Healthy eating for seniors isn’t all that different from healthy eating – it’s just more important
As we age, our bodies change significantly and chronic conditions and nutritional deficiencies become more prevalent. Senior metabolisms slow down and the body becomes less efficient at absorbing key nutrients. In addition, the ability to taste some foods declines and other foods can become more difficult to chew or digest.
No two seniors are alike, and each individual may have certain specific dietary needs. But whether your loved one is living in a facility, at your home, or on their own, there are certain nutrients that become even more essential to include in a diet as we age. Below are a few key ingredients that will help maintain a senior’s nutrition and ensure they are getting a balanced diet.
Senior nutrition begins and ends with hefty helpings of fruits and vegetables
No list of dietary tips would be complete without a reminder to eat enough fruits and vegetables each and every day. According to a study done by the National Institute of Health (NIH), although older adults are already eating more fruits and vegetables than the average adult, only 21 to 27% of men and 29 to 45% of women aged 65 and older reach their recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
To ensure your loved one is getting a proper balance of both, focus on color. A mixture of different colored fruits and vegetables will ensure your senior is getting a complete set of vitamins and nutrients.
Healthy eating for seniors includes whole grains
Seniors should say goodbye to white bread and refined grains, but they don’t have to cut out tasty carbohydrates all together. Instead, seek out fiber-rich foods that will help with digestion and keep your senior’s heart healthy, such as brown rice, whole grain cereals, and potatoes.
If your loved one is underweight, whole grains are also the easiest way to add pounds. Try to serve one starch with each meal, and don’t be afraid to get creative with adding cheese or spices that ignite some flavor.
Iron-rich foods may be ideal for some seniors
Aging is often accompanied by lower energy levels, and one way to boost energy may be to incorporate iron-rich foods in your senior’s diet. Foods that are high in iron include: green vegetables, lean meats, peas, beans, lentils, and eggs. Be sure to include at least one iron-rich food in each of your senior’s meals, especially if low iron levels are identified by a physician.
Protein maintains muscle and a healthy immune system
A protein-packed diet helps keep your senior’s muscles healthy and strong, and is also linked to a range of other benefits, including the maintenance of a healthy immune system. Salmon, poultry, lean meats, and fresh tuna all provide a hefty dose of proteins. If you want to cut down on the amount of meat in your senior’s diet, protein can also be found in beans, eggs, and nuts.
Dairy protects bone health
Though you don’t want to fill your senior’s diet with dairy, regular intake can play an integral role in maintaining bone density. Calcium-rich foods like milk, yogurt, and cheese can also provide your senior with a sufficient helping of vitamin D. Though many seniors should incorporate some form of dairy into their daily diet, be wary of fat content and consider an individual’s lactose tolerance. Supplements can also play a role, especially if your senior can’t get sufficient calcium or Vitamin D from dietary sources. Your physician can help design an optimal diet based on your senior’s needs.
A primary ingredient for senior nutrition is water
Staying hydrated has always been a key component in a healthy lifestyle. And for seniors who may have chronic diseases or take medication where dehydration is a side effect, the need becomes even greater. Nutritionists recommend seniors drink three to five large glasses of water each day.
Maintaining the nutritional needs of your senior doesn’t have to be your job alone
It’s hard enough to maintain your own healthy lifestyle, let alone balance the needs and restrictions of your aging loved one. It is very important that your senior is getting their daily doses of nutrients – but that burden doesn’t have to be yours alone.
Since 2000, FirstLantic Healthcare has been devoted to providing the highest level of home healthcare services to families across Broward, Palm, Beach, St. Lucie, Indian River, and Martin Counties. If you’re looking for hourly or daily help, please call us at 1-877-618-3624 or fill out our online contact form. We are available 24/7 to help seniors and their loved ones get the help they need.
Written by Bart Delsing