It’s not uncommon for older adults to have special needs related to a healthy diet, according to the National Council on Aging. As you age, you become more susceptible to chronic health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and osteoporosis. To help prevent or treat these conditions, your doctor may recommend that you eat foods that are rich in nutrients, but low in excess calories, processed sugars, sodium (salt), and saturated and trans fats.
As people age, it's common for their metabolism and digestive systems to slow down. They also tend to become a little less active. Those are some of the main reasons why it's so important to get exercise and eat foods that are healthy. Nutrition for seniors is such a vital topic because knowing what—and how much—to eat can help you maximize your well-being.
The USDA recommends adults at any age should get at least 250 minutes of exercise each week. This can include gentle activities, such as yoga, walking, or swimming, which are also beneficial because they minimize the impact to your joints. Some types of weight-bearing activity—like weight lifting, dancing, step aerobics, or basketball—may also help preserve lean muscle mass.
More than 1 in 3 seniors in the care of others is at risk for under- or mal-nutrition (Mayo Clinic/American Dietetic Association). Malnutrition is the lack of proper nutrition, not necessarily a lack of food. Detecting malnutrition in seniors may be difficult, and even seniors who eat enough may be eating the wrong foods to keep themselves healthy. At Comfort Keepers®, we help seniors live healthy, independent lives and promote senior nutrition through the Nourish Senior Life® initiative.
This issue is especially relevant to seniors because difficulty cooking can cause a senior to adopt a diet where the main staple is a pre-packaged meal or an unhealthy indulgence of a particular food group. Even seniors who are attempting to gain weight should eat a balanced diet rather than fill themselves with foods that are high in fat, salt, and sugar or low in nutrients.
Eating guidelines provided by nutrition experts and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are based on decades of research into health. Educational tools such as MyPlate communicate the components of a healthy diet in a simple way that anyone can understand. Unfortunately, most eating guidelines do not provide for the nuances and special nutritional needs of seniors: