Healthy eating is important at every age, but quality nutrition is especially crucial in our senior years—metabolism and digestive systems slow, senses weaken, and daily medications can have unexpected effects on appetite. When seniors maintain a healthy diet, it can improve energy levels, resistance to illness, mental acuteness, and emotional stability.
Still, ensuring your elderly loved one is getting balanced meals made from fresh, wholesome ingredients can be difficult depending on their care situation and taste preferences. Seniors who use wheelchairs or walkers or those confined to home-use hospital beds might have limited access to their kitchens, so whether you’re stocking your loved one’s pantry, making their meals or even setting up a meal delivery service, be sure to consider the following recommendations from professional nutritionists:
Seniors should aim for 1½ to 2½ cups of fruit each day. Offer a colorful variety for a wide range of vitamins and other essential nutrients, like apples, bananas, peaches, berries, and melons.
Offering a rainbow of choices goes for vegetables as well, so select carrots, squash, sweet peppers, peas, and antioxidant-rich leafy greens like kale, spinach, and broccoli for the 2- to 3-cup requirement per day.
Fiber is the key to choosing healthy whole grains for seniors, so aim for 5 to 10 ounces of wheat cereals, wheat bran, barley and oatmeal each day. Beans and lentils are also excellent sources of fiber, along with nuts and seeds, which make delicious and healthy snacks.
Most seniors (except those with kidney disease or diabetes) need about 5 to 7 ounces of protein each day. This can include beef, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, and peanut butter. Additionally, beans, seeds, and nuts can play double-duty: they’re great sources of protein as well as fiber.
Calcium keeps bones strong, and in order to help prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures, seniors need about 1,200 mg per day through servings of milk, cheese, and yogurt. Other “sneaky” sources of calcium include tofu, broccoli, almonds, and kale. For those who are lactose intolerant, calcium supplements might be necessary.
Not all fats are created equal—some are nutritionally useless, while others are vital to protecting against disease and supporting brain function. Two basic “good” fats to include in senior diets:
- Monounsaturated fats: olive oil, avocados, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: canola oil, salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, flaxseed and walnuts.
Most of the healthy foods listed above will include adequate supplies of the vitamins our bodies need, but aging bodies might require a supplementary source of vitamins such as Vitamin B and Vitamin D.
It might seem obvious to suggest adequate hydration, but minor dehydration-related health issues such as urinary tract infections and constipation can lead to serious illness with seniors. Staying proactive with fluid intake is the best prevention.
Foods to avoid
If possible, cut down on sugar and refined carbs (white rice, white flour), eliminate trans-fats (processed food, fried food), and limit sodium content (but don’t eliminate salt entirely—our bodies need sodium to function).
Caring for an elderly loved one? We can help.
At PA Healthcare, we know you’re doing everything you can to take care of your loved one. We’re here to help ensure their safety and security by providing recommendations for modifying your aging loved one’s home (or yours) to accommodate in-home care. Not only can we help you select the right at-home medical equipment, but we also offer repair services for wheelchairs and scooters as well as home-delivery to anywhere in San Diego and Imperial Counties. So give us a call today.