Seniors have unique dietary requirements that they must meet to maintain a healthy weight and to ward off certain health conditions. As you grow older, your metabolism begins to slow down, meaning you need to eat fewer calories than before. However, it is important for seniors to achieve a daily diet that is nutritionally balanced and contains adequate sources of protein and fiber. Of course, drinking plenty of water and using the right supplements to fill nutritional gaps is also vital for long-term health and wellness.
What to Eat
Eating right does not have to be complicated, no matter your age. Older adults should; however, make fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy a part of their regular diet.
As a general rule of thumb, older adults should consume foods with certain vitamins and nutrients. These typically include:
- Fiber – Fruits, veggies, legumes, and wholegrain cereals and breads contain a lot of fiber which promotes good bowel health.
- Protein – Seniors generally need more protein in their diet as they get older. Add meat, fish, poultry, nuts, eggs, and soybeans to your meal plan.
- Calcium – Calcium-enriched food and drink, such as cheese, yogurt, and low-fat milk, can help maintain healthy bones and slow the progression of osteoporosis.
- Vitamin D – While you get some vitamin D from sunlight, seniors should supplement with vitamin D-rich foods like cheese, eggs, margarine, and oily fish.
- Fats – While it is not necessary for seniors to completely eliminate fats from their diet, they should limit saturated fats and manage their total fat intake.
- Salt – Choosing foods that are low in salt can help seniors better manage their blood pressure. Choose other ways to flavor food like spices and fresh herbs.
When creating a shopping list, seniors should consider what meals they would like to eat. Start the day off with a healthy breakfast, like a hard-boiled egg accompanied by a side of fruit, yogurt parfait, or whole-grain pancakes or waffles.
Keep lunches simple by choosing simple but healthy options like tuna salad sandwich made with 100 percent whole wheat bread, canned tuna, low-fat mayo, and chopped lettuce and celery. Complete the meal with an apple or baby carrots, along with a cup of low-fat milk.
For dinner, consider nutritional entrees like shrimp and pasta, baked Alaskan salmon, or chicken salad. For sides, add a green salad, fruit salad, veggie soup, whole grain rice, roasted veggies, or a healthy serving of walnuts, almonds, or other nuts.
Water is the absolute best drink for seniors. Ideally, seniors should consume at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. However, this does not mean they cannot also enjoy some flavorful beverages. Coconut water, green tea, real fruit juice, and milk can also be enjoyed in moderation.
Snacks and desserts should make up a small portion of a senior’s daily diet. Frozen grapes, Greek yogurt with fresh berries, baked apple chips, and hummus with carrots are great snack choices. For dessert, stick with healthy but tasty options like smoothies, fruit bakes, angel food cake, or a flourless chocolate cake.
When to Eat
In addition to eating the right foods, it is important for seniors to maintain a proper eating schedule. Seniors should not skip breakfast if possible. According to a journal published by the American Heart Association, it was discovered that men who skipped breakfast had a 27 percent higher risk of heart attack or death due to heart disease.
A smaller meal in the afternoon can help prevent blood sugar levels from dipping too low and can provide a boost of energy to help seniors power through the rest of the day. Avoid large meals that can make a person feel tired.
It is important not to overdo it at dinner either. Going to bed before your stomach has a chance to properly digest can result in a range of gastrointestinal ailments. Instead, eat at least three to four hours before bed and choose a light but satisfying dinner. If you are still hungry before bed, grab a small snack that will satisfy your hunger, like some whole grain crackers, popcorn, or a banana.
Many seniors do not get all of the nutrients they need from the food and beverages they consume. This is why nutritional supplements are so important. If a senior is missing one or multiple important nutrients in their diet, his or her doctor may recommend the use of a dietary supplement to fill in these gaps.
Dietary supplements are available in a wide range of forms, such as pills, powders, capsules, extracts, liquids, and gel tabs. Today, you can even find multivitamins in tasty versions like fruity beverages and chewy gummies. A prescription from a doctor is not needed to obtain a dietary supplement but it is always a good idea to consult with a physician before starting any new supplements.
It is fairly common for seniors to start a new vitamin or mineral regimen as they get older as many seniors have lower levels of certain nutrients due to the natural aging process. Some of the most common supplements taken by seniors include calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B6, and antioxidants like selenium, beta-carotene, and vitamins C and E.
Herbal supplements may also be recommended to combat certain health problems. Ginseng, gingko biloba, black cohosh, and echinacea are known to have certain health benefits.
In short, the best diet for seniors is one that provides a balance of essential nutrients with foods from all the food groups. There are no right or wrong foods to eat as long as they are fairly healthy and they are eaten in the right proportions. Seniors should also make it a priority to eat their meals spaced out throughout the day and should not skip meals.
If you find that you or your elderly loved one needs assistance with eating, drinking, or other activities of daily living, consider bringing extra help into the home. Contact Comfort Home Care today and ask about in-home nutritional assistance.