Getting the right nutrients and maintaining a healthy weight can help a person stay active, independent, and happy. Plus, it also means less money and time spent at the doctor’s, especially if you have a chronic condition like type 2 diabetes or hypertension. But the definition of ‘healthy eating’ does change as a person gets older. For instance, as you age, your metabolism naturally slows down, so you need to eat less than before — and more of certain nutrients. So, it’s more crucial than ever to choose foods that provide the most nutritional value. Whether you’re taking care of your aging parents or volunteering to take care of patients under palliative health care and geriatric services, below are the different ways to manage the nutrition and food needs of the elderly.
Look for Important Nutrients
You need to ensure your aging loved one eats various foods to get all the nutrients they need. A typical healthy plate for a senior is rainbow—bright, as colored foods always seem to be the best choice. The best healthy and nutrient-rich foods include:
- Lean protein (chicken, seafood, eggs)
- Whole grains (brown rice or whole-wheat bread)
- Low-fat or non-fat dairy Fruits and vegetables
Follow Recommended Servings
To ensure the senior you’re caring for maintains a healthy weight, you need to give them the right amount of food they require, depending on their age and body. Although the calorie needs may differ, depending on a person’s age and activity level, the standard is 2,000 calories per day. In this total calorie count, particular foods have their recommended servings. For instance, for vegetables, whether they’re fresh, dried, or canned, the ideal servings are five per day, which can consist of a cup of raw spinach, 1/2 cup of carrot sticks, 1/2 cup of cooked beans, and 1/4 cup of vegetable juice.
Stock Up on Fiber
Fiber promotes a healthier digestive system, which is crucial for older individuals who are more prone to constipation and other digestive issues. So, make sure to stock up their meals with fiber. It can also help in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Excellent and natural fiber sources include fruits, vegetables, oats, whole grains, beans, lentils, and nuts. If your aging loved one struggles to consume enough fiber, their physician might recommend taking fiber supplements.
Consider Giving Them Supplements
If the senior in your life is having a hard time getting the nutrients they need in their diet since they may not be allowed to eat certain foods, ask their doctor if they can take supplements to make up for it. The most common nutrients that are poorly absorbed or not consumed enough by older individuals include calcium, vitamin D or B-12, and magnesium.
Help Them Stay Hydrated
Water is an essential nutrient in a person’s life, no matter their age. However, as you grow older, you may not notice when you’re thirsty. So, ensure you remind your aging loved ones to drink their water regularly. Help them reach the recommended amount of eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. You can also encourage them to drink tea, coffee, or juice, but limit it unless their physician has suggested otherwise.
Healthy eating is essential across one’s life, especially as you age. Following the tips mentioned can help you manage your aging parents, grandparents, or any senior’s nutrition and food needs, helping them become stronger and energized — allowing them to enjoy their golden with confidence.