A nutritious, balanced diet is something that’s essential for anyone’s health, but it becomes even more important for those who are seniors. Many conditions, including osteoporosis, heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes are much more common in older adults and are influenced by diet.
As we get older, we tend to lose muscle mass, meaning our metabolisms slow down and we need fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight. Some adults need more protein as they get older, and these two factors mean that the foods we ate in our 30s and 40s may not be the right choice for us in our 60s and beyond.
Nutrition Challenges for Seniors
Older adults often struggle to maintain a healthy diet, for several reasons:
- An altered sense of smell or taste reduces their appetite
- They may struggle to chew or swallow foods
- Medications can influence appetite
- Mobility issues make shopping and cooking difficult
- A reduced income means fresh food is harder to afford
- Decreased hunger and thirst cues can lead to weight loss and dehydration
What Makes a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is one that includes the right number of calories, the right balance of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) and all the vitamins and minerals a person needs.
There are a few simple rules that can help a person follow a healthy diet:
- Prioritize fruits and vegetables, adding as many different colors to your plate as possible
- Choose whole grains (such as brown rice, oatmeal, and wholegrain bread)
- Bulk your plate with beans, seeds, and nuts
- Use lean meats, poultry, eggs, and seafood as your primary protein sources
- Limit consumption of red meats
- Limit alcohol, candy, and baked goods (have them for treats, not with every meal)
- Drink lots of water
- Avoid trans fats and saturated fats where possible
In the ideal world, people would cook from scratch wherever possible. If you can’t do that, consider meals on wheels services or congregate nutrition programs for seniors, rather than takeaways or ready meals. Processed foods are often high in trans fats and sodium, which can have a detrimental effect on your health.
Get the Help You Need to Eat Healthily
Many older adults find keeping their pantries stocked with fresh, healthy foods and cooking every day challenging. Reduced mobility, illness and difficulty remembering recipes or lists of jobs can all make it difficult to run a household.
Assisted living services such as Heidis Haven can help seniors retain their independence by reducing the number of chores seniors have to handle themselves. Instead of having to juggle housework, laundry and cooking, seniors can take advantage of freshly prepared meals from a menu designed by qualified nutritionists, freeing them to focus on pursuing their hobbies, relaxing with their peers, and living life to the full in their retirement years.