As we age, our nutritional requirements change. It’s common to need fewer calories (as metabolisms slow down) and require different amounts of nutrients including carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins and minerals. Keeping up with good nutrition is vital for older adults as it is connected to osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and our overall mind and body health.
But maintaining a balanced diet can be a challenge for seniors as they cope with limited mobility for shopping trips, health problems that make it harder to prepare food, taste changes as a result of medications, or difficulty chewing or swallowing.
How can seniors keep up with good nutrition and healthy eating habits? Here are a few suggestions:
Eat foods that are high in nutrients such as:
• Fruits and vegetables
• Whole grains (oatmeal, whole wheat bread, brown rice)
• Low-fat milk and cheese, or nut/soy/rice milks with added calcium and vitamin D
• Seafood, lean meats, poultry and eggs
• Beans, nuts and seeds
Avoid overindulging in empty calories such as:
• Baked goods
Water is the best choice. Avoid sugary drinks and limit caffeine.
Especially important for those with swallowing or dental problems, eating slowly with small bites reduces the risk of choking. And be sure to follow up with plenty of liquids.
Eat multiple small meals
Sometimes eating small amounts of healthy snacks throughout the day is more appealing to seniors than three large meals.
Take advantage of meal services
There are many organizations that delivery pre-made food for seniors by mail or in-person delivery. Check with your local senior center for options.
Exercise can help seniors stay hungrier for mealtimes, making it easier to eat a well-balanced diet.