Eating nutritional and healthy food is necessary for everyone, no matter what age they relate. However, it is a vital requirement for a better life with controlled illness when it comes to older adults. Out of the total population of the United States, 23.5% will be senior citizens by 2060.
Today, 117 million seniors in America suffer from unpreventable chronic diseases, mainly due to poor eating patterns and malnutrition. It is because older people have different nutritional needs compared to younger people. Their metabolism is slow, and the ability of the body to absorb the nutrients weakens over time.
Suppose the seniors are not consuming a healthy and balanced diet. In that case, there are higher chances of the worst impact on their immune system. Bad eating habits also lead to more ailments, weight loss, vision crisis, etc. in seniors. Malnutrition is never good, but young people can survive the havoc it causes. When it comes to older people, malnutrition can lead to severe damages, including:
- Organ function hindrance such as liver, kidneys, eyes, and weak digestive system
- Disrupted cognitive ability with compromised brain function
- High blood pressure, heart failure, diabetes, dementia, and cancer
- Fatal fractures, osteoporosis, frequent falls, loss of balance, and instability
Nutritional Requirements of Elderly People
For an older person, nutrition plays a pivotal role in proper cellular function all over the body. It toughens the overall immune system and helps in cleansing the body from illness and ailment. All people above age 65 must consume the following nutrients daily.
In old age, the digestive system often gets disturbed, causing severe constipation and painful bowel movements. Thus, it is advisable to consume fiber-rich foods such as whole grains to make sure the digestive system is working perfectly fine.
It is recommended to increase the use of protein in food when you cross the age of 55. Especially when you are 65, consume protein for a healthy lifestyle. It helps in managing higher cholesterol levels and gives strength to muscles in old age.
3. Vitamin B12
With age, the ability of the digestive system to absorb essential Vitamin B12 decreases. Thus, when you start getting old, your deficiency will increase. Insufficiency leads to anemia, fatigue, memory loss, etc. therefore increase Vitamin B12 usage in your life.
4. Magnesium, Calcium, and Vitamin D
These are essential nutrients that help in maintaining strong bone structure even at old age. To avoid fragility of the bones, consume calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin D. Together, they make the bones strong to survive any fall due to old age.
Potassium is a necessary mineral for the proper cellular function managing the heart, nervous system, muscles, and blood flow. Seniors must add potassium in their everyday meals to remain healthy and control their blood pressure levels.
6. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids play an essential role in maintaining the health of the heart. But it supports the health of the brain as well. Lower levels of Omega 3 can result in memory loss, dysfunctional immune system, and depression.
Top Ways of Improving Nutritional Health in Old Age
Here are some top tips and tricks to improve nutritional health in senior years.
1. Ample Consumption of Liquids
In old age, the sense of thirst becomes weak, and therefore, seniors usually don’t feel thirsty a lot. But it’s not what you feel; it is to understand what your body needs. Water may tend to get boring when you want to quench your thirst. So, you can go for fresh juices or fat-free milk as alternatives.
2. Curtailing Usage of Table Salt
The younger you are, the better your tastebuds will perform. The older you get, the weaker they become. For this reason, older people usually feel their food does not have enough salt in it. As per the 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, when you cross the age of 51, your daily sodium intake must be below 1,500 mg.
3. Consuming Herbs and Spices
To achieve the depletion of table salt in your meals, season it with herbs and other spices. Fresh spices and herbs enhance the taste and texture of the food. Healthy choices for adults include basil, rosemary, cayenne pepper, sage, and fresh turmeric. You can switch to organic ones instead of canned ones.
4. Cut Down on Sugar Consumption
We have used refined sugar, which is loaded with tons of empty calories all of our lives. It offers no significant nutritional value as well, resulting in side effects. Hence in senior years, cut down on your sugary diets and instead go for food with natural sugar in them. Fresh fruits, yams, and sweet peppers are naturally sweet, satisfying your sweet tooth.
5. Consume Healthy Fats Only
Reduction or elimination of fats from your diet is never a recommendation. As an alternative, choose healthy fats over trans or saturated fats. Healthy fats include polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These support the overall well-being in old age. Fish high with Omega 3 fatty acids, avocado, olive oil, and nuts are great when you cross the age of 60.
