Posted on Jun 03, 2015
Good nutrition is important at every stage of life, but especially as we age. For seniors, the benefits of good nutrition are many: reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, bone loss and some forms of cancer, plus better control over conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels. And when they eat better, they feel better, have sharper mental faculties, recover from injury or illness a bit faster, and in general, have a better outlook on life.
Amazingly, in a country like ours with such abundant food resources, approximately 3.7 million seniors suffer from some form of malnutrition. While severe malnutrition is rare, many seniors suffer from more subtle symptoms like loss of appetite, unintentional weight loss, fatigue, depression, poor memory, loss of physical strength, anemia, and a weakened immune system. Sometimes a life-changing event such as the loss of a spouse or family member is the trigger, other times it may be financial concerns or fear of going shopping alone that causes eating habits to degrade.
Good Health Through Good Nutrition
Good nutrition is vitally important for long-lasting health and well-being. Help your loved one modify their current eating habits to include healthier food choices:
• Fruits – choose whole fruits instead of juices. Whole fruits contain more fiber than processed fruits, and are usually lower in calories. Aim for 1 ½ - 2 servings per day.
• Vegetables – Go for veggies that are rich in color… dark leafy greens like kale, spinach and broccoli or bright yellow and orange veggies like carrots, squash, and yams. Eat at least 2- ½ cups each day.
• Calcium – Critically important as people age to prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures. Get your daily minimums of calcium through milk, yogurt or cheese or non-dairy sources such as tofu, broccoli, almonds and kale.
• Grains – Choose whole grains over processed white flour for more nutrients and more fiber. Strive for 6-7 ounces per day.
• Protein – The most obvious choice is red meat, but there are other sources of protein that are just as good, and in some cases, are more budget-friendly. Include fish, chicken, beans, peas, eggs, nuts, seeds and low-fat milk or cheese in your daily diet. Try to eat 5-7 ounces of good quality protein per day.
And of course, remind them to drink plenty of water to aid in digestion, