Nutrition 101 for Seniors

seniors shopping healthy

By Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N.

Macronutrients

The fact is less active seniors need less calories or they may end up gaining weight as they age. Even though less calories are needed as we age, you need just as many nutrients. Therefore, choosing nutrient dense foods over calorie dense foods are warranted. For example, choosing skim milk over whole milk; choosing reduced fat cheese over full fat cheese; baking, grilling, or broiling meats rather than frying with lots of fat. Seniors should choose small portions of foods high in fat, sugar and sodium. Using spices to help flavor foods may be helpful since smell and taste are affected as we age. Protein needs don’t change as we age but some seniors tend to eat less meat. Choosing foods that are higher in dietary fiber will help prevent constipation. Beans are high in dietary fiber but also contain protein and lots of nutrients such as folate, manganese, potassium, iron, copper and magnesium. But when you eat more dietary fiber, you need to make sure you drink enough fluids as well. Adequate fluid intake for seniors is essential! The number one problem that typically sends seniors to the emergency room is dehydration. Water, juice, milk, coffee and tea contain fluids. In addition, high fluid foods like melons, berries, and grapes offer dietary fiber and also lots of nutrients.

Micronutrients

As we age, it is important that we eat more calcium to help prevent osteoporosis.  Including 2 to 4 servings of dairy products like vitamin D enriched milk, yogurt or cheese each day. If you can’t tolerate these foods, check with your doctor about appropriate nutritional supplements. Make sure these supplements contain a source of Vitamin D as well. Other nutrients that are important as we age are: iron, vitamin C, and zinc.  Iron and zinc are found in meats, eggs and seafood. Vitamin C rich foods include: citrus fruits, green and red peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries and potatoes.

Problems Facing Seniors

Eating alone can affect the amount and type of food you eat.  Loss of teeth or improper fitting dentures may affect your eating style as well. Affordable food is also an issue if you are on a fixed income. Drug therapy can also affect your taste & your appetite. Depression can either decrease your food intake or increase your intake. Gas and heartburn become an issue as we get older. Overeating, avoiding fatty foods, alcohol & carbonated beverages may help to relieve heartburn problems. In addition, eating slowly, chewing food thoroughly, & eating smaller more frequent meals may help.

Senior Nutritional Tip Sheet

  • Eat breakfast every day.
  • Drink plenty of water or water based fluids & high fluid foods.
  • Select high fiber foods like whole grain breads & cereals, beans, & brightly colored fruits and vegetables.
  • If poor appetite is a problem, eating smaller more frequent mini-meals may be helpful.

 

Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N., is a registered dietitian with a Master’s Degree in clinical nutrition.  The former publisher of Kentuckiana HealthFitness Magazine, Kentuckiana Healthy Woman magazine and radio show host of Health News You Can Use, Barbara has over 30 years of experience in promoting healthy lifestyles to consumers.  Barbara worked as Nutrition Consultant to the Navy SEALs (8 years) and the University of Louisville Athletic Department (10 years). Barbara has private practice, DayByDay Nutrition, www.DayByDayNutrition.com, where she counsels clients on weight loss, cholesterol management, performance nutrition and an array of other medical issues.  Visit Barbara’s new website which is an on-line health & wellness magazine, www.KentuckianaHealthWellness.com. Barbara writes nutrition and health columns for www.LiveStrong.com as well as a weekly nutrition column for the Southeast Outlook. She also designs and presents employee wellness programs to small and large businesses. Barbara is a runner, cyclist, hiker and a mother and grandmother to 13 grandchildren.    

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