Importance of Nutrition for Seniors
Like a fine wine, our lives just get better with age. However, as with everything, age also brings with it change. Some of the changes you may notice first have to do with your body. As we age, our bodies require different things, particularly when it comes to diet. Understanding these changing needs and making small but meaningful lifestyle changes can help ensure you enjoy every moment of your retirement years.
The benefits of a healthy diet
- It feeds the brain for better cognitive functioning. Your brain is an organ, not a muscle. But like muscles, it needs protein, healthy fats, and hydration to function properly.
- It helps with weight management. Older adults who don’t eat healthy meals or who skip meals are at risk of weight loss. Weight loss often leads to weakened bones, which could make doing the things you love difficult.
5 factors affecting seniors’ good nutrition — and how to improve it
- Appetite. As you age, you may experience a decrease in appetite, or some of your favorite foods just don’t appeal to you any longer. As an older adult, you’ll find yourself feeling fuller faster, which can cause you to eat less of the nutrient-dense foods your body needs the most. A reduced appetite can make it harder to get enough of the nutrients we need to maintain our good health.
Recommendation: Keep plenty of quick, nutrient-dense, and easy-to-eat snacks on hand, such as dried fruits, cheese sticks or string cheese, full-fat yogurt, cottage cheese, and whole milk. Also, think about portability – try making smoothies or hearty soups that can easily be sipped on the go. Smaller snacks throughout the day are ideal for when you can’t or don’t want to take the time to eat a full meal. These snacks are also great to bring with you as you enjoy the activities you love.
- Dental health. Healthy teeth will help you chew delicious and nutritious foods like meats, beans, fruits, grains, and vegetables. You already know you can help prevent tooth decay by regularly brushing and flossing. But did you know the foods you eat can also play an important role in keeping your teeth in tip-top shape?
Recommendation: Calcium is especially important in the prevention of bone loss or osteoporosis as you age. Its recommended that most seniors get about 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day — that’s about three cups of calcium-rich foods like cheese, low-fat milk, and yogurt. You can also get calcium from dark leafy greens like broccoli, spinach, kale, and Swiss chard.
- Nutrient metabolism. Vitamin D is needed to help absorb, carry, and deposit calcium in the bones that support your teeth. Your kidneys help convert vitamin D to its active form so it can be used by the body. However, as we age, our bodies need extra help to produce important nutrients which we may not get from our daily diet. Most older adults discover that they are missing out on the benefits of nutrients like vitamin B12 and vitamin D which are vital to keeping us active.
Recommendation: A nutritionist or physician may prescribe nutrition supplements or vitamins if you’re not getting key vitamins from your food. It can also help if you focus on chewing thoroughly and eating slowly. This can help release enzymes that are an essential part of digestion.
- Ability to shop and cook. If you’re an active older adult living by yourself, you already know cooking a nutritious meal for just one person may feel like a lot of work. If you’re always on the go, you’ve got more fun things to do than shop for ingredients and prepare meals.
Recommendation: Many grocery stores now offer online shopping and will deliver your groceries right to your door. There are online delivery companies like Instacart that will shop for you at your favorite grocery store, pharmacy, and big-box retailer, then deliver your order in the same day. There are also online meal delivery kits from Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, and Home Chef that send you all the ingredients you need to prepare fresh, delicious, nutritious meals. If you no longer want to cook for yourself at all, Magic Kitchen, Freshology, and Factor all offer delivery of heat-and-eat meals that are as tasty as they are nutritious.
Finally, if you’re already taking proactive steps to eat the right foods and get enough vitamins and nutrients, good for you! Here are a few things you’ll want to do, or keep on doing, to stay at the peak of health.
- Eat foods that provide lots of nutrients without a lot of extra calories. These foods may include beans, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, and low-fat milk and cheese.
- Eat foods that are low in cholesterol and fat. Avoid trans fats. Trans fats are highly processed and are found in foods like margarine, fried, and processed foods. Trans fats raise your bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower your good cholesterol (HDL), which can put you at greater risk for heart attacks and strokes.
- Drink lots of liquids. Most people don’t realize that as you age, your sense of thirst decreases. Certain medications can cause dehydration, making it even more important to stay well-hydrated. Almost any liquid counts, though water with electrolytes is the best. But if drinking water gets boring, try eating your water. Most fruits and vegetables have a high water content, so adding foods like watermelon, grapes, and berries to your repertoire can keep you hydrated and energized.
- Avoid empty calories. These are foods that are high in calories but low in nutrients. Foods like potato chips, baked goods, soda, alcohol, and candy fall into this category. If cutting out these types of tasty goodies feels like punishment, don’t worry. You can still enjoy an occasional slice of chocolate cake or a small bowl of potato chips. Just remember that moderation is the key.
Regardless of your age or lifestyle, everyone is different, including your dietary needs. To be sure you’re taking all the right steps towards a healthy lifestyle, talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
Senior living communities like The Waterford in Juno Beach, FL, emphasize the quality of the dining experience for its residents. The community’s culinary team focuses each menu on both exceptional taste and nutrition.
Discover all the ways in which The Waterford focuses on good nutrition for its residents in every level of living. To get a true taste of our retirement lifestyle, contact us today. We’ll schedule your personal tour, then invite you to stay for a meal in one of our stunning dining venues.