As we get older our need for good nutrition doesn’t change much, older adults still need to include essential nutrients in their daily diets to help stay healthy. They may need fewer calories as their activity decreases but the same number of nutrients, so older adults need to choose their foods even more wisely.
Some seniors are trying to lose a few pounds and others trying to gain a few, so knowing how many calories to achieve a healthy weight can help guide their meal choices.
Older adults often miss out on certain key nutrients for a variety of reasons for which we can help them find solutions. The first thing is to identify where the shortfalls are and why.
Eating a certain diet to help manage a chronic disease is important for older adults but can cause them to be overly restrictive. Be sure they continue to eat a variety of foods even when on a special diet.
Check to see if they are having difficulty chewing or swallowing causing them to limit harder to eat foods such as meat. If they are having pain with chewing or swallowing, get them checked by a dentist and/or doctor so any issue can be corrected. Sometimes their dentures need to be altered so that they are not loose or rubbing sores on their gums. Softer foods may need to be on the menu.
Are they finding it more difficult to prepare or purchase a healthy diet? They may need assistance with shopping, budgeting, or preparing their meals from you or a local organization such as home care or in-home meal delivery.
- Fruit and vegetables especially those with deep colors
- Whole grains and high fiber sources of grains
- Lean protein at each meal – meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts
- Low fat dairy products
- Nutrient dense foods and snacks (high in nutrients and low in calories)
- Adequate amounts of water
- Healthy fats – canola and olive oil, omega 3 fatty acids from fish and walnuts
- High fat foods
- High sodium containing foods, extra salt from the shaker
- Empty calorie foods such as candy, sugar sweetened beverages, and desserts
If they can’t seem to achieve a well-balanced, nutrient dense meal plan, it may be time to discuss supplementation with their doctor. A multivitamin or even a nutritional supplement might help them meet their nutritional needs.
Getting the correct nutrients and calories for them will help maintain their muscle strength and allow them to age in place independently with the best quality of life possible. Poor nutritional health can lead to a loss of independence for seniors and can be prevented with your help.