Why do nutritional needs change as seniors age?
This picture demonstrates foods that contain an abundance of nutrients. Seniors are often found to be deficient in certain vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. As people age their body changes and seniors experience a natural slowing down of body metabolism, especially when they don’t exercise.
There are digestive changes like the body producing less gastric juice which aid in the digestion and absorption of nutrients such as folic acid, Vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. For example, a deficiency in vitamin B12 causes confusion in the elderly which is often the first symptom of pernicious anemia. When treated with vitamin B12 injections, the confusion disappears.
How many calories should seniors consume per day?
The recommendation for daily calorie intake for those 70 and older who do not engage in a physical exercise program is on average around 1800 calories for women and on average 2000 calories for men.
Tips for adequate nutrition for seniors:
The Food Pyramid
Preparing meals from the food pyramid will provide daily nutritious foods and prevent malnutrition. Meals for seniors are better tolerated if eaten in smaller amounts, and with a frequency of 4 to 6 times per day. Eating smaller amounts also decreases problems with heartburn, and flatulence. Make sure you sit upright for at least 30 minutes after eating. This will decrease belching and bloating.
Hydration and fluids
Seniors need to drink at least 8 glasses of fluids a day. Decreased thirst sensation occurs with aging, but dehydration can worsen the symptoms of kidney dysfunction and constipation. Drink lots of water, or natural juices and minimize caffeinated beverages. Fruits like watermelon, grapes, and melon are high in water. If the body is adequately hydrated the urine will be a pale yellow color.
Adequate calcium intake is required, so ensure that the daily diet includes foods high in calcium such as milk, tofu, cheese, yogurt, or fish with bones. Some brands of are removing the bones and skin from canned salmon. They are removing calcium and fiber in the process. Look for canned salmon with the soft cooked bones included. Vegetables such as broccoli, okra, and dark leafy greens are good sources of calcium. If you don’t eat enough calcium, your body will leach it out of your bones. Osteoporosis occurs in men and women as they age; leading to brittle bones and fractures. Ask your doctor to recommend a calcium supplement paired with vitamin D.
Vitamin B12 is important for creating red blood cells and maintaining healthy nerve function. Foods that contain this vitamin are fish, meat, chicken, eggs and milk products. Seniors should have their Vitamin B12 levels checked by the doctor and if deficient the doctor may prescribe vitamin B12 supplements. Remember vitamin B12 absorption from the stomach decreases with age.
Eat lean proteins such as fish, eggs, beans, lean meats, and nuts. Eggs are the least expensive high quality protein, so eat them every day, but without the yolk. Studies are indicating that the elderly require more protein than younger people. Protein is important to maintain skeletal muscles, to prevent loss of skin elasticity, the ability to fight infections, and to contribute to wound healing. Seniors who are deficient in protein often take a longer time to recuperate from illnesses.
Consume healthy fats such as omega-3 fats, as they provide important nutrients for the brain and the maintenance of cognitive functioning. Salmon, tuna, and sardines are especially high in omega 3 fats and it is recommended they be consumed 2-3 times per week. Examples of vegetables high in omega-3 include walnuts, flax seed, and soybeans.
A senior’s daily diet should also contain foods that are high in whole grains with minimal or no preservatives. Choose multi-grain bread that is not refined and keep it in the fridge. Breads that contain no preservative will develop mold within a few days if stored in the cupboard. Whole grains aid with digestion, provide fiber, and prevent heart disease.
Who can assist the Elderly prepare nutritious meals at home?
At AA Care Services, a non-medical home health agency our Caregivers will assist with grocery shopping and prepare nutritious meals from all the food groups. The Caregiver will remind and offer fluids such as water, or natural juices. It will not be necessary for you to clean off the table or do the dishes. Imagine that you will be able to relax after eating, and have enjoyed a delicious home cooked meal without restaurant prices! Please call us at AA Care Services for a free in home assessment and getting started now with your own personal cook!
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Healthy Eating For Seniors
Helen Trowsdale, President of AA Care Services, is a nurse administrator with over 30 years of experience as a BSN, psychiatric nurse, and geriatric care manager with adults as well as pediatrics in hospitals, private duty home health care agencies, and residential home health care. Her team of caregivers are dedicated to serving their clients with home care in San Antonio, New Braunfels, and Austin; providing clients with consistent, quality care while minimizing the number of caregivers in the home. Learn more about AA Care Services.