Healthy Nutrition Ideas for Seniors

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As we age, many of our needs change. We may require new glasses or hearing aids; or maybe we develop a few aches and pains that require deeper attention than in previous years. What also changes as we age is the need for proper nutrition. Although good nutrition is important during one’s entire life, it is highly crucial in the golden years.

It’s no secret a proper diet and a healthy lifestyle go hand-in-hand, but it is extremely important for older adults. The World Health Organization has reported the majority of diseases from which older people suffer are the result of lack of proper diet. Fat in food has been linked to cancer of the prostate, colon and pancreas. Degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis and diabetes have been linked to deficient intake of micronutrients. Reduced food intake and lack of variety in their diets are chief reasons older adults lack the necessary micronutrients.

As we age, our senses become somewhat numb. Your sense of smell and taste may diminish. This may cause you to struggle when it comes to differentiating between stale food and fresh food. It can also inhibit your appetite. Food just doesn’t seem as desirable as it once did. As a result, you can become malnourished.

Additionally, certain medications can create side effects such as nausea, changes in the ability to perceive certain tastes, and a reduction in appetite. These can keep you from wanting to eat so you end up skipping meals. Other factors contributing to decreased appetite include dental issues, lack of finances, no access to transportation and diminished resources. Limited financial resources lead to more worries about money and the urge to cut back on groceries, purchasing cheaper, less nutritious food. Physical disabilities and poor physical strength can also keep you from performing functions such as standing while cooking, carrying groceries, or even peeling an orange. Because of these variables, it is important to work with someone you trust, such as a family member, a caregiver, a nutritionist or a health care provider who can work with you to determine your nutritional needs and initiate a game plan to keep you on the healthy track.

Aim for plenty of fruits and vegetables, along with some dark, leafy green vegetables, broccoli and orange vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes. Protein can come in the form of fish, beans and peas. Be sure to consume at least three ounces of whole-grain breads, cereals, crackers, rice or pasta daily and enjoy three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy fortified with vitamin D to help keep your bones healthy. It is okay to add fats into your diet but focus on the healthy ones–polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats–and make the switch from solid fats to oils when you prepare food.

Equally important is eating foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids, as they are known to prevent inflammation that can cause cancer, arthritis and heart disease. These fatty acids can be found in sardines, tuna, mackerel and salmon, as well as in flaxseed, soybeans, canola oil and walnuts.

Don’t overlook your calcium needs, either. This helps maintain healthy bones and has been shown to lower blood pressure. Foods high in calcium include milk, yogurt, cheese and leafy green vegetables plus cereals fortified with calcium.

Fiber is also a key player in a healthy diet as we age, as this aids in proper digestion and can reduce the risk of heart disease. Don’t skimp on water, either, especially since fiber absorbs water. Iron-rich foods help produce hemoglobin, which is necessary to carry oxygen in the blood from the lungs to the rest of the body. Vitamin C is important for its antioxidant properties, a key variable in preventing cancer and heart disease. It also provides the skin with elasticity and promotes healthier-looking skin, helps to repair bones and teeth and can heal wounds.

Some easy meal options that pack the nutrients you need at breakfast include warm oatmeal and berries, a hard-boiled egg, whole grain pancakes or waffles, or a poached egg. Tasty lunch ideas are quinoa salad, eggs and red potatoes, or a salmon wrap. For dinner, consider lamb and potatoes, baked or grilled Alaskan salmon, shrimp and pasta, beans and rice, or a Southwest chicken salad.
If cooking is no longer an option, there are organizations and companies that can provide meals: Meals on Wheels Association of America, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Schwan’s, Netgrocer, Silver Cuisine and Mom’s Meals.

As with any new diet plan, it is important to consult your healthcare provider before beginning a new program. There are some foods that can result in adverse reactions if you are on certain medications. ■

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