Eating right and having balanced nutrition can be hard for anyone, no matter their age. Over time, nutrition tends to fall to the wayside. Eating at least one healthy meal a day can be a struggle, let alone three. The importance of a healthy diet is even more of a priority for seniors.
Reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest a majority of diseases, primarily affecting the older population, stem from the lack of a proper diet. Let’s review some of the challenges associated with nutrition for older adults and seven tips to improve their diets.
Aging Related to Poor Nutrition
As we age, our bodies go through many changes. For seniors, a variety of factors come into play resulting in poor nutritional intake, such as:
- Suddenly living alone
- Having trouble getting around and not being able to properly cook
- Losing senses (e.g. taste and smell)
- Having trouble swallowing or chewing
- Certain medications cause food to taste different or reduce appetite
- Loss of income to buy food
- Depression and anxiety
- Dental health
- Memory loss/Dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease
Caregivers play a huge role in creating a well-balanced diet for seniors on a day-to-day basis to offset these negative factors. Along with the countless other tasks provided by caregivers, ensuring seniors have a healthy, balanced diet is a critical element.
7 Nutrition Tips for Seniors
A senior diet plan ensures older adults are maintaining a healthy lifestyle, as well as limiting disease and sickness. Creating a healthy senior diet plan does not need to be a difficult task. Incorporating these simple tips can help keep seniors healthy all year long.
1. Pick Foods High in Nutritional Value
As we grow older, our bodies do not need as many calories. Look for foods that provide more nutritional value without the extra calories. Examples include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains and whole wheat (brown rice, oatmeal, etc.)
- Non-fat or low fat milk, almond or soy milk
- Nuts, beans, and seeds
- Lean meat, chicken, seafood, and eggs
2. Limit Empty Calories
Avoid foods that are high in calories and/or carbs without providing any nutritional value. Examples include:
- Baked goods
Everything in moderation. A snack splurge every once in a while is completely normal and acceptable. Having said that, healthier foods should be eaten in replacement more often than not.
3. Drink 8 Glasses of Water per Day
In a previous blog post, we wrote about 7 Tips to Help the Elderly Stay Hydrated. To review, older adults do not tend to feel thirsty as often as they should. Keeping seniors hydrated throughout the day should be a priority. Avoid serving older adults sugary drinks, caffeine, and alcohol to keep them from becoming dehydrated. In general, drinking eight 8oz glasses of water per day is recommended.
4. Avoid Saturated and Trans Fats
Fried foods, vegetable oils, and margarine are all high in saturated and trans fats. Healthier alternatives include baked or grilled food, olive oil and ghee. Herbs and seasonings are also good substitutes to high-fat dressings.
5. Encourage Physical Activity
Simple arm and leg exercises can help increase appetite. If they can, have seniors walk outside to get the mail, or participate in activities at a local senior center. Anything to get the body moving is better than being idle. Increasing physical activity will also increase thirst, providing an opportunity for seniors to drink more water.
6. Add Nutritional Variety
Everyone gets tired of eating the same things over and over again. Offer variety to a senior’s diet plan. When serving meals, prepare foods with different colors and textures. Additional, offering two options at each meal is a helpful tactic. Not only do meal options encourage independence, but it also prevents seniors from eating repetitive meals.
7. Nutritional Assistance for Low Income Seniors
Community resources should be available in your area to help seniors with high-quality nutrition. Numerous programs exist offering nutritional assistance to seniors who have limited to no income:
- Meals on Wheels
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Food Assistance Programs
- Nutrition Programs for Seniors
How Senior Home Care Can Help
Nutrition is key to keeping seniors healthy, but their diet often suffers for numerous reasons. Caregivers support a healthy diet for seniors through services such as meal preparation. Senior home care can also help with fluid intake, companionship and transfers to make life easier for your loved one.
Contact Commonwise Home Care at 434.202.8565 to learn more about how home care can help your loved one.
Disclaimer: Please check with your physician before making any changes to your diet, exercise or medication routine.