Aging well: A healthy diet plan for seniors
Healthy eating at any age is important. But as people get older, their needs shift slightly. They still need fruits, vegetables, proteins and dairy, but how much and in what ratio may change.
Physically, seniors may also need to adjust their diet to accommodate different lifestyles, living situations or physical limitations.
Remember the old rules
Although seniors may feel liberated from some of the obligations of their younger years, the food pyramid isn’t one of them.
Alongside protecting against conditions like cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, eating well can also improve brain function in seniors, according to the National Library of Medicine.
Adults who ate healthy, reports the National Library of Science, improved their chances of maintaining skills like:
- Problem solving
Also, losing teeth or trouble with chewing and swallowing may lead seniors to opt for easier-to-consume foods like soft bread or rice, according to the Health in Aging Foundation.
Of course, these foods have their place. But relying too heavily on them decreases the variety of nutrient intake, and that does damage to overall health.
Get in your fruit and vegetables
Seniors may be less willing to go to the supermarket for fresh food because driving and mobility may be an issue. Or they may be having trouble with fine motor skills, so they have difficulty cutting or chopping fruits and vegetables.
If they can’t chop up their fruits anymore, they can try juicing. A juicer can extract the juice from fruits for drinking. It’s a good alternative method of getting these nutrients for those unable to eat the foods themselves, says the American Cancer Society.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
With age, the sense of thirst may decrease, according to the National Institute on Aging. The body becomes less timely about warning when water is needed.
Seniors’ decreased ability to regulate water balance in the body puts them at risk for dehydration, warns the American College of Sports Medicine.
Dehydration in older individuals worsens conditions like hypertension, cerebrovascular disease or other chronic conditions.
Luckily, preventing dehydration is easy by drinking water throughout the day or eating food with lots of water in it, such as soup.
Incorporate more protein
Some people have trouble getting protein when they’re older because they’re not taking in the proper amount of daily calories. Although they need fewer calories, older adults still require the nutrients that protein provides, reports the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
A few ways to get creative about protein intake, suggests the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, include:
- Adding beans to your diet by throwing them in salads or rice
- Replacing milk with water in recipes—where it tastes good, anyway
- Mixing dry milk powder into things like soup or mashed potatoes
- Eating eggs, a good source of protein
- Adding low-fat cheese to add taste and nutrients
Remember that food and medications may not mix
In addition to being careful about taking their daily medications, seniors must also remember that medications often interact with certain foods, warns the American Institute for Cancer Research. Examples include:
- Grapefruit juice, which is known to affect how medications act
- Certain antidepressants, which means forgoing foods high in tyramine—such as salami, herring, liver and alcohol—to avoid a blood pressure spike
- Gout medication, which requires drinking more water and avoiding alcohol