grandmother cooking with grandchildren

The fall and winter holidays inevitably bring an array of rich food loaded with salty fats and abundant sugar. It’s a season heavy with flavor and heavy with the accompanying health threats. This is especially true for seniors, who are particularly prone to adding salt and sugar to their foods. Studies show that seniors will add twice as much salt to their food to achieve the same flavor as younger people. That can quickly become a serious problem when compounded with array of health problems most seniors face. However, as seniors cut down on the salt and sugar, they don’t necessarily have to cut down on flavor. Here are a few simple ways to add flavor without the extra salt and sugar.

How to add sweetness:

1. Fruit

Applesauce, berries, and bananas can all add natural sweetness to your dishes. Substituting sugar for applesauce in your baked goods will make your cookies, muffins, etc. pleasantly moist and sweet.

2. Other flavors and spices

Nutmeg, cinnamon, pure vanilla powder, and other spices can distract your taste buds from the lack of sugar. These spices that your mind associates with sugar trick your mouth into thinking your natural yogurt or plain oatmeal are sweet.

3. Grated coconut

Unsweetened coconut flakes, scraped straight from the coconut or bought at the store, have a great taste and hearty texture. The flakes make for an easy sweet addition to baked goods and other treats or work as a simple snack.

4. Nuts

Almonds, pecans, or other nuts, have minimal amounts of sugar, but their buttery flavor creates a sense of sweetness. Sprinkle them on oatmeal or eat them as a snack. They’re both filling and subtly sweet.

5. Avocado

Avocado contains healthy fats and nutrients, and when used in smoothies and dressings, it can add sweet and creamy thickness without the sugary fat.


How to add saltiness:

1. Eat seasonally

When your food is more flavorful, you don’t feel the need to add salt. By eating seasonally you get your produce at its most savory and ripe. Fresh herbs like rosemary and basil add strong flavors in a healthful way. You can also buy dried herbs to mix and add to dishes, though it’s best to buy these in small containers since they lose most of their flavor after about 6 months.

2. Vinegar

Almost all types of vinegar are salt-free. They come in a wide assortment of flavors and can add just the right amount of tang and zest to a dish.

3. Caramelize

Caramelized veggies are generally low in fat but high in taste. Sautéed onions and garlic create a rich alluring aroma and deep flavor that invite everyone in the house to come and eat.

4. Brighten up your plate

Bright dishes and colorful foods, like lemon slices and fresh herbs, diversify your plate and can heighten your sense of flavor. Studies show that the color of your plate can affect your perception of the freshness and savor of your food. According to food scientist Charles Spence, a blue plate can make food seem saltier while a red one can make it seem sweeter. Buying a variety of colored plates and dishes and experimenting with colorful foods may boost your flavor perception and the fun you have with your meals.

5. Fresh salsa

Made from fresh tomato, peppers, garlic, and onion (or your own favorite mix), salsa is an all-natural flavor booster. You can make a small batch to keep in the fridge and sprinkle over your eggs, chicken, or any other plate that needs a pop of freshness flavor.


Salt and sugar undoubtedly taste good, but they frequently create and aggravate health problems, especially in seniors. Try some of these techniques to gradually cut down. Over time your taste buds will adjust, and you’ll happily skip the extra salt.