National Nutrition Month & A Discussion Of The Unique Nutrition
Needs of Seniors
Regina reminds us that it is National Nutrition Month and that
seniors are also faced with a myriad of food choices. Seniors
are different from the younger population in many ways in terms
of nutritional needs and daily calories. Did you know, there is
a Food Guide Pyramid specifically for older adults? So, what's
a senior to eat, or not eat? Author:Regina
exclusively for Assisted Living Directory
Regina is a regular
contributor to Assisted Living Directory
Celebrate National Nutrition Month by Being Healthy
It’s not a secret that
we in the US have a big problem with weight; nearly two-thirds
of adults in the United States are overweight, with childhood
obesity growing as well. The growing statistics of children
and adults growing in weight has drawn focus on what can be
done in order to curb this dangerous trend.
is National Nutrition Month and it’s a good time to
look into how your food choices affect your body. This is especially
true if you are in your elder years; the older we become, the
more we have to keep a hold on the choices we make when it comes
to the food we eat. For seniors, illnesses and diseases have
a higher consequence – eating too much salt can help to
increase high blood pressure, while a lack of calcium can speed
up the advancement of osteoporosis. High fat diets can even
help to contribute to some cancers.
So what can seniors
and their families do to ensure more years to follow?
As with the new move towards
eating healthier, seniors should take stock of what foods can
help or hurt them. Often times, a senior may not be as active
as they once were, which means that they don’t need to
have as many calories as they once did. But that doesn’t
mean you can replace the carrots with Cheetos. Maintaining a
healthy diet is important to seniors, helping you to live longer,
stronger, mentally sharp and feeling better.
If a senior isn’t active
and therefore doesn’t need as many calories, just how
many do they need then? The first step is to ask your primary
care doctor or home health nurse as to what you need, based
on your level of activity – women over fifty can
have between 1600 and 2000 calories a day, while men over fifty
should be able to have between 2000 and 2800 calories.
Again, it’s important to
ask a physician as to the exact amounts, as they can range based
on age, gender, height, and current weight.
As with any age, the famous food
pyramid will come in and point you in the right direction
(See a modified Food
Pyramid for Older Adults done by Tufts University).
Fruit and vegetables are still an important facet of maintaining
a healthy diet; berries, apple, bananas, and melons are a good
source of proteins and nutrients and you should strive to eat
one or two servings each day. Calcium is also a needed source
for maintaining bone health, especially in the later years of
life; seniors should get about 1200mg of calcium every day,
from either cheese, milk, or yogurt. Even though dairy is a
good source for calcium, there are other sources including kale,
almonds, and tofu, which is great for those who might be lactose
Grains, proteins, and vitamins are also important for a healthy
life in the later years.
Water, something that doctors
recommend having several times a day, is important for seniors
too. The reduction of fluid levels in the body can cause seniors
to be prone to dehydration and for those seniors who live in
hot areas, it’s extremely important to keep hydrated in
order to avoid UTIs, constipation, and confusion.
Now that you have some idea of
how seniors should consider eating, here are some things that
seniors should be avoiding. As mentioned above, salt (sodium)
intakes are okay, but don’t take it to the extreme –
eating too much can lead to water retention and high blood pressure.
Carbohydrates, which can be found in grains, fruits, veggies,
and beans, are important to the body, but make sure that you’re
choosing the good carbs and not the bad ones.
What are bad carbs? Those likes
white flour, refined sugar, white rice, and anything that might
have been stripped of bran, fiber, and nutrients can help spike
blood sugar levels and are only good for short-term energy.
And speaking of sugar, it seems as though there’s nothing
edible that doesn’t have it. You can certainly avoid it,
but it doesn’t mean you can never have it, however moderation
is the key.
Sugar can be found in bread,
canned soups, pasta sauces, frozen dinners, fast foods, ketchup,
cereals, and more. How do you avoid sugar when it’s everywhere?
As with sodium and bad carbs, it’s extremely important
to check the labels, even on your favorite foods. Even the slightest
change – such as going for sugar free versions –
can help to reduce issues later on. The nutrition label on foods
can help with the decision of whether to buy it or put it back.
the only way to stay healthy. Often, life changes can
sometimes place seniors in isolation, whether it be living in
a house without their beloved spouse or living on their own
and away from family and friends, these changes can also affect
a senior’s dietary needs. It’s not uncommon for
seniors to experience loneliness and depression, especially
after the death of their spouse or another loved one, and this
can cause a lack of eating.
In these cases, it’s important
that a senior is around family and friends to support them and
making sure that they are eating well and living well. If a
senior is living in an assisted community, it’s important
for family members to visit; depending on the community, seniors
should be able to get involved in the community’s activities.
Some communities will have arts and crafts, daily or weekly
outings, as well as group get togethers for residents.
For those seniors living in assisted
living homes or facilities, many of them now employ talented
chefs who can accommodate special diets, and who are specifically
trained to cater to the specific dietary needs of seniors.
Additionally, each city, state
and area of the US is covered by a local Area
Agency on Aging. These agencies often times have nutrition
and meal programs for seniors - and even meal delivery services
to assist frail or homebound seniors living at home.
Maintaining a healthy life style
isn’t just for those under fifty; those over the age of
fifty can benefit from taking care of themselves and ensuring
that they can continue their remarkable lives.