Top nutritional considerations for aging seniors
Many people know why seniors should eat healthy. It can prevent osteoporosis, heart disease, high blood pressure and can lead to a generally more fulfilling and active lifestyle. What people may not know though, is what "eating healthy" actually means for seniors. In fact, according to one study, around 60 percent of hospitalized older adults (over the age of 65) suffer from malnutrition.
To understand why this is happening and how to prevent it, we researched some key nutrition considerations for seniors.
Understand changing needs. As people enter their senior years, metabolism slows down, the ability to absorb vitamins and minerals becomes less efficient and even common medications can affect food intake. Habit also plays a key role. Are dentures keeping them from eating hard foods like apples and corn on the cob? Are they still getting fruit and vegetable intake in other ways? Understanding these concepts can help you as you build a healthy nutritional plan.
Focus on essential nutrients. While a diet generally full of nutrient-dense foods is important, special attention should be paid to certain essential nutrients that are commonly deficient among seniors. Here are some of them and the corresponding vitamin-rich foods.
- Vitamin B (6 and 12): Smoked salmon, feta cheese and/or sunflower seeds
- Vitamin D: Get outside in the sunshine, take fish oil supplements and/or eat soy products like tofu or soy milk
- Calcium: Dark leafy greens, cheese and/or yogurt
- Magnesium: Leafy greens, nuts and seeds and/or avocado
- Potassium: Bananas, beans and/or squash
Finding staple foods that are full of these nutrients will go a long way towards preventing malnutrition.
Aim for variety. Seniors often have homogeneous diets, whether because of loss of appetite or other constraints. This often leads to nutritional deficiencies. Incorporating different foods into their diets, and a variety of meats and a rainbow of color in fruits or vegetables, can not only help provide a wider array of essential nutrients, but also re-introduce the joy of eating.
Don’t forget about water. With all the talk about the right foods, it can be easy to overlook a key ingredient in any healthy diet: water. Dehydration is a major risk for the elderly, and it can lead to disorientation, confusion and unhealthy changes in blood pressure. The National Institute of Health recommends seniors drink at least eight glasses (8 oz. each) of water a day. Fill a 64 oz. water bottle at the beginning of every day and make sure to drink the whole thing before bedtime.
Account for obstacles. Crafting the perfectly nutritious diet for seniors is fruitless, maybe literally, if it’s not convenient and manageable for them. Whether it’s diminished taste, dental health, mobility issues or income constraints, remember to take potential obstacles into consideration when thinking about meals.
When it comes to helping seniors maintain healthy diets, there’s a lot to think about, but these five considerations can point you in the right direction. Still, it’s important to understand that every situation is going to be different based on individual health, taste and living situation. Be creative and think outside the box.
At Holiday Retirement, our chefs always prioritize healthy senior nutrition when planning meals for our residents. It’s one more reason why senior living may be the right choice for you.
Learn more about the delicious made-from-scratch meals at Holiday Retirement.