A balanced diet is important to your overall health, regardless of what age you are. Although seniors may require fewer calories, their bodies still require nutrients. 1 in 15 seniors in America copes with hunger. There can be serious repercussions for a senior living with hunger. A lack of nutrition increases the risk of chronic health conditions like osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, type 2 diabetes, and depression. The right diet can help prevent these conditions from developing or getting worse. Eating well increases a senior’s energy, helps prevent disease, and helps with weight control. We are celebrating National Nutrition Month by discussing good nutrition for seniors. Read on to learn how to create a healthy diet for yourself or your aging loved one.
The Challenges Preventing Good Nutrition
Eating well is difficult regardless of your age. Good nutrition requires planning, dedication, and in many cases, a little extra income. Eating a balanced diet can feel overwhelming. This is especially true for seniors. Several factors may influence a lack of nutrition for seniors.
A Lack of Appetite
A decreased physical activity often leads to a lack of appetite. This can be addressed by increasing physical activity. Chronic conditions and medication often impact the digestive system, making it difficult for seniors to exhibit a healthy appetite. Many seniors experience drastic changes to their senses, including smell and taste, often as a result of the medication they are taking. This often makes food less enjoyable.
Changes to Mobility & Income
Changes to the body including lower strength or mobility issues, make it difficult to go shopping. A lot of seniors don’t drive, making it difficult to purchase what they need. Mobility can also make it difficult to prepare a healthy meal. A lack of income also makes it difficult to buy a healthy selection of food. This can create food insecurity which may dramatically impact good nutrition.
Difficulty Chewing or Swallowing
Some seniors experience changes to oral and physical health that make it difficult to chew or swallow. When malnourished, this condition often worsens due to poorly fitting dentures. Seniors can confront this problem by drinking water before they eat a meal.
Cognitive health is also important to nutrition. This can be impacted by mental health or memory loss. Many seniors feel isolated or depressed. This can impact emotions, making it more difficult to eat. And changes to a senior’s memory may cause them to skip meals or consume too many empty calories.
When to Seek Help
If left untreated, these challenges may lead to malnourishment. If you or a senior in your life are experiencing a lack of appetite for any of these reasons, it is important to address the problem. Book an appointment with a doctor or registered dietician. They will help you address an underlying condition or build a plan for healthy eating.
Healthy Eating for Good Nutrition
Most seniors require fewer calories. But it is still important to eat a well-balanced diet. Most adults should aim to eat 2000 calories every day. But that number may be higher or lower on a case-by-case basis. Some seniors will require more protein. A healthy diet should include a mix of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk and cheese, seafood, lean meat, eggs, poultry, seeds, nuts, and beans. There should be a healthy mix of vitamin D and calcium.
Fruits and Vegetables
Seniors should eat a healthy dose of fruits and vegetables each day. Bright-colored vegetables like yellow and orange peppers, tomatoes, and carrots are great sources of energy. Dark leafy vegetables like kale and spinach are good iron sources. For fruit, blueberries are a super-food. Bananas are a great source of potassium, and apples and grapes are also packed full of vitamins. Healthy doses of fruit and vegetables lower the risk of health conditions like stroke, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
When it comes to grains, seniors should look for foods that are high in fiber and low in sugar. Whole-grain foods are the healthiest for senior living.
Whole-grain foods include:
- Brown Rice
- Whole-Wheat Bread
Calcium in combination with vitamin D reduces the risk of fractures and osteoporosis. Calcium increases bone density in seniors. Older adults should have 1000 to 1200 mg of calcium a day. But it is important to look for low-fat options. Fat-free and low-fat milk and cheese are good options.
Protein helps seniors maintain a healthy muscle mass. Protein helps with balance and energy, as well as maintaining a healthy weight. Protein-rich foods include seafood, lean meat, eggs, and poultry. Seafood is high in DHA omega-3 fatty acids, which help keep the brain healthy.
Nuts & Legumes
Tree nuts like pistachios, walnuts, almonds, pecans, and cashews prevent health conditions like type 2 diabetes, nerve disease, and heart disease. But they also keep the brain healthy and strong and provide good memory care. Beans, peas, and lentils contain antioxidants, vitamins, fiber, and protein, making them high in nutrition.
Foods to Avoid With Senior Living
When creating a plan for healthy eating, seniors should focus on foods that provide benefits to their health. The foods listed above lower the risk of chronic health conditions and keep the body fuelled. While snacking regularly may be beneficial to maintaining healthy nutrition, seniors should be selective of the calories they choose. Seniors should avoid foods with empty calories or anything fatty or high in cholesterol.
Staying Healthy in a Senior Living Community
Several things may impact the nutrition of a senior. But with the right diet, seniors can protect their health and maintain high levels of energy. It is also important to drink a lot of fluids, as this will prevent dehydration and help with healthy digestion. Increasing physical activity if possible, is important to maintain a healthy appetite. For seniors who live in assisted living environments, this means looking for opportunities to stay active within their community. At Inspired Living, we offer the Thrive wellness program. We believe in the 6 dimensions of wellness, including physical health, offering proper nutrition, and opportunities for physical activity. We can assist with good nutrition, cognitive function, and physical health.
Nutrition Is Important to Senior Health
Healthy nutrition is important for all ages, especially as we get older. For seniors, eating healthy can be challenging. But with the right planning, support, and assistance, it doesn’t have to be. If you or a loved one require a healthier diet, our senior living community can assist. Reach out to us, and let’s schedule a tour of our community.