People’s dietary requirements depend on their age due to the aging process that changes their physiological needs. Hence, seniors should mostly have a different diet plan compared with children and middle-aged adults. Their diet plan should promote healthy eating to improve their health and lower the risk of developing diseases, such as diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, and cardiovascular and cerebrovascular illness.
According to the World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), most chronic diseases suffered by older people result from a poor diet plan. Accordingly, a lack of variety in seniors’ diets increases their vulnerability to micronutrient deficiencies and malnutrition.
Often, seniors experience physical difficulties as they age, affecting their mobility when doing various activities, such as housekeeping, grocery shopping, and cooking. Over time, their daily activities may become more challenging as they become weaker or deal with conditions, such as arthritis, giving them pain and low physical strength. This age-related challenge can hinder proper nutrition for seniors.
Accordingly, physiological changes in the body also include numbing of senses. The decrease in older people’s sense of smell and taste can affect their appetite and create trouble for them when differentiating old food from the fresh ones, which can be detrimental to their health. Likewise, medication side effects, memory loss, and depression can also hinder proper nutrition.
It is essential for families to monitor their senior loved ones and observe if they are having trouble doing different activities or are needing support, particularly with meal preparation. These troubles may lead to flawed diet plans, increasing their risk of malnutrition and diseases.
To ensure that your senior member is eating healthful meals, families need to create a healthy diet plan that includes foods that provides the nutrients they need. It would also allow you to filter which foods are not suitable for seniors. The HHS – ODPHP’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans details that seniors’ diet plan has an emphasis on fruits and vegetables, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture providing support by indicating that seniors should have a serving of 2 to 2.5 cups of fresh vegetables daily. The more fruits and vegetables in seniors’ meals, the more likely they would get an adequate amount of vitamins, minerals, and fiber their body needs.
Additionally, foods in the diet plan should consist:
- carbohydrates – good sources of vitamins and minerals
- protein- helps build and repair tissues in the body and are also essential building blocks of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood
- Omega-3 fatty acids – can help prevent inflammation, which can cause cancer, rheumatoid, arthritis, and heart disease
- calcium – helps build and maintain strong bones and lower blood pressure
- iron – plays a vital role in the production of hemoglobin, which is responsible for transferring oxygen in the blood from the lungs to the tissues
Moreover, a healthier eating lifestyle means making shifts in the food served to older people, hence avoiding plating foods that can negatively impact their health. Families can provide substitutes for these kinds of foods by serving seafood or beans to cut down on saturated fats, using oil instead of butter to prepare food to cut down on solid fats. Consequently, they can give their senior loved one water instead of soda and other drinks with added sugars or serve unsalted nuts as snacks to cut back on salt intake.
It is vital to read food packaging labels or ingredients when buying at the supermarket to ensure that the food has little to no fats, sodium, and added sugars. This infographic of Euro-American Connections & Homecare discusses the importance of seniors’ nutrition and making sure your elder loved one eats healthy meals.