Special Nutrition Concerns for Seniors
Good nutrition is essential to your quality of life as you age. The following tips can help older adults eat healthier diets and deal with age-related changes and concerns. The Food Guide Pyramid serves as a guide to help you make healthy food choices. Your daily diet should include the right amounts from each of the five basic food groups.
Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta Group (6 to 11 servings daily)
Vegetable Group (3 to 5 servings daily)
Fruit Group (2 to 4 servings daily)
Serving sizes: 1 medium-size piece of fruit, such as an apple, orange, banana; 1⁄2 cup of canned fruit; 1⁄2 cup of fruit juice; 1⁄2 cup of dried fruit
Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese Group (2 to 3 servings daily)
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts Group (2 to 3 servings daily)
Serving sizes: 2 to 3 ounces of cooked, lean meat, poultry or fish; 1⁄2 cup cooked, dry beans; 1 egg; 2 Tbsp. peanut butter; 1⁄3 cup nuts
Limit your intake of fats, oils, and sweets. These foods appear in the small tip of the pyramid.
Following are some suggestions for managing age-related changes and concerns through your diet.
As you age, your body needs fewer calories, while other nutrient needs remain high. Limiting high-calorie foods, such as sweets, high-fat and fried foods, and alcoholic beverages will help to prevent gaining undesirable weight. Regular physical activity will help you control your weight. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Constipation is a common problem among older adults. To help prevent or relieve constipation, eat a diet that includes high-fiber foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grain breads and cereals. Add prune juice or prunes to your diet and drink 8 to 10 glasses of fluid every day. Regular exercise may also help relieve constipation. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Poor dental health
This may affect your ability to eat a healthy diet. You may need to modify your food consistency to make some foods easier to eat. Try chopping, mashing, grinding, and pureeing foods. Be sure to see a dentist for treatment of decaying teeth or improperly fitting dentures.
Your body digests food less efficiently as you age. To help prevent or relieve digestive problems, try eating smaller, frequent meals. Eat slowly in a relaxed atmosphere. Chew your food thoroughly.
Sense of taste and smell
As you age, your senses of taste and smell may decrease. Experiment with herbs and spices to make food more flavorful instead of using more salt. Here are some suggestions for use with meats, soups, vegetables, and salads:
Bay leaf, basil, chili powder, curry, garlic powder, marjoram, mustard, onion powder, oregano, parsley, sage, tarragon, and turmeric
Allspice, bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, curry, dill weed, garlic powder, ginger, mace, marjoram, mustard, nutmeg, onion powder, oregano, paprika, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme, and turmeric
Allspice, anise, basil, bay leaf, cayenne pepper, celery seeds, cloves, curry, dill weed, fennel, mace, marjoram, mustard, nutmeg, onion powder, oregano, paprika, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme, and turmeric
Allspice, bay leaf, cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, paprika, parsley, thyme, and turmeric
Basil, celery seed, chives, dill weed, mustard, onion powder, oregano, parsley, and tarragon
Allspice, basil, bay leaf, cayenne pepper, celery seed, chives, curry, dill weed, ginger, marjoram, mustard, oregano, paprika, parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme
Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease in which the bones become fragile, brittle, and prone to fractures. Calcium intake is important to prevent osteoporosis, especially as you age.
Milk and milk products are excellent sources of calcium. Decreased tolerance to milk and milk products can occur with aging; however, many people can tolerate small amounts at a time.
Try lactose enzyme tablets and drops, and lactose hydrolyzed food products. Fermented milk products, such as yogurt, cheese, and buttermilk, are often tolerated, as well as cooked milk products, like cream soups and puddings.
Increase your intake of other calcium-rich foods, like salmon, sardines, green, leafy vegetables, and calcium-fortified orange juice, cereals, breads, and rice. Get regular physical activity to maintain bone strength.
Many older adults have decreased appetites for many different reasons. Eating smaller, frequent meals may be helpful.
High calorie, nutrient-dense foods are encouraged, such as cottage cheese and fruit, peanut butter and crackers, yogurt, milk and cereal, and meat and cheese sandwiches.
Eat in a comfortable atmosphere and take your time. Nutritional supplements may be beneficial for you. These include Ensure, Ensure Pudding, Boost, and Carnation Instant Breakfast. These supplements should not take the place of meals.
Low intake of vitamins and minerals
An inadequate intake of vitamins and minerals is likely to result from a poor appetite. Be sure to eat nutritionally balanced meals. Ask your doctor about taking a multivitamin/ mineral supplement. The supplement should not exceed 100 percent of the RDA for its vitamins and minerals, unless your doctor requires this for you.
Community agencies can provide meals and transportation assistance for seniors who have trouble getting around. Check into receiving Meals on Wheels or dining at senior group meal centers. Allow family, friends, and neighbors to help also.
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