The United States is a country with one of the least healthy diets on the planet. Currently, there are over 54 million seniors in the US who are in far greater need of proper nutrition.
Fortunately, it’s easier than you think to start building healthier eating habits, even in your golden years. Let’s talk about proper nutrition for seniors!
Risks of Improper Nutrition
Generally speaking, poor nutrition is a risk for anybody, as we are, quite literally, what we eat. Just to name a few examples, improper diet can lead to conditions such as:
- Type II diabetes
- Heart disease
- Blood clots
While these conditions, and many others like them, are concerning enough on their own, old age can intensify their severity or make them lethal.
Also, a very common issue for seniors is memory and cognitive decline, which can be heavily impacted by our diets. Consequently, it’s important to pay attention to these signs of memory issues and a need for memory care for seniors. Regardless of their situation, preventative care is always the key to success.
Proper Nutrition for Seniors
The human body is a lot like a car. If you put the wrong fuel in it, it won’t last as long or operate at its best. Here’s what you need to know about the type of fuel you or your senior loved one needs.
For your body to absorb and deliver its nutrients, and for your organs to operate correctly, hydration is essential. Drinking coffee, tea, and alcohol in moderation can be okay, but they are diuretics, meaning they will dehydrate you.
Water is the key here, especially first thing in the morning, before your coffee. After the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep for seniors, you’ve gone at least a third of a day without drinking any water.
For the average man, try to drink 15.5 cups of water a day, and for the average woman, try to drink 11.5 cups a day. It may sound like a lot, but it’s easy if you make it a habit and take larger sips throughout the day.
To fill your body with the right ruffage, helping you stay full, and allowing for regular digestion, eating enough fiber is essential. Our bodies can’t digest all of their nutrients without fiber, and it becomes more important in old age.
Eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains can certainly help increase fiber intake, but there are easier ways to increase fiber. Plenty of delicious cereals and snacks are loaded with fiber. Try popping some popcorn on the stove or in an air popper for a low-calorie, tasty, and fiber-packed snack!
Proteins, carbohydrates, and fats are the three macronutrients your body needs to survive, and they are not all equal. Proteins and carbs are 4 calories per gram, whereas fats are 9 calories per gram.
For the average person, you should aim for 15% to 20% of your calories from quality fats, 20% to 30% from proteins, and the rest from quality carbohydrates.
When we say “quality” fats, we mean fats from quality sources, including nuts, seeds, fish, and other healthy sources. Try to avoid excessive fats from fatty meats, oils, butter, and other low-quality sources.
For carbohydrates, since the majority of your calories are coming from these, you need to consume most of them from quality sources. The occasional sweet is not going to kill you, but the majority of your carbohydrates should be complex carbohydrates.
For this, we recommend eating fruits, sweet potatoes, root vegetables, brown rice, whole grain bread, and old-fashioned oats.
When it comes to protein, you can’t go wrong. Just try to avoid excess sugar, sodium, and fats when using them. Eating a wide variety of plant-based foods, lean meats, eggs, and low-fat dairy products will certainly help you consume enough protein.
Most importantly, you need to worry about your micronutritional intake, which includes your vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. While these nutrients won’t affect your calorie intake in the same way as macronutrients, they are just as important for your health.
For seniors, vitamins, calcium, and iron are some of the most important nutrients. If you’re concerned about any of them, you can take a supplement, but try to absorb them from whole foods first. Whole foods will have the enzymes necessary to help you properly digest these nutrients.
Try to consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to account for the majority of your micronutrient needs. The easiest way to do this is by adding more color to your plate, as these will reflect the nutritional value of each food.
Adding a soup or salad to your day is the easiest way to get a variety of colorful plants into your body, but don’t stop there. Fat-free milk or yogurt is a great way to help boost your calcium and iron intakes, along with plenty of other whole foods!
Eating the Right Amounts
No matter how good the foods you eat are, there will always be such things as too much or too little. If you’re eating enough fiber and whole foods, then we suggest eating until satiated and trying to avoid feeling too full after a meal.
If you want to start tracking calories (which isn’t always necessary), you can use a TDEE calculator to estimate your daily needs.
Try to eat slower during meals, snack less between them, and ensure that the majority of your calories are coming from whole foods. From there, try to track your weight, talk to your doctor, and adjust your diet accordingly.
Now that you know more about proper nutrition for seniors, it’s never too late to switch to healthier alternatives. Start small and work your way up. Even the small switch to whole grain bread will offer far more nutritional value!
Start today and stay up to date with our latest lifestyle tips for more advice!