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Healthy Eating and the Elderly

Healthy Eating and the Elderly

New Age Care News

Healthy Eating and the Elderly

Eating a healthy and balanced diet is more important than ever as we age. As we get older our nutritional requirements change as do our appetite, eating habits and level of physical activity. Disease and illness can also affect what an older person needs to eat to stay healthy.

A healthy diet should include a wide variety of foods and the below information is provided as a guide to healthy eating as you age. However, everyone is different and your lifestyle and health will impact your nutritional needs. If you are unsure about what, and how much you should be eating, it’s best to chat to your Doctor or a health professional.

 

Healthy Eating Guide

Fruit and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables contain a large range of vitamins, minerals and fibre. A variety of fruit and vegetables should form part of any healthy eating plan. Aim for 5 or more portions of different coloured fruits and vegetables each day. A portion size is roughly what will fit in the palm of your hand.

Starchy foods
(e.g., potatoes, bread, pasta and rice)

Starchy foods are your main source of carbohydrate. These provide energy and a variety of nutrients such a starch, iron, calcium and B vitamins. Wholegrain varieties are better for you, so try to eat brown rice, wholegrain bread & pasta. The fibre in starchy foods can also help with constipation.

Protein foods
(e.g., pulses & beans, fish, meat and eggs)

These foods should be eaten in some form every day, and are a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals. They are especially great for maintaining and repairing your body after injury.

Fish is a fantastic source of protein. Try to eat it twice a week and use oily fish such as salmon, mackerel or sardines, for one of those meals. Oily fish is high in omega 3 fats which help reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Dairy and dairy alternatives
(e.g., Milk, yoghurt and cheese)

Dairy foods are a good source of calcium, which helps maintain strong bones, as well as protein and vitamins. Some dairy such as cheese, butter and cream are high in fat so eat these in moderation. Lower fat versions are healthier so choose semi-skimmed or lower fat where possible.

Oils & spreads

These foods provide essential fatty acids that the body can’t produce and are also good for energy but should be eaten in moderation. Eating too much saturated fat can lead to weight gain which in turn increases your risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

Fluids

As well as eating healthy, it is also very important for the elderly to consume plenty of fluids to help them stay healthy and hydrated. While there is no prescribed daily fluid intake for the elderly, the 2 litres per day recommended for healthy adults, is a good aim. For tips on staying hydrated, check out our previous blog:

The importance of regular fluid intake

Snacking

Snacking between meals can help to stabilise blood sugar levels and can also help when appetite is reduced, which often happens with age. For tips and ideas on snacking, check out our previous blog:

Healthy snack ideas for the elderly

 

Food considerations

When deciding on food choices for an elderly person you should always consider their health needs, eating ability and taste.

Health Needs

An elderly person’s health needs should be a key factor in the food you provide them. If they are deficient in certain vitamins or minerals then look to boost this through the foods they eat. For example, if they are low in vitamin B, citrus fruits are a good option, or if they are low in calcium then cheese might be good. Older people can also have low vitamin D so consider foods high in vitamin D such as salmon and tuna.

Eating Ability

Many older people may also have a physical or medical condition that affects their ability to eat certain foods. For example, raw fruit and vegetables can be a great but if a person is unable to chew hard food, then look at ways to soften the food or find an alternative.

Taste

An older person’s appetite can often be reduced, so it’s important to provide meals that they actually enjoy or they won’t be inspired to eat it. Ask them what foods they like eating and look at providing these where possible. If their favourite food is unhealthy try to come up with a healthy alternative.

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