What makes seniors' nutrition such an important topic? Isn't food just…food? Well, you might be surprised. Your food choices can have big impacts on your well-being. For instance, healthy eating habits can improve your energy levels, boost your immune system, and make you feel great inside and out. For some older adults, they can even help restore feelings of youthfulness.
Elderly people who live alone and are left to prepare food by themselves often have bad outcomes. Cognitive and physical problems often cause seniors to become unable to prepare adequately nutritious or filling meals. Eating almost every meal in isolation can also exacerbate anxiety, loneliness, and stress. In other words, constantly eating alone can put seniors at risk.
Instead, try salt-free seasonings. The grocery store spice section stocks myriad seasoning options, some of which are very good. Try a salt-free lemon-pepper seasoning for poultry, fish, and vegetables, or a Cajun or savory seasoning for eggs, red meats, and potatoes. Fresh lemon juice and herbs also add great flavor to meats, fish, and vegetables alike.
The National Institutes of Health lists taste disorder as one of the conditions that might interfere with a healthy diet for seniors. Taste disorders might cause people to lose their appetite. It may be tempting to use sugar or salt to make food more appealing, but the NIH recommends flavoring food with herbs and spices instead. Of course, as with all diet recommendations, ask your doctor for guidance about nutrition for seniors – particularly you.
Weight loss is a common concern for many older seniors. It may become necessary to eat every two or three hours, eat larger portions at the time of day when your appetite is strongest, incorporate healthy fats into your diet, make healthy smoothies for snacks, and have a healthy bedtime snack. Additionally, if you smoke, then speak to a healthcare professional about resources that can help you quit. (Smoking can reduce your appetite and ability to taste.)
Omega-3 fatty acids—There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). It's recommended that all adult men and women consume 1.6 grams or 1.1 grams of ALA, respectively, each day. Both men and women should consume 500 mg of EPA and DHA per day. Some of the best food sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
Simply put, good nutrition is essential for your physical health. Making good food choices may help you prevent or manage diseases and other physical conditions. Certain foods—such as those that contain omega-3 fatty acids—can also help your mind stay sharp. So adopting heathier eating habits is in your best interests if you intend to enjoy your senior years to the fullest.
You can find trusted nutrition information in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which contain advice about what and how much to eat and which foods to avoid. Every 5 years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services use the latest nutrition research to develop these Guidelines that encourage people to eat healthier.