Change diet now? But they’ve eaten this way their whole lives – - should we really be pushing our senior loved ones to eat better this far into their lives?
Only if we care about them! The foods older and even elderly adults eat and drink have a definite impact on their health and well-being — good and bad.
We not only want to be sure our senior loved ones are eating right when they are home alone and we go to check in on them, but often as family caregivers we are the ones who will be selecting and preparing foods for them. Sometimes we also have to feed our own family at the same time making the task that much harder as we try not only to please all the different ages and preferences, but also try to keep them all healthy at their different life stages, with their different needs.
Why Seniors Need Optimum Nutrition as They Age
- Impaired immune systems lead to more risk of food borne illness if they eat risky foods
- Help fight chronic diseases that are taking a toll on their bodies
- To reduce the effects of high blood pressure, uncontrolled diabetes and obesity
- Help maintain normal bowel function with adequate fluid and fiber in the diet
- Slower metabolism requires fewer calories so they need more nutrition in the foods they do eat
- Decreased gastrointestinal function leads to more difficulty with digestion and absorption of key nutrients such as B6 and B12
- Medications can affect appetite, taste buds and nutrient intake
- Depression or isolation can lead to inadequate intake
Foods Seniors Should Avoid to Reduce Risk of Food-Borne Illness
- Raw eggs and seafood
- Unpasteurized juices, ciders or soft cheeses
- Ready to eat foods that are not heated to kill bacteria
- Unheated leftovers or leftovers that have been left unrefrigerated for more than two hours
- Sprouts of any kind
- Unwashed melons, including cantaloupe, watermelon and honey dew
- Undercooked meat
- Unwashed produce such as lettuce and spinach
- Produce cut using the same knife or cutting board as raw meat or poultry
What and How Much Should Seniors Eat?
- Women over 50 years who have low activity levels, basically typical day-to-day duties, should eat about 1600 calories a day
- Men over 50 years who have low activity levels, completing ordinary activities of life throughout the day, should eat about 2,000-2,200 calories a day
- 2 ½ cups of vegetables choosing those with the most vibrant color
- 2-2 ½ cups of fruits
- 6-8 oz servings of grains, with half from whole grains
- 2-3 servings of dairy foods, preferably from lower fat sources such as skim milk and part skim cheese
- 5 ½ ounces of protein sources, choosing lean sources such as skinless poultry, fish, dried beans, eggs and lean ground beef
- Less saturated and trans fats and limited salt/sodium
- Stay well hydrated, drinking water and non-caffeinated beverages – don’t let them wait until they’re thirsty!
- Be sure they take necessary vitamin and mineral supplements, based on doctor’s advice, such as calcium with vitamin D, B12, folate, fish oil and multivitamins
- Put a rainbow on the plate, foods that are colorful are higher in anti-oxidants and nutrients
If senior loved ones begin to lose their appetite – and consequently weight – visit the doctor to be sure there are no untreated medical issues that, if treated, could lead to better health.
Often just a few small improvements in the diet of our senior loved ones can make a real difference in how much life they have in their years!