Nutrition for Seniors – Home Health Solutions Group
Eating healthily, combined with regular physical activity, can help a person live a full, active life, preserving independence into older age.
10 Simple Dietary Guidelines To Help You Stay Well Into Older Age:
- Balance your food intake with physical activity – the more active you are, the more food you need. Keep an eye on your meal portion size, if you are less active choose smaller serving sizes and add plenty of vegetables, salad and fruit.
- Include a carbohydrate food (bread, rice, pasta, potato, or cereal) at each meal. Choose high fiber options whenever you can (see following section for suggestions).
- Aim for five servings of fruits & vegetables each day. These are packed with important nutrients to help you stay healthy. Remember these can be fresh, frozen, tinned, or dried. Color is important – have a mixture of different colored fruits and vegetables each day such as apples, oranges, bananas, spinach, cabbage, carrots, sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, sweet corn and more.
- Protein foods help to make new cells and keep your muscles healthy. Stay fit and strong by eating a variety of protein-rich foods each day. Great sources include lean meat, poultry and fish. Salmon, sardines, trout, fresh tuna and kippers are packed with heart-healthy omega 3 fats. Eating beans, eggs and nuts is a simple way of boosting the protein in your diet.
- Keep your bones healthy by having three servings of low-fat dairy foods (milk, yoghurt, or cheese) each day. Dairy foods with added calcium and vitamin D are even better. Look out for these in the supermarket as fortified foods.
- Choose heart-healthy fats. We all need some fat in the diet but it is a case of choosing the right type:
- Saturated fat or animal fat can raise your cholesterol level, which can in turn increase the risk of heart disease. Saturated fat is found in butter, hard margarine, lard, cream, cream based sauces, fat on meat, skin on chicken, and processed meats like sausages, burgers, black and white pudding, meat pies and pate. It is also found in biscuits, cakes, chocolate, toffees, takeaway foods, foods covered in batter and breadcrumbs as well as milk, cheese and yoghurt.
- Trans fat or hydrogenated vegetable fat also raises cholesterol levels. Trans fat is found in hard margarine, cakes, biscuits and confectionery. It may be listed as hydrogenated fat on food labels and should be avoided.
- Monounsaturated fat – aim to replace saturated fat with monounsaturated fat to help protect your heart as it helps lower cholesterol level. Monounsaturated fat is found in olive oil, peanut oil and rapeseed oil, unsalted peanuts, cashew nuts and almonds.
- Polyunsaturated fat can also help to reduce cholesterol levels. Polyunsaturated fat is found in oily fish (omega-3 fat), sunflower oil (omega-6 fat), sesame oil, flaxseed oil, walnuts and hazelnuts.
Remember all types of fats and oils contain the same amount of fat and calories. They can lead to weight gain if used to excess!
- Use less salt. Too much salt in the diet can contribute to high blood pressure, which in turn can lead to stroke or heart disease, however you can reduce the amount of salt in your diet by:
- Avoid adding salt to your food at the table and in cooking. Use pepper, lemon juice, herbs and spices to flavor food instead of salt.
- Choosing fresh foods as often as possible e.g. fresh meat, chicken, fish, vegetables, homemade soups and sauces without salt.
- Limit intake of processed or canned food.
- Avoid foods high in salt such as packet and tinned soups and sauces, instant noodles, Bovril, Oxo, Marmite, stock cubes, soy sauce, garlic salt and sea salt.
- Avoid processed meats such as ham, bacon, corned beef, sausages, burgers, black and white pudding, meat pies, pate as well as smoked fish.
- Keep away from snacks such as salted biscuits and salted crisps and nuts.
- Check food labels to help you choose foods with a low amount of salt. Too much salt is more than 1.5g (0.6g sodium) per 100g of any food item.
- Limit amount of foods high in ‘empty calories’ like biscuits, cakes, savory snacks (crisps, peanuts), sweets, confectionary. These foods are rich in calories, fat, sugar and salt, so remember – not too much and not too often.
