With all our life experience, it’s easy to think we know how to eat well, but studies show that as we age, seniors’ nutrition needs change as well as living arrangements, budget and other considerations. The foods that served you well in your younger years may not be bringing you wellness into older years.
Things change over time. Certainly our bodies and nutritional needs do. What are some of the unique challenges around nutrition for seniors? Better yet, what are some of the solutions? Hint: The solutions are in italics.
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3 Nutrition Challenges and Solutions
As we age, our nutritional needs change. There aren’t many younger folks who worry about if they’re getting enough Vitamin D or if their cholesterol is too high. Added health risks mean that we must consider the best way to eat for our current health and for our future health. Here are some of the considerations we need to take into account:
Calcium Calcium requirements change as we age, you need more than you did when you were younger. Over the age of 50 years, 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium are needed. Have a peek at this article to learn more. ***Speak with your doctor about your own calcium needs. Ways to increase calcium are supplements, milk products and dark , leafy, green vegetables.
Protein Recent news tells us that too much red meat isn’t terrific for our health, especially as we age. Neither are highly processed sources of protein, such as hot dogs, lunchmeat or bacon. Switch up your proteins so that you’re getting more chicken and fish. Don’t forget that beans, nuts and peas also offer a great nutritional source of clean protein.
Simple Carbs We all love our sweets, but sugars and simple carbs (processed “white” items, such as rice, potatoes, pasta, refined sugar) have very little nutritional value. They can also cause blood sugars to spike and crash, which leaves us hungry and can cause over eating. Limit these items and track how much of them you’re eating daily.
Fiber Many of us think that fiber’s main job is to keep us regular. But that is only one of it’s many benefits. Fiber intake is also good for reducing the risk of Diabetes, for increasing digestive health and for heart-healthy diets. Increasing whole grains (think brown rice, whole grain pasta, etc.) and fibrous vegetables (artichokes, carrots, broccoli, etc.) will help. Another trick is to eat a piece of whole fruit instead of drinking fruit juice.
For a better understanding of the nutrition requirements for older adults, have a look at this article found on the FDA website.
Shopping and Cooking
Elderly people may eventually tire of shopping and cooking for themselves. That’s understandable, but the choice to eat less (and let health suffer) because of this is unacceptable. There are a number of services that can help. With some meal planning and preparation, online shopping and food delivery can be done. It’s a less physical task and the skill of ordering may need to be taught, but can virtually remove the stress of “shopping”.
There are also services that will deliver meals to the home, cooked or uncooked. Click here for a list of meal services that will provide nutritional, prepared meals. These meals just need to be heated up and enjoyed.
Meals on Wheels provides another alternative as does having home care in the house. An HHA or CNA can shop or prepare meals on a regular basis. If you have questions about this service for a loved one in South Florida, Contact us or call us toll free: 800-342-4197
Desire to Eat
One thing that can be a nutritional challenge is that as people age, there may be an inclination to eat less, or the desire to eat may wane. It’s critical for physical and mental wellness that we continue to eat a healthy diet into our later years. What are some of the things that lead to a lack of desire to eat?
Lessening of taste buds/sense of smell We know that appetite stimulation happens when we smell or taste something flavorful. These senses dull as we age. Try flavoring food with bright, strong flavors (not to be equated with spicy). Spices like ginger, garlic and onions are great for adding to almost any dish.
Medications Some medications may make the patient nauseous or to have just enough of an upset stomach that they don’t want to upset it more. Other medications can cause an odd taste in the mouth or smells in the sinus cavities. Speak with the doctor to see if this could be happening and if there is a substitute medication that can be taken.
Environment There is a correlation between seniors who eat alone and seniors who lose their appetite. Remember that many seniors grew up in environments when there were sit-down dinners, with family at the table. Loneliness affects appetite and if there is no one to eat with, the desire to eat may decrease. Try to have family members around on a regular basis during meal times or look for senior’s centers that host meal events.
Dental issues Who wants to eat if their mouth hurts? No one. Some seniors may just find it easier to “not bother”, especially if they are experiencing pain when chewing. Be sure dental visits are regular and that any potential dental issues are taken care of. Eating softer, easier to eat foods and cutting large items into smaller pieces will also help.
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Do you have questions about how you can better support your loved one while they age in place in South Florida or regarding homecare in general? Please contact CareGivers of America here: Contact or call us toll free: 800-342-4197
*No information in this article is to be taken as medical advice. This post is not sponsored, but may contain external links to websites, articles or product examples. External links are used for example or refence purposes only and these links do not indicate specific product or website endorsement by CareGivers of America.