Nutrition for Seniors

Nutrition for Seniors

It can be easy to slip into unhealthy eating patterns, building a diet around convenience foods instead of eating whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins. Older adults have special nutritional needs, and it’s more important than ever to eat a healthy diet during the senior years. A balanced diet helps reduce risks for some cancers and diseases, and eating healthy also helps keep energy levels higher. Seniors also need to watch their diets so they can maintain a healthy weight. Gaining weight while aging can make it more difficult to stay active, and some health issues are associated with being overweight. Checking in with a physician is also important, because some medications may change appetites for seniors.

What’s Good in a Diet?

Senior nutrition involves a balanced and varied diet, which helps give the body the nutrients it needs. Eating healthy can also be a source of enjoyment. Whenever possible, strive to get the nutrients needed through food instead of by supplementing. B vitamins such as B6, B12, and folic acid are often present in cereals. Seniors can get B6 in whole grains, B12 in lean meats, and folic acid in dark green vegetables and beans. Calcium and vitamin D help strengthen bones and teeth. Calcium is present in dairy products and dark green vegetables. Spending a little time in the sun often provides enough vitamin D for the body, and some foods are fortified with vitamin D, too. Fiber helps keep the heart healthy, it helps prevent diabetes, and it keeps the digestive system moving smoothly. Foods such as beans, vegetables, and whole grains are an excellent source of fiber. A healthy diet should avoid trans-fats and limit saturated fats and cholesterol because of risks for heart disease and blood pressure issues. Use olive oil when cooking, choose low-fat or fat-free dairy items, and eat lean meats, poultry, and seafood. A diet that’s too low in potassium can lead to high blood pressure, so seniors should add potatoes, bananas, and yogurt to their diets.

How Can I Eat Healthy as I Age?

Building a diet around nutritious foods helps ensure that seniors get all the vitamins and minerals needed without taking in too many calories. Most senior citizens need fewer calories as they age to maintain their weight, often because activity levels go down and muscle mass also decreases. Strive to have every meal include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy, and protein from lean meats or eggs. Other protein sources include nuts, beans, and seeds. When planning a meal, try to add as many bright colors to a plate as possible. Seniors should also avoiding empty calories from foods such as baked goods, chips, candy, sugar-laden sodas, and alcohol. High-fat foods tend to be high in calories, and they can contain harmful trans-fats or saturated fats. Saturated fats come from animals, and trans-fats are usually present in processed foods. Seniors also need to pay attention to hydration. It’s common for people to have diminished thirst as they age, which can lead to dehydration. Some medications also contribute to dehydration as well.

If appetite wanes from medication or from lack of activity, there may be some ways to make eating more pleasant and appealing. Not eating enough can cause health problems, and malnutrition is also a risk. Try cooking and eating with family and friends instead of alone. If foods just don’t taste or smell appealing, it might help to add more colors and textures to a plate. Those having trouble chewing or swallowing should check in with a doctor or dentist. Seeing a nutritionist for dietary guidance can also be helpful for a senior. Healthy diets have sufficient calories. Seniors who having trouble incorporating enough calories into a daily diet might be able to eat more by adding one or two healthy snacks into the day, focusing on higher calorie foods.