- Stay hydrated. Among other things, dehydration causes tiredness, dizziness and constipation. Get plenty of fluids (water, fruit cordials, juice, and milk) on board each day. As a general guide, about 8 glasses a day should be adequate.
- Alcohol should be enjoyed always in moderation. The recommendations are no more than 11 standard drinks a week for women or 17 standard drinks a week for men with a number of alcohol free days in the week. A standard drink is
Now it is important to consider some Important Nutrients.
As we get older, our bodies have different needs, so certain nutrients become especially important for good health:
Fiber: Eating fiber-rich foods helps bowels move regularly, lowering the risk of constipation. A high-fibre diet can also lower the risk for many chronic conditions including heart disease, obesity and some cancers. Good sources of fiber include:
- 100% whole meal or wholegrain bread
- Breakfast cereals such as porridge, Weetabix, shredded wheat, bran flakes
- Other cereals such as brown rice, brown pasta
- Potatoes eaten in their jackets
- Fruits and vegetables
- Pulse vegetables such as beans, peas and lentils.
Breakfast can be a super way to get a high fiber start to the day: Add linseed to a wholegrain cereal or to yoghurt or have prune juice instead of orange juice to boost your fiber intake.
Calcium and Vitamin D: Older adults need extra calcium and vitamin D to help maintain bone health. Being a healthy weight can help keep bones strong. Take three servings of vitamin D-fortified milk, cheese, or yoghurt each day. Other calcium-rich foods include fortified cereals, dark green leafy vegetables and canned fish with soft bones (like sardines).
Iron and Vitamin B12: Iron is responsible for carrying oxygen around the body, while vitamin B12 keeps your brain and nervous system healthy. Many older adults do not get enough of these important nutrients in their diet. The best sources of iron include red meats such as beef, liver, kidney, lamb, pork, ham, corned beef & black & white pudding, while fortified cereals, lean meat and some fish and seafood are sources of both iron and vitamin B12. Taking a vitamin C-rich food like orange juice at mealtime can help your body to absorb iron. Ask your doctor or dietitian whether you would benefit from an iron or a vitamin B12 supplement.
Everyone knows how important exercise is …. And you should know it too
Combining an active lifestyle with a healthy diet is your best recipe for healthy ageing.
- Try to be physically active for at least 30 minutes most days.
- It is okay to break up your 30 minutes physical activity into 10-minute sessions throughout the day.
- If you are currently inactive, start with 5 minutes of exercise, such as walking, gardening, climbing stairs or dancing and gradually increase this time as you become stronger.
- Always check with your doctor or nurse before beginning a new physical activity program.
As people age, a change in the appetite can be normal because the metabolism slows as does the activity level, which means the body needs fewer calories.
If meals are skipped or poor food choices made, the nutrition of your loved one can suffer.
Poor nutrition can lead to undesired weight loss and jeopardize the immune system, making a senior more susceptible to infections like the common cold or even the flu.
What are the Benefits of Proper Nutrition for Seniors?
There are ways, however, to stimulate the appetite and the benefits of proper nutrition for seniors range from increased mental capacity and higher energy levels to better resistance to illness and disease. A senior with better eating habits will feel better overall and live longer and stronger.
Some of the ways to promote healthy eating habits among seniors include:
- Increase the nutrient density, not the portion size. Large portions or a lot of different food items presented all at once can be overwhelming. For example, prepare hot cereal and soups with milk instead of water, add peanut butter to toast instead of butter or add cheese to scrambled eggs.
- Set regular eating schedules. Bodies thrive on routine. When we stray from our typical schedules, the appetite is affected.
- Encourage social meals. The thought of eating alone can decrease appetite. At American Senior Communities, residents are encouraged to have meals in the dining rooms where they can socialize with others, which can help improve food intake.
- Enhance smells, flavors with herbs, sauces, marinades.
- Avoid excessive liquids before or during meals. Beverages can fill us up and reduce appetite.
A senior may face any number of obstacles in their quest for proper nutrition. Their caregivers must be observant to their loved one’s eating habits to make sure they aren’t at risk for the health threats that come with poor nutrition.
