The older we get, the less forgiving our bodies are of overindulgence and lazy eating. It is especially imperative for the elderly to eat smart.
A proper diet for seniors promotes mental alertness, higher energy, better recuperation from illness or surgery, and avoidance of health problems like osteoporosis and constipation.
Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy diet as an older person:
1. Understand that as you age, your metabolism slows, therefore all else being equal, you need fewer calories. Depending on activity level, a man over 50 should consume 2,000 to 2,800 calories, while a woman over 50 should consume 1,600 to 2,000 calories.
2. Get plenty of fiber in your diet. This reduces the risk of constipation and certain chronic diseases. Good sources of fiber include fresh fruits and vegetables including beans, and whole grains.
3. Reduce bad fats like butter, fried foods, full fat dairy, and fatty meats. Eat good fats that promote the good kind of cholesterol, like avocados, fatty fish, nuts and seeds, and olive oil.
4. Older people are especially at risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures if they fall, so it’s important to get plenty of calcium in your diet for strong bones. Good sources of calcium include almonds, broccoli, cheese, kale, milk, tofu, and yogurt.
5. Drink plenty of water, even if you’re not thirsty. As we get older, we do not regulate fluid levels as well, and our sense of thirst can be dulled.
6. An older body does not absorb certain nutrients as well, such as vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and folic acid. Be sure to get plenty of these in your diet, or take vitamin supplements.
7. Watch your salt intake. Salt is especially bad for those prone to high blood pressure.
8. Be aware of factors that can alter a person’s diet for the worse, and deal with them. Dental problems can affect the taste of food. Medications can affect the taste of food. Limited mobility can affect a person’s ability to shop for the food they need. Poverty can prevent a person from being able to buy the food they need. Alzheimer’s can leave a person confused as to what they should be eating, what they’ve eaten so far today, etc.
Don’t be too proud to ask for help if you’re having problems like these. Meals on Wheels, for instance, is a wonderful program for getting nutritious food to shut-in seniors.
9. Consult your doctor for nutrition tips specific to you and your condition.
People are living longer than ever. Why not aim for 100 or more? With the proper diet, you’ll increase your chances of getting there.
Jane Harrison, “Eating for Your Age: Nutrition Tips for Seniors.” My Optum Health.
“Healthy Eating for Seniors.” Nutrition.com.
“Senior Nutrition: The Joy of Eating Well and Aging Well.” Helpguide.org.