As a person going through the aging process knows, nutrition for the elderly involves making healthy choices. Every day, the decisions to eat healthfully and to push physical activity affect how you feel now and in the future. One way to ensure balanced nutrition for the elderly is to consume a wide variety of foods rich in nutrients while staying within one’s total daily calorie limits.
Benefits of Good Nutrition for the Elderly
Regardless of age, eating balanced and nutritious meals may reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, anemia, high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and diabetes.
Eating a mix of lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and nutritious fruits and vegetables provide the nutrients needed to keep one’s body healthy throughout the aging process. Healthy muscles, bones, and organs equates to a high energy level, too.
Eating well shouldn’t just be a “diet.” Consider eating habit as part of a healthy one can begin by taking small steps, making one change at a time. By understanding nutrition for the elderly, one can start making positive changes toward eating well and becoming more active.
The Elderly Should Eat…
Fresh fruits and vegetables of different colors (greens, oranges, yellows, reds)
Have a sweet tooth? Fresh, frozen, or canned fruits provide healthy snacking alternatives. Instead of drinking fruit juice, which can contain less than 30% fruit and oftentimes too much sodium and sugar, swap out unhealthy options for bananas and oranges, which can be handy on-the-go. Consider adding fruit to breakfast oatmeal, for example apple slices, blueberries, or strawberries.
Choose diverse vegetables! Eat more dark leafy greens such as spinach, broccoli, or kale; orange vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, or squash; and beans and peas. Try replacing vegetable “noodles” in your next pasta dish: spaghetti squash or thinly-sliced zucchini can be substituted in a pinch.
A diet low in fat and calories and high in fruits and vegetables may help prevent prostate diseases.
Fiber-rich whole grains (avoid processed “white” grains)
Those concerned with nutrition for the elderly should consider whole grain versions of those pantry staples: whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rices, and pastas. Avoid bleached flours or compromised grains. Make sure your wheat, rice, oats, and corn is referred to as “whole” in the list of ingredients. Diets rich in fiber may reduce the risk of heart disease. Fiber is important for regularity since constipation may be a problem as one gets older.
Low-fat milk and dairy products
As we age, foods rich in calcium are still important for proper bone and dental health. Low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, and cheese are good options for your pantry. If your loved one cannot consume lactose, many grocery stores have lactose-free options. If you cannot or do not consume milk, consider calcium-fortified foods, or adding a calcium supplement to your daily vitamin intake.
Lean proteins (poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts)
Choosing healthy cooking options can be as important as the choice of meat. Avoid using more than 2 tablespoons of fat. Try broiling, roasting, baking, or other low-fat cooking options over frying.
Avoid foods low in sugar, fats, and sodium. Consume vitamin-fortified foods, especially those with vitamin D and vitamin B12
Look for polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Avoid saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol. Reduce your sodium intake, and increase the amount of food high in potassium (bananas, strawberries, etc). Older adults may not absorb nutrients well due to changes in metabolism. Vitamin B12 deficiency can increase the risk of depression and dementia.
Drink in moderation!
Twelve fluid ounces of beer, 5 fluid ounces of wine, or 1 1/2 fluid ounces of hard alcohol count as a drink. Remember that alcoholic beverages contain calories but no nutritional value. Consider limiting alcohol intake to two drinks a day. Some elderly people, especially those prescribed certain medications, should avoid alcoholic beverages. If you have questions or concerns, talk to your doctor or a trusted healthcare provider.
Some Tips When Considering Nutrition for the Elderly
As one ages, choosing the most nutritionally rich foods becomes even more important. Avoid saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium. Consume potassium, fiber, iron, calcium, and vitamins A, B12, C, and D.
Stay hydrated! Drink 64 ounces of water a day. Lowfat or fat-free milk or 100% real fruit juice also helps with staying hydrated. Avoid beverages with added sugars or sodium.
Control your portions! A portion of food should be almost the size of one’s fist. When eating out at a restaurant, ask for a to-go bag to save part of your meal for later. The portions in restaurants are over twice the side of normal portions.
Consider the dental work! As one ages, dental appliances become a part of life. People with dental problems can often have trouble with chewing some fruits, vegetables, seeds, and meats. If dental work is a concern, try choosing soft-cooked foods or canned foods.
Spice it up! As one ages, we can lose up to forty percent of our taste buds, which can lead to a decrease in appetite. Oftentimes, even our favorite foods may seem bland as we age. Consider using twice the spice to increase the palatability of foods. As we age, our senses of smell and taste can change. Medicines may also change how foods taste.
Food safety is important! A food-related illness (such as salmonella or e. coli) can be life threatening. Avoid raw or undercooked foods, such as unpasteurized dairy products, eggs, greens, sprouts, fish, shellfish, meat, or poultry.
The Nutrition Facts Label
When choosing foods that pay attention to nutrition for the elderly, paying close attention to the Nutrition Facts Label found on packaged foods can help us make informed decisions regarding the food one purchases and eats. The Nutrition Facts Label can help you learn about the nutrient content of many foods in your diet. It also enables you to compare foods to make healthy choices.
Serving Size, which comes first on the label, is based on one serving of the food. This may come in a unit of measurement such as cup, teaspoon, or tablespoon, as well as more specific measurements (as in chips, cookies, etc.). Servings Per Container shows the total number of servings in the entire food package. One package of food often contains more than one serving.
The information listed on the Nutrition Facts Label is based on one serving.
Calories refer to the total number of calories in the one serving of the food (fat, carbohydrates, alcohols, etc). Calories from Fat are not additional calories. Instead, this number counts fat’s contribution to the total number of calories in one serving. The Percent Daily Value (%DV) shows how much of a nutrient is in one serving of the food. The %DV column doesn’t add up to a full 100%. Instead, the %DV is the percentage that an average person should eat in an entire day. The Nutrition Facts Label must list total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, dietary fiber, sugars, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. The Nutrition Facts Label may also list monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, fiber, sugar alcohol, other carbohydrates, vitamins (such as vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K) and minerals (such as iodine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc).
The Ingredient List shows each ingredient in a food in descending order by weight. So, the ingredient with the greatest contribution to the product weight is listed first, and the ingredient contributing the least by weight is listed last. The ingredient list is usually located near the name of the food’s manufacturer and often below the Nutrition Facts Label.
Remember, healthy decisions are a choice
Nutrition for the elderly involves choosing healthy dining and exercise options. Every day, the choices we make and the foods we consume have a great impact on our quality of life, both now and in the future. Focus on consuming balanced and nutritious meals to reduce the risk disease. Healthy and active seniors have less chances of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, anemia, high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and diabetes.
By eating a mix of lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and nutritious fruits and vegetables, one’s body becomes healthier throughout the aging process. We need vitamins and minerals to grow strong muscles, bones, and organs, and with better health comes heightened energy.
Give up that “diet” and make a lifestyle change, one that your friends and family will thank you for. Consider eating habit as part of a healthy one can begin by taking small steps, making one change at a time. By understanding nutrition for the elderly, one can start making positive changes toward eating well and becoming more active.