Mealtime Challenges with people with Parkinson’s
We asked our Home Health Solutions Group’s employees and patient’s caregivers to share some of their greatest challenges working with those who live with Parkinson’s. Over and over, the conversation returned to mealtimes. This is partly because of the potential for real danger from choking or long-term effects of poor nutrition, but another consideration is the independence represented by being able to feed oneself.
- Dry mouth is a consistent side effect of many of the medications used to treat Parkinson’s. This can make chewing less efficient, which can not only ruin the taste of the food but can interfere with digestion and even be a choking risk. Serving meals with water or another soothing beverage can help. You also might consider moistening some foods like toast or adding sauces to meats.
- Re-think bite-sized. It’s one thing to remind someone living with Parkinson’s Disease that smaller bites are healthier and safer, but some foods are prepared and served is what appear to be bite-sized pieces. Soups and stews for example, and even stir-fry vegetables may require a smaller cut than we’re otherwise used to.
- Eat at the table. Serving a meal on a tray so your loved one can enjoy it in their favorite chair may seem like an act of kindness, but many with PD have weakness or paralysis in the muscles involved in swallowing and digesting. Sitting fully upright in a kitchen or dining room chair straightens the pathway and makes swallowing much easier.
- Allow for focus on eating. It seems like anybody at a family dinner who’s not looking at a tiny screen in their hand is staring at a larger one across the room. With PD, however, the loss of motor function and control means that handling food, biting, chewing and swallowing may require a higher level of concentration. Eliminate the potential distractions you can and be considerate by not starting a complex conversation at the table.
Caring for someone with Parkinson’s Disease takes an immense amount of patience and energy and those who do it every day are heroes, for sure. It also requires continuous learning so that our caring routines can change with the condition of the one we love. It is part of our shared commitment to preserving the dignity and independence of people living with Parkinson’s Disease for as long as possible.
When Seniors Won’t Eat it’s time to do something
Now is a good time to take a look at other factors that might be interfering with your efforts to make sure your loved one is eating healthy.
There’s no question that selecting fresh, healthy ingredients is fundamental to senior nutrition. As Caregivers, we’re often called on to plan meals, prepare food, shop for groceries and sometimes serve meals to our senior loved ones. Besides making sure food and snacks are on hand and properly stored, we also may need to ensure items that become spoiled, stale or otherwise past their prime are promptly discarded.
But what if you’ve done everything the experts recommend and Mom or Dad just will not eat?
If you’ve already ruled out medical conditions or side effects from a prescribed medication, you might consider adjusting other parts of the food routine to see if it changes your results.
Start with timing. We all know that people are supposed to eat three meals each day at standardized times during the day. But an older person in your care – and particularly his or her metabolism – may not have received that message. It can be useful to serve the meals they want when your loved one is actually hungry for them. Even if vegetables aren’t your particular idea of a well-balanced breakfast, if that’s when your senior wants them, who are we to judge?
Adapt serving styles to their preferences. As we get older, our abilities for different tasks change in ways that are unique to each individual. If you suspect your elder may be uncomfortable with certain utensils, find a work-around. Serving soup in a coffee cup, for example, or cutting roast chicken into finger-friendly strips may be a solution.
Don’t be afraid to spice things up. Nobody likes to eat food that tastes like nothing. As we age, our sense of taste can change or diminish. Some families we serve have found success with adding extra herbs and spices to an older adult’s food, even if they previously didn’t care for stronger flavors. Just be conscious of salt intake and any other dietary restrictions.
It’s shameful how many senior citizens suffer from poor nutrition. Even more disturbing is that so many of our parents and grandparents are invisible to hunger statistics because they have access to appropriate amounts of food, but for one reason or another, aren’t consuming it. As Caregivers, we all take proper nutrition seriously and are always looking for ways to make healthy eating more enjoyable for those in our care.
Home Health Solutions Group in Miami, Florida, specializes in Senior and Elder Care. We have several programs that can be tailored to seniors with special needs, furthermore, our personnel is trained to offer services in several languages (English, Spanish, French, Creole and Russian)
Contact us today at 786-991-2300 or visit our website at homeeldercareflorida.com