An Introductory Guide to Senior Nutrition
As we age, our nutritional needs change. For adults over 50, dietary needs will differ from younger individuals. This can be attributed to a variety of factors, including decreased activity levels, changes in metabolism, and the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Today, we are going to cover some essential information about senior nutrition as well as some basic tips to maintain a healthier diet. First, let’s begin by examining some factors that affect nutritional needs.
Factors that Affect Seniors’ Nutritional Needs
Decreased Activity Levels
One common change that occurs with aging is a decreased activity level. Living a more sedentary lifestyle reduces the amount of time spent out of the home. Conditions that limit one’s mobility can also contribute to this decline.
A decreased activity level can also directly impact one’s diet. For example, a less active person may opt for eating options like processed frozen meals that, while convenient, are often high in sodium, unhealthy fats, and carbohydrates. This can contribute to conditions like excess weight gain, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
The body’s metabolism progressively slows over time. This means that the same amount of food will provide us with fewer nutrients and energy than it once did. To help maintain a healthier weight, seniors often need to consume fewer calories than younger adults without sacrificing nutritional value. Eating leaner meals with whole ingredients can help meet requirements for caloric intake while ensuring that you receive an appropriate amount of vitamins and minerals.
Absorption of Nutrients
Additionally, as we age, the body becomes less efficient at nutrient absorption. Keeping this in mind, seniors should exercise greater discernment over what they eat and drink. Fluid intake is also especially important for older adults as hydration can help with absorbing more key nutrients from healthy meals.
Best Practices for Senior Nutrition
Eat a Lower Sodium Diet
Reducing sodium intake is an important step that adults can take to promote dietary health. High blood pressure is a common health concern among seniors and eating too much salt can contribute to increased levels.
Choose foods with lower sodium content and seasonal meals with herbs and spices instead of salt. Doing so can also expand your palate to new and exciting flavors!
Include Lean Protein in Every Meal
Protein plays an essential role in helping seniors maintain muscle mass, which declines with age. Try to include a lean source of protein in every meal such as grilled chicken or fish, tofu, legumes, or eggs. Avoid high-fat sources such as beef and pork whenever possible.
Eat More Fruits & Vegetables
Another key practice for senior nutrition is to eat more fruits and vegetables. These nutritious foods are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber which can all help keep the body healthy. Aim to eat a minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet.
Keep Carbohydrates in Check
Too many carbohydrates can also cause health issues for seniors. Carbohydrates are important for energy, but too many can lead to weight gain and problems with blood sugar control. Opt for complex carbs such as whole grains, vegetables, and legumes rather than processed foods high in added sugars.
Limit or Eliminate Sugar
High-sugar items like candy, ice cream, soda, and sports drinks can create health complications when consumed regularly. These foods provide empty calories and can contribute to weight gain and other health concerns like heart disease and diabetes.
Where possible, limit or eliminate sugar from your diet. Consider healthier substitutes like stevia or monk fruit extract, which can provide a more enjoyable taste without the calories of sugar or chemical components of artificial sweeteners.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
As mentioned earlier, hydration helps promote greater nutrient absorption in the body. Drink plenty of healthy fluids throughout the day, such as fresh water and unsweetened tea. Avoid sugary drinks such as soda and juice as these can contribute to weight gain and increased blood sugar.
Stay Physically Active
Physical activity is crucial for seniors, regardless of mobility. It helps keep the body strong and mobile, improves mood, and reduces the risk of health problems such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. Try to engage in some form of physical activity every day whether it’s a brisk walk or a stationary exercise like chair yoga.
Select a Senior Living Community that Prioritizes Nutrition
At Shaker Place, our team of registered dieticians and dietary technicians collaborate with our culinary staff to develop delicious menu items that satisfy specific nutritional needs and palate preferences for individual seniors. We offer eight country kitchens on-premises, multiple dining rooms, and all-day access to healthy eating options to provide convenient and beneficial meals for residents and their guests.
To learn more about you or your loved one joining a nutritionally conscious nursing home in Albany, schedule a tour with us online or contact us any time for more information.