On a recent visit to mom’s, you notice that she’s looking a little thinner than you remember. When you ask about her diet, she brushes you off, or maybe shares that cooking and planning meals has become more difficult for her. But with so much nutrition advice out there, it’s hard to know exactly how to advise her, and how to start with helping around the kitchen. Luckily, there are some quick tips for better nutrition for older adults that can help a senior loved one maintain a healthy diet.
A healthy diet is essential for holistic health and wellbeing, and our nutritional needs change as we age. Older adults tend to be less active and have less muscle mass than younger people, so they need less calories to maintain a healthy weight. In addition, some seniors experience a loss of appetite or medical conditions that interfere with their usual diet. Medications that interact with food, declining oral health, emotional issues like depression, and a greater vulnerability to food-borne illness are other factors that seniors may need to take into consideration when planning their meals.
- Opt for nutrient-rich foods. Getting enough nutrients is essential in maintaining strength and health during aging. Encourage older loved ones to get calories from nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, whole grain, low-fat dairy, and lean protein. Save sweets, fried foods, and fatty foods for an occasional treat, as these foods can cause health complications.
- Prioritize fiber. Constipation is common in many older adults, including in up to half of nursing home residents. To avoid constipation and other digestive issues, include fiber-rich foods with every meal. Good sources of fiber include fruits and vegetables, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, oats and bran, and whole grains. You might also want to suggest that a loved one take a fiber supplement.
- Don’t overlook hydration. Aging may impact a senior’s ability to tell when he or she is thirsty, and dehydration can have serious effects on a senior’s health. Encourage loved ones to aim to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, and don’t forget that he or she can also get water from fruits, soups, juice, and tea, too! Just remember that caffeine dehydrates, so try to avoid an excess of coffee or other caffeinated beverages.
- Choose healthier convenience foods. Convenience foods can make eating healthy easy, or they can contribute to an unhealthy diet, especially for seniors with limited abilities to cook for themselves. To stay on the right track, choose pre-packaged foods for seniors that contain less sugar, salt, and saturated fat than other options. Consider buying unsweetened frozen or canned fruits, precooked poultry, steamable frozen vegetables, and low-sodium canned soups and stews. Reading nutrition labels and making informed choices about which convenience foods to buy is an essential skill.
- Consider vitamins and supplements. There may be gaps in a senior’s nutrition that can be filled in with vitamins and supplements. Talk to your doctor about what sort of supplements your parent might need. B-12, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D are commonly recommended as a part of good nutrition for older adults.
If you know a senior who is struggling to maintain proper nutrition or could benefit from meal planning and preparation as well as a companion to make mealtime more enjoyable, contact Aware Senior Care. We can help with an in-home caregiver who can assist with grocery shopping and plan and prepare nutritious, diet-specific meals. We’re consistently rated one of the top providers of adult care in Raleigh and the nearby areas, and we work with every client to perfectly match them with a compassionate, skilled caregiver. We’re available any time through our online contact form or over the phone at (919) 436-1871.