Tips and Guidelines for Healthy Nutrition for Seniors
Maintaining a healthy diet is crucial for seniors. If you are a senior or the caregiver for a person in his or her Golden Years, you need to ensure that proper food choices are made consistently. Healthy eating ensures a senior maintain enhanced energy levels and an improved immune system and feels physically and emotionally well. Making proper diet decisions is also important in preventing and managing diseases and other medical conditions. A proper diet can even aid in lengthening a senior’s life.
Daily Calorie Count
As people grow older, their digestive systems and metabolism can slow down. In addition, people tend to become less active when they age. Therefore, the calories needed by older people change. Depending on the activity level of a senior, the recommendation for men over the age of 50 is between 2,000 to 2,800 calories per day. Women over the age of 50 should consume 1,600 to 2,200 calories per day.
Not All Calories Are Created Equally
Not all calories are the same. When seniors plan healthy meals, or when caregivers plan proper meals for seniors, the following considerations should be kept in mind:
- Include two to three tablespoons of healthy fats in a senior’s diet daily. Examples of these types of fats are such as extra virgin olive or coconut oil.
- Consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily. People in the United States tend to consume too much salt. A majority of people in the country eat far too much salt.
- Make sure that less than 10 percent of your daily calories come from saturated fat.
- Consume less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol daily.
- Avoid sugary drinks.
Pay Attention to Food Groups
In addition to calories, seniors also must pay attention to the food groups they are eating from on a daily basis. The main food groups include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Dairy and dairy alternatives
- Meat and meat alternatives
Each food group is discussed in more detail for your information.
Fruits and vegetables: The optimal recommendation is for seniors to eat seven servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Be sure to optimize dark green, bright orange, and yellow varieties.
When it comes to serving size, a medium-sized piece of fruit, one cup of salad, or half a cup of cut-up fruit or cooked vegetables serve as guides. There are some tips to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into a senior’s diet:
- Top your cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt with berries or bananas
- Include a green salad with your lunch or dinner
- Wash, cut, and store fruits and vegetables in the fridge for quick snacks
- Add vegetables to eggs, pasta, and soups
Grains: Seniors should eat six or seven servings of grains daily. Choose whole-grain products most often, that include:
- Whole-wheat foods
- Brown rice
For grains and serving size, examples include a slice of bread, half a bun or bagel, one cup of cold cereal, three-quarters of a cup of hot cereal, or half a cup of cooked pasta or rice.
Some helpful tips for incorporating whole grains into a senior’s diet include:
- Replace white flour with whole-wheat flour
- Add brown or wild rice to your favorite soups
- Add three-quarters of a cup of oatmeal to ground meat when making burgers, meatballs, or meatloaf
- Try whole-grain salads that contain quinoa or bulgur
- Switch from white to whole-wheat pasta
- Look for whole-grain cereals that have ingredients like amaranth, kamut, or spelt
Dairy and dairy alternatives: It is recommended that seniors consume three servings of dairy or dairy alternatives daily. Seniors should choose low-fat options more often. Seniors should look for products that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
Serving examples for seniors include one cup of milk, three-quarters of a cup of yogurt, or 1.5 ounces of cheese.
Tips for incorporating dairy and dairy alternatives into the diet of seniors include:
- Add cheese or cheese alternatives to your soups, sandwiches, and salads
- Add milk or milk alternatives to your soups, stews, and cereals
- Replace the water in your oatmeal or canned soups with milk or non-dairy milk
- Make smoothies with yogurt, milk, or milk alternatives
- Have yogurt with your breakfast or for a snack
Meat and meat alternatives: For people in their Golden Years, it is recommended that they have two or three servings of meat or meat alternatives per day. When considering meats, the objective should be to select lean cuts or low-fat meat alternatives more often than higher-fat options.
Serving sizes for seniors include a slice of meat the same size as a deck of cards, one-quarter of a cup of nuts or seeds, two large eggs, three-quarters of a cup of cooked tofu or legumes, or two tablespoons of nut butter.
Tips for incorporating meat and meat alternatives into the diet for a senior include:
- Cook more servings than you’ll eat and freeze single-serve portions that you can quickly warm up for meals or snacks
- Add beans, peas, lentils, tofu, canned fish, or eggs to salads, soups, and pasta
- Have nut butter on toast, crackers, or apple slices for a snack
- Snack on nuts and seeds, and add them to your cereal, muffins, salads, and yogurt
- Add a low-sugar protein powder to your smoothies
Protect Against Dehydration
Finally, regarding the tips and guidelines for healthy nutrition for seniors, close attention must be paid to proper hydration. Keep in mind that with seniors, thirst sensations often become weaker. Therefore, there needs to be a conscious effort by seniors or their caregivers to ensure that appropriate amounts of fluids are consumed. Generally speaking, some seniors should drink between nine to 12 cups of fluids per day. Those fluids include water, tea, pure fruit juice, and milk. To help yourself consume that amount, drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up, always have a glass or bottle of water with you, and include a glass of water or a cup of tea with your meals.