in several cities
around the US offer services to this group. Kosher Meals on Wheels
is a federally subsidized program that supplies a daily meal to those 60
and older who cannot easily get out of the house.
Ill., Ted Starcevich is the program manager of home-delivered meals and
Kosher to Go for CJE SeniorLife, an organization that serves older
adults in a variety of ways. They deliver 300-400 kosher meals daily,
often by volunteers who visit with their clients when bringing the food,
which provides a third of their daily nutritional requirements.
menus, which are all taste-tested by Starcevish and his staff, are sent
to a state dietitian for approval. “Sometimes the state dietician will
come back and will tell us to switch the apple on Tuesday with the
orange on Thursday, for nutritional balance,” he says.
Drobnis is Coordinator of the Kosher Nutrition Program of Jewish Family
Service of Rhode Island. The program provides both home delivery and a
Senior Café. “The Jewish Federation has been really supportive of this
program,” Drobnis says. It offers kosher lunches daily for a $3 donation
and provides transportation. Most guests are in their 80s.
meals are all kosher, as are the delivered meals, and meet federal
guidelines in terms of nutrition. “Seniors try to stay away from salt
and use salt alternatives,” Drobnis observes. “Everything is low sodium.
In general, they stay away from sugar as well. We try to have a balance
of proteins, carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables. For carbs—grains,
pasta, bread—we try to use whole grains when we can. It can be very
difficult with the budgetary limits to have brown rice or whole wheat
Zan’s Kosher Delicatessen Restaurant runs a similar
program in Lake Grove, NY, supplying delivered kosher meals for area
townships. The Supper Club 60 is offered in the afternoon Mondays
through Thursdays, according to Anthony Ruggiero, who owns the business
with his brother Pat. The $4 donation offers a choice from a daily menu.
For seniors, Ruggiero says, “We make everything with less salt.”
National Osteoporosis Foundation indicates that our vitamin D needs can
almost double once we hit 50—those under a half century need 400 to 800
IU daily, while those over need 800 to 1000 IU.
“Vitamin D is
needed to help keep bones strong along with calcium,” Smithson says. The
primary natural source of vitamin D is sunlight, but how our skin
absorbs it can depend on where we live, if we use sunblock, and how much
time we spend inside, an issue for shut-ins.
If you don’t spend
much time in the sun, you may need vitamin D supplements; check with a
health care provider for the best balance. Kashrut can be an issue for
some vitamin D supplements. Smithson notes that there are two kinds, D2
and D3, and “D3 is derived from ultraviolet irradiation of a substance
derived from sheep’s wool.”
In general, the most efficient
sources for the nutrients we need as we get older is food, rather than
supplements; supplements should do just that—help with what we’re
getting from food already. Food has the added advantage of being good
for multiple nutrients. Dairy products, for example, contain both
calcium and potassium.
Other good sources for potassium include
beans (think cholent) and fruit, including dried apricots, prunes, and
raisins (tzimmes, anyone?). Dates are also a good source, along with
pistachios and other nuts. (Nuts can be high in fat, so moderation is
Fortunately, it’s easy to fit a healthy diet into a kosher
diet—for the most part. Brisket isn’t the leanest cut of meat, but it
can be reserved for special occasions “Unfortunately the leanest cuts of
beef are not kosher, so we need to have a stronger focus on cutting
back on our sources of fats, especially saturated fat,” Smithson says.
traditional dishes can be modified,” she advises. “Dishes like lockshen
kugel can be made with a heat-resistant sugar substitute and egg whites
to make it more heart-healthy and diabetes friendly.”
“The best advice is to modify recipes, watch portion size, and add more vegetables to your meals,” she adds.
advice as we head into our 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. And if we make it to
our 90s, that may be the time when we no longer have to worry about
moderation, and we can have a second helping of brisket.
Toby Smithson suggests the following sample kosher menu:Breakfast:
Oatmeal, a glass of skim or 1% milk; 1 cup of berries, and a slice of
whole grain toast with tub margarine, almond butter, or peanut butterLunch:
Tuna fish salad with reduced fat mayonnaise; 1 slice low fat cheese; 2
slices whole grain bread, 1 cup baby bell peppers, 1 peach or nectarine.Snack:
3 graham cracker squares, 6 ounces low fat vanilla yogurt sprinkled with cinnamon and chopped almonds.Dinner:
3 ounces baked skinless chicken breast with rosemary; 1 medium sweet potato; 1 cup green beans; an orange.Suggested Shabbat meal
Shabbat: Chicken soup with whole grain noodles; Cholent with more beans than
meat; a green leafy salad with bite sized raw vegetables; baked sliced
apples with cinnamon and sugar substitute.
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