Eating well is an important part of aging well. Good nutrition not only keeps your mind and body healthy, it also impacts quality of life and longevity. It’s not just about living longer, it’s also about living better. Seniors face new challenges due to their changing nutritional needs. Additionally, with age comes the management of common chronic illnesses with their own nutritional challenges. How can health-conscious older adults achieve optimal nutrition despite common barriers?
1) Maintain a healthy weight through nutrition and physical activity
Physical activity plays an important role in maintaining muscle mass, which can be gradually lost with age. Maintaining a healthy weight includes both avoiding excessive and unwanted weight gain as well as unintentional weight loss. Both of these concerns come with challenges. Maintaining a regular eating routine can help you stay on track to getting enough calories and protein.
2) Maximize your appetite
Some older people find it difficult to reduce their appetite and feel full easily. Ensuring good nutrition despite these problems may require adjusting one’s eating habits. For example, those who are hungriest early in the day and whose appetite wanes in the afternoon and evening may do better with a heartier breakfast and lunch and a lighter dinner. Those with small appetites may benefit from eating small, healthy meals and snacks more frequently.
3) Focus on balanced meals
Although there are many fad diets touted for their health and weight management benefits, seniors need balanced meals that contain lean protein, fiber-rich carbs, plenty of vegetables, and healthy fats. . Unless a special diet is recommended to you by your health care provider, it’s always best to avoid restrictive diets that eliminate food groups.
4) Take advantage of technology and resources
There’s no doubt that grocery shopping, meal prep and cleaning can be a lot of work. The good news is that there are services to help lighten the load. From Instacart to AmazonFresh and many more, there are a variety of convenient and cost-effective grocery delivery and pickup options available. For those who also want to outsource the cooking, meal delivery services such as Silver Cuisine, Mom’s Meals, and Meals on Wheels offer pre-prepared meals that accommodate various special diets.
5) Incorporate anti-inflammatory foods
A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can play an important role in healthy aging. Inflammation is a concern associated with many chronic diseases, including arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and heart disease. Some examples of anti-inflammatory foods include oily fish, nuts, leafy green vegetables, walnuts, extra virgin olive oil, tomatoes, and colorful fruits and berries.
6) Ask for personalized nutritional advice
Many nutrition-related problems are potentially more prevalent with age, including changes in taste and smell, changes in appetite and thirst, dental problems, mental health problems, chronic illnesses and nutrient deficiencies. Talk to your healthcare provider about these concerns. It may be beneficial to meet with a registered dietitian who specializes in nutrition for seniors and who can create an individualized plan to ensure you optimize your nutritional intake and address dietary issues.
LeeAnn Weintraub, MPH, RD is a Registered Dietitian who provides nutrition advice and consultation to individuals, families and organizations. She can be contacted by email at RD@halfacup.com.