It may come as a surprise to you that today is Fresh Veggies Day. It will, however, not come as a surprise that adding fresh vegetables to an older person’s diet can have a huge impact on health. As taste buds decline, seniors are likely to eat fewer foods and may not always make healthy choices, so it can be up to the caregiver to encourage consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Eating better can increase mental acuteness, build resistance to illness and disease, raise energy levels, shorten recuperation times and help manage chronic health problems. A nutritious diet will also lead to a positive outlook and emotional balance. Not convinced yet? Wait till we tell you how easy it is to add vegetables into your repertoire.

Adding a salad as a side dish to any meal is one of the simplest ways to serve veggies. Tomatoes and lettuce are especially important in hot weather, since they are high in water content and help keep seniors hydrated. A cold gazpacho soup or vegetable juice are also healthy and hydrating choices.

You can make a vegetable medley by lightly sauteing a mixture of vegetables  pretty much whatever you have in your refrigerator and garnishing with fresh herbs such as basil, dill, thyme, mint, or chives. The strong flavors of the herbs will make the veggies tasty even for the most reluctant eater.

Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and collard greens are rich in lutein, which protects cells from damage. You can serve them with a light sprinkling of olive oil, lemon and black pepper. Combine them with tomatoes, orange bell peppers and cucumbers or serve alone.

If you’re barbecuing outdoors or grilling indoors, throw a few onions, sweet potatoes and peppers on the grill along with fish or meat. You’ll get that great charred taste on the outside of the veggies while maintaining their fresh state on the inside.

Of course, before making any dietary changes, consult with your senior’s physician to be sure you aren’t including foods you should be avoiding. And then let your imagination run free!