The nutrition requirements of older adults change with age. Eating a balanced diet, however, is still an important aspect of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Choosing the right foods is necessary so that the aging body receives ample nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
How does aging affect healthy eating?
Seniors’ metabolisms slow down as they age, which means the elderly require less calories than before. Consuming an abundance of sugars and fats only leads to unnecessary and unhealthy weight gain. Plus, the aging body requires additional doses of certain nutrients.
What affects seniors’ healthy eating choices?
Several circumstances unique to seniors can affect their choice of nutrients. Low-income seniors, for instance, may not have enough money to purchase healthy foods. Certain medications might alter the taste of food, reduce appetite or produce a dry mouth—making eating difficult.
The elderly may no longer have the ability to cook, which becomes an obstacle to healthy eating. Or, seniors’ sense of taste and smell may have altered. Some older individuals begin to have difficulty chewing or swallowing food. These common situations impact a senior’s ability to eat healthily.
What does a healthy plate look like?
Older adults who aim to consume a nutrient-rich diet should become familiar with what a healthy plate looks like. Essentially, a healthy plate resembles the colors of the rainbow—a visual indication of nutrient-dense foods. Vitamin-rich foods, like spinach and oranges, are brightly colored.
An example of a healthy plate is one that includes lean protein (lean meats, beans, eggs and seafood), fruits and vegetables (in bright colors, like orange, red and green), whole grains (oatmeal, whole wheat bread or brown rice) and low-fat dairy (milk or soy milk with vitamin D).
What foods should seniors avoid?
Seniors are advised to avoid foods with empty calories. Junk food is filled with empty calories, which simply means the foods are loaded with calories but contain few nutrients. Examples of such foods are potato chips, candies, baked goods, soda pop and alcohol.
Foods high in fat, salt and cholesterol are unhealthy. Seniors should particularly avoid foods laden with saturated fats (fats that come from animals) and trans fats (fats that are processed, like stick margarine). Fried foods from fast food chains and store-bought baked products are full of unhealthy fats.
How do seniors get specific nutrients?
Calcium and vitamin D are critical to seniors’ bone health. Adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D may be found in fortified cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, canned fish (like tuna) and milk. Seniors who take calcium supplements should ensure they contain vitamin D.
Vitamin B12 is also essential to healthy aging. Many people over age 50, however, do not consume sufficient vitamin B12. Aside from vitamin B12 supplements, this nutrient may be found in lean meats, certain fish and seafood and fortified cereals.
Seniors’ risk for high blood pressure may be reduced by consuming sufficient potassium and reducing sodium (salt). Vegetables and fruits are excellent sources of potassium. Beans, too, are filled with potassium—be sure to prepare them without salt. Rather than salt, add flavor with herbs and spices.
Foods rich in fiber are necessary to stay regular. Elderly individuals with an adequate fiber intake also lower their risk for both heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables (like peas and beans) and whole grain breads.
Certain fats are healthy for the aging body. Seniors should consume healthy fats, like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, to help reduce their risk of heart disease. These good fats are found in a variety of foods, like avocados, nuts, seeds, fish and olive oil.
How do seniors maintain a healthy weight?
Being overweight can cause serious health issues. Seniors with a goal to maintain a healthy weight should, first, know the number of calories they need to eat on a daily basis. Second, seniors are advised to avoid consuming more daily calories than they can burn each day.
What are solutions to problems with healthy nutrition?
Elderly individuals commonly face obstacles that prevent them from consuming a healthy diet. Difficulty with chewing, for example, should prompt a visit to the dentist, who will look for problems. Issues with tasting food may be corrected by adding texture.
Problems with swallowing may be resolved by drinking liquids with every meal; alternately, a medication could be the culprit when swallowing is a challenge. If medicines cause adverse reactions, the senior should schedule a physician visit for an effective remedy.
Eating alone can deter seniors from consuming balanced meals. Seniors can avoid isolation by enjoying a few meals at the local senior or community center. Older adults might invite a professional caregiver to join them for lunch or dinner. The elderly may even organize regular potlucks with friends.
Arthritis, an illness or mobility problems may prevent seniors from cooking. Visit an occupational therapist for remedies to physical issues. Alternately, utilize the dependable services of professional caregivers, who are skilled in cooking nutritious meals and helping the elderly eat.
A daily intake of healthy foods and corresponding nutrients is essential to senior health. Dieticians, nutritionists and physicians can make recommendations to improve an older person’s eating habits. Professional caregivers from Assisting Hands Home Care are also instrumental in promoting a healthy diet.
Dedicated to improving the well-being of seniors in our care, Assisting Hands Home Care service providers assist the elderly with a variety of personal care activities. We prepare healthy meals that are in accordance with the senior’s dietary restrictions. We also help grocery shop for fresh fruits and vegetables.
Professional caregivers also provide transportation to the senior center, doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions and social events. The seniors in our care enjoy our caregivers’ pleasant companionship, which makes eating in isolation a rare occurrence. Seniors benefit immensely from our home care services.
Assisting Hands Home Care provides comprehensive, non-medical elder care to the senior population in the communities surrounding Cook and DuPage counties in Illinois. With flexible care options, from respite care to 24-hour home care, we are prepared to meet your elderly loved one’s daily care needs. To learn how our services can help you or your senior loved one, call Assisting Hands Home Care at (630) 413-9899.