Every senior should care about their nutrition. While this is something that applies to all people, it is especially important for older adults.
Our bodies change as we age. That includes the processes and systems within our bodies. Elderly adults tend to have a slower metabolic rate. They may also experience decreased appetite. The risk of several diseases that are affected by nutrition also increases, including diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
Seniors who are diagnosed with cognitive decline may have difficulty keeping up with daily meal preparation and eating, which will eventually impact their health.
Sticking to a nutritious diet can significantly improve overall wellbeing and slow or prevent disease. What can seniors do now to improve their nutritional health?
Include Varied Protein Sources
Include a variety of protein sources in your diet. Poultry, fish, and lean meats are great choices. Also include sources of vegetarian protein. These are beneficial because they supply your body with protein without the saturated fats. Some good options include:
- Brussel sprouts
If you live in a retirement community, then you may have access to a healthy eating menu already. One of the things many seniors find when debunking the myths about assisted living is that the food is delicious using fresh ingredients and homemade recipes. It tastes like something you would make at home rather than bland hospital food, and it’s good for you!
Eat Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
You can’t go wrong with fresh fruit and vegetables. These foods are usually low in calories and rich in fiber and nutrients. You can include frozen or canned versions, but fresh is usually the best both in taste and nutrition.
Seniors with arthritis or mobility limitations can look for pre-sliced fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. These provide the same nutritional value but without the extra prep work.
Choose Whole Grains
Fiber is essential to senior health. It helps with digestion, prevents constipation, and helps the stomach feel full. Eating enough fiber can also lower your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer. Including fiber in your diet has also been shown to reduce inflammation.
Whole grains are an ideal source of fiber. It’s easy to include this in your diet because so many foods have a whole grain alternative. You can shop for pasta, bread, and cereal made with whole grains.
Reduce Salt Intake
Too much salt is detrimental to the human body. If your intake is high, you could end up increasing your blood pressure which can lead to cardiovascular disease. Osteoporosis has also been linked to high salt intake.
Seniors who have low activity levels can gain cognitive benefits from low-salt diets.
If you tend to use salt to flavor many of your meals, consider switching to spices instead. There are many options, each offering its own unique flavor, including:
Experiment to see which spices offer the best flavor with your favorite foods.
Drink Enough Water
The older we get, the less efficient our bodies become at retaining water. This makes seniors more susceptible to dehydration. Those experiencing dehydration will notice concerning symptoms like:
Make sure you drink at least 8 glasses of water daily. More may be needed on hot days or on days when you are doing more physical activity or spending time outdoors in the heat. Remember to spread your water intake out across the entire day. Bringing a water bottle when traveling can help.
Use Meal Planning
It is difficult to know what you’re eating and how much without having a plan. Meal planning is a good way to make sure you stick to a healthy diet. It can also help to have a record of what you have been eating in case your doctor needs that information.
Luxury assisted living communities offer meal services and more. If you are already a resident, get in touch with staff to learn more about nutrition and meal services.
Eat Less Refined Sugar
Eating a lot of refined sugar can be very bad for seniors. It contributes to insulin resistance and increases the risk of diabetes.
Refined sugar has also been shown to contribute to cognitive decline in seniors. It can cause or worsen attention problems and memory loss. It also causes damage to blood vessels, which can further cognitive decline.
Instead of refined sugar, try:
- Pureed fruits
- Monk fruit sweetener
- Maple syrup
Keep in mind that while these alternatives may be better, some should still be enjoyed in moderation. Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist to learn more about which sugar substitutes might work best for you.
Be Mindful of Food Safety
A healthy diet should also include food safety. Foodborne illness is bad for people of all ages, but seniors are more vulnerable. This can occur when food isn’t prepared or stored properly. Seniors should also avoid raw meats and unpasteurized dairy products.
Any food that is old or looks or smells off should be thrown away. It’s not worth the risk of eating it and potentially developing a serious illness. Adults over age 65 are more likely to end up in the hospital due to foodborne illness than younger people.
Skip Processed Foods
Processed foods tend to be high in fats, sugar, or sodium. All of these can be difficult to digest. It’s best to stick with foods that are closer to the source, like fresh vegetables, fish, and meats.
Seniors should check labels to see which foods have the most nutritional value with less sugar or sodium. Many canned soups, processed cheeses, cereals, chips, and condiments can be problematic. Pre-packaged and frozen meals can also fall into this category due to preservatives and high sodium content.
Move to Assisted Living
Seniors who struggle with food shopping and preparation should consider a move to a luxury senior care facility. The nutritional and social benefits of living in an assisted living community are many and can help you stay comfortable and healthy.
These communities include meal plans with menus designed for older adults. They can also accommodate individual dietary needs, like allergies or diabetes. The staff ensures that all residents have access to food and are eating properly. They also serve as an early alert system when something changes in a senior’s diet or eating behaviors.
Senior nutrition is essential to quality of life and longevity. Taking positive steps now can help you enjoy more of your years.