The Importance of Healthy Eating for Seniors
January 31st, 2020 | Senior Health
Eating a nutritious and well-balanced diet is important for anyone, but even more important as you age and the needs of your body change. Eating well is going to ensure that you remain active and energized, maintain a healthy weight and stay in the best shape you possibly can. On top of that, a healthy diet is also crucial for minimizing the chance of contracting chronic diseases such as heart disease or high blood pressure.
Many people don’t know where to start when it comes to getting proper nutrition, but eating well doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it’s pretty simple and can be summarized in the following phrase: “what you put in is what you get out.” The quality of the food you eat have a direct and immediate effect on your body and how you feel; therefore it makes sense to eat more healthy foods and less processed foods in your diet.
With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at how your nutrition needs change with age, and what steps you can take to ensure that your diet is as healthy as it can possibly be in your later years.
How Do Your Nutrition Needs Change with Age?
As you get older, the needs of your body change in a number of different ways. These changes directly affect the type of nutrition you need and the reasons that you need it. Let’s take a closer look at how these affect your diet below.
You may need more or less calories
As you age, your energy requirements lessen considerably, and because of this you probably need fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight than you did when you were younger. This not only means you need to eat less, but also that you’ll gain weight more easily if you don’t lessen your calorie intake.
Aging adults also tend to slow down and use less energy. Due to this reduction in mobility and physical activities, the need for a higher caloric intake is reduced.
You have to consider any existing medical conditions
The likelihood of contracting chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or arthritis increases greatly as we age, and treatment for any of these might call for changes to your diet. Someone suffering from high blood pressure, for example, may have to remove fatty foods from their diet completely while increasing their consumption of leafy green vegetables.
Medications and changes in appetite
Certain types of medication can interfere with your appetite. Other conditions may also react negatively with specific foods, so you might have to change your diet to prevent these types of digestive clashes.
If you’re ever unsure whether the food you’re eating might react poorly with the medication you’re on, always consult your doctor.
Immune system considerations
As you age, your immune system starts to weaken. You may notice that you get sick more often and a lot easier than you did when you were younger. Because of this, your body may have trouble processing certain foods, and so it might make sense to remove them from your diet altogether. For example, consuming certain animal products such as unpasteurized milk or oysters could increase your risk of contracting food poisoning.
Steps to Maintaining a Healthy Diet
Now that we know how nutrition needs change with age, let’s take a look at some steps that you can take in order to maintain a healthy and well-rounded diet.
Cut down on the junk food
This point is hardly rocket science. Junk food - that is, processed foods high in sugar, unhealthy fats, sodium and preservatives - is terrible for you. It’s not to say you shouldn’t indulge in a slice of pizza every now and then, but eating junk food regularly is going to greatly increase your risk of contracting chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease or Type 2 diabetes. Junk food also tends to have a lot of calories. Since you don’t need to consume as many calories as you age, overindulging on junk food is a fast way to pack on unwanted and unnecessary pounds.
Include more whole, nutrient-dense foods
While your caloric needs decrease with age, the amount of nutrients your body needs to remain healthy stays the same. It’s for that reason that it’s important to consume as many whole, nutritious foods as you can. The goal here is to ensure you meet your daily requirement of micro- and macro-nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Foods high in these nutrients include:
- All fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Lean protein such as chicken and fish
- Healthy fats such as those found in avocados
- Nuts and seeds
Add supplements to your diet
If you find that you don’t have much appetite or aren’t able to eat certain foods, then adding supplements to your diet is a quick and easy way of ensuring that your daily nutritional needs are being met. Always consult your doctor before you start supplementing so they can advise you on the specific type of supplements you need to take. Certain supplements may also interfere with certain medications, so it’s important to double check before you begin adding supplements.
Speak to your care provider about preparing healthier meals
Legend Senior Living, already offers top-tier, nutritious meals planned by dieticians through our Gold Leaf Dining program. But, if you’re unsure whether or not you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals in your food, simply speak to the chefs or residence director and let them know you’d like to see more green on your dinner plate.