7 HEALTHY EATING TIPS FOR SENIORS
EATING HEALTHY IS SMART FOR ALL OF US, BUT AS WE AGE OUREATING HABITS CHANGE, LEAVING SENIORS WITH UNIQUE NEEDS ANDINCREASED RISKS.
As we age, our eating habits change. For example, foods may not taste the same, and for some, mobility is decreased or limited. Chronic illnesses may have put medical restrictions on what we should eat, and loneliness and depression might impact appetite. For adults over 65, healthy eating is essential for meeting their unique needs and making a difference in how they navigate their years ahead.
1.HEALTHY EATING MEANS FOCUSING ON NUTRIENTS
With increasing age, our bones thin. especially in our back, hip, and neck. Consequently, we are more inclined to have accidents or falls with fractures. Calcium and Vitamin D are important nutrients for helping to maintain bone density and reduce this risk.
Calcium also plays an important role in muscle contraction and nerve function and is essential for normal heart rhythm. The recommended calcium intake for adults over the age of 60 is 1200 mg/d. Calcium from dairy sources is the most easily absorbed. Cheese, yogurt, and milk contain significant calcium and are the major sources of calcium in our diets.
Calcium absorption is improved when there is adequate vitamin D. Vitamin D also helps improve muscle strength and decreases the chance of falling. The recommended daily allowance for adults >60 years old is 800 iu/day. Five foods highest in vitamin D are cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines.
Other essential nutrients for older adults are vitamin B12 and potassium. Some chronic conditions, long-term use of certain medications, or a vegetarian lifestyle may result in increased vitamin B12 needs. Fortified cereal, lean meat and fish, and seafood are sources of vitamin B12.
Potassium plays a role in regulating blood pressure and in the health of cells, tissues, and organs. Certain medications such as diuretics can increase potassium needs. Foods high in potassium include bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, kiwi, and melons.
2. MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT
If you are overweight or obese, reducing your weight will help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as well as improve mobility. Even a small amount of weight loss protects your health, therefore you don’t have to achieve your ideal body weight to reap health benefits.
The best way to lose weight is to change your habits. Start by making one change at a time. For instance, start by decreasing portions. Eating just 500 fewer calories per day results in a loss of one pound in a week. In other words, one less dessert per day could make a difference.
3. MAKE A PLAN AND SHOP SMART
Plan ahead and make a menu. This makes grocery trips quicker and less frequent, which saves both time and money.
Sticking to a list helps to avoid picking up unhealthy snacks or making impromptu purchases. Shop the perimeter of the market. This is where fresh produce, dairy products, and lean meats can be found. Also, be wary of temptations at the check-out counter, that are placed there to strategically persuade lastminute buys.
4. HEALTHY EATING INCLUDES DODGING SALT AND ADDED SUGARS
High sodium diets lead to elevated blood pressure and increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. Additionally, excess sugar not only provides empty calories and contributes to weight gain, but also increases the risk for diabetes.
Eating more fresh foods and less of those canned or processed will eliminate most high-sodium and sugar-added foods. Also, experiment with adding herbs and seasonings to spice up your meals in place of salt.
Being physically active helps keep muscles strong, improves mobility, and helps seniors maintain their independence. Any type of activity counts, such as walking, gardening, or even housework. If possible, bumping it up to dancing, swimming, or running after the grandkids, can further improve both strength and stamina.
6.DRINK PLENTY OF FLUIDS
You don’t have to give up your morning coffee but focus on drinking water throughout the rest of the day.
Staying hydrated is so important, especially as we move into the warmer months. Our body needs a sufficient amount of water to maintain healthy kidney function, optimal skin integrity, and stable blood pressure.
Additionally, as we age, our thirst is decreased. Keeping a water bottle close at hand can act as a reminder to drink even when not thirsty. Headaches, constipation, alterations in mood, and dry skin are signs of dehydration and may indication that you may need to increase your water intake.
Underlying health conditions and certain medications can affect an individual’s fluid needs. Checking with your health professional is best.
Everyone experiences occasional constipation, however, the risk for chronic constipation increases over the age of 65. One of the causes is not getting enough dietary fiber. This goes hand in hand with drinking adequate amounts of water and being physically active. Additionally, some medications, such as sedatives, pain medications, and iron supplements may cause constipation.
Eating more fiber can also decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Dietary fiber helps keep blood sugars stable and lower cholesterol. Fiber also improves the healthy bacteria in our gut.
High fiber foods include whole-grain bread and cereal, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, oatmeal, and all fresh fruits and vegetables. The recommended intake of fiber is 20-30 grams per day.
THE BOTTOM LINE TO HEALTHY EATING FOR SENIORS
Healthy eating is essential for everyone. But as our bodies age, the focus becomes magnified. Ensuring adequate calories for energy is the first step. Making sure the calories come from foods containing the nutrients we need, is the next.
It’s also important to remember that nutrients are most effective when they come from the food itself which contain other non-essential but beneficial compounds such as antioxidants and minerals.
However, if there are circumstances that hinder the ability of older adults to meet their nutrient needs by diet alone, vitamin and mineral supplements may be helpful. A registered dietitian can help you decide what the best option is for you. Our experienced clinicians are available to help design an individual eating plan for you or a loved one. Some of our services are covered by insurance. Call today for more information or to make an appointment 240.449.3094