6. Start Using Supplements
Sometimes getting healthy nutrients from vegetables and fruits is not enough for a weak old body. Therefore, going for supplements is suggested to ensure a healthy and quality life. Pay a visit to your nutritionist and discuss the consumption of vitamins and minerals for your well-being and health.
Suggested Menu for Senior Citizens
Though it is on the seniors and their family members to schedule their meal menu. In this guide, we will recommend a healthy option to help you understand the needs of an elderly person when it comes to a balanced diet. You can adapt it or add more items to it as per your desire.
|1||Bagel made from Wheat||1/2|
|2||Peanut Butter enriched with Cream||2 tablespoons|
|3||Fresh Banana||Single medium-sized|
|4||Coffee with Balanced Sugar||1 Cup|
|5||Fresh Milk||1/4 Cup|
|1||Tuna Fish (Canned)||2 Ounces|
|2||Whole Wheat Bread||2 Slices|
|3||Mayonnaise (to be spread on bread)||2 teaspoons|
|4||Green Celery (Chopped)||2 tablespoons|
|5||Fresh Green Leaf of Lettuce||1 medium-sized|
|6||Red Carrots||4 baby-sized|
|7||Canned Raisins||1/4 Cup|
|8||Low-Fat Milk||1 Cup|
|1||Fresh Season Fruit||1/2|
|2||Flavored Yogurt (Fat-Free)||8 Ounce|
|3||Fresh Avocado||1/4 Cup|
|1||Ground Minced Beef (80% Lean & 20% Fat)||1 Cup|
|2||Spaghetti (Cooked)||1 Cup|
|3||Cherry Tomatoes (Diced without Salt)||1/4 Cup|
|4||Cheese to sprinkle – Parmesan||1 Tablespoon|
|5||Mixed Fresh Greens||1 Cup|
|6||Cucumber (Sliced or Cube)||1 small-sized|
|7||Canned Beans low in Sodium||1/4 Cup|
|8||Ranch Dressing for Salad||1 Tablespoon|
Calorie Intake Chart for Seniors
The calorie intake is different for men and women at a younger age as well as when being a senior citizen. Choose your calorie intake wisely without compromising your health.
|Guide for Man|
|Elder Man Not Physically Active||2000 to 2200 Calories a day|
|Elder Man with Moderate Active Life||2200 to 2400 Calories a day|
|Elder Man with an Active Lifestyle||2400 to 2800 Calories a day|
|Guide for Woman|
|Elder Woman Not Physically Active||1600 to 1650 Calories a day|
|Elder Woman with Moderate Active Life||1800 to 1900 Calories a day|
|Elder Woman with an Active Lifestyle||2000 to 2200 Calories a day|
In the charts above, the terminology “not physically active” means the elder person is not into exercises or taking a walk. They have simple everyday basic movements all day long only. “Moderate active life” refers to someone who at least completes brisk walking for 1.8 to 3 miles a day. An “active lifestyle” refers to those who walk at least 3 miles a day, work out regularly, and are involved in physical activities such as jogging, swimming, etc.
What to Pick When Eating Healthy
When you were younger, there were many things that you used to consume without thinking. But when you reach the age of 65, you ought to plan your meals and make changes to your diet. Only a balanced diet in senior years leads to a quality life with minimal health issues. To live a happy and healthy life, shift your food and beverage intake as per the following table:
|Minimize the Intake||Maximize the Intake|
|Snacks with high-calories||Snacks enriched with the nutrients|
|Artificially flavored fruits with extra sugar||Fresh and raw fruits|
|Refined grain (white or brown)||Whole wheat grains|
|Snacks with extra sugar or salt||Snacks with minimal sugar or salt|
|Solid fats such as butter||Oil enriched with Omega 3|
|Minimize the Intake||Maximize the Intake|
|Regular soft drinks||Fruits or vegetables flavored water|
|Café latte with whole milk (medium-sized)||Café latter with fat-free milk (small-sized)|
|Lemon flavored iced tea with artificial sweetener||Natural lemon-flavored sparkling water|
Choosing a schedule is easy but following it is relatively hard. The family of the senior citizens must choose the meal plan and follow it accordingly. Old age is fun with a proper and balanced diet. It can become a nightmare if the health is in bad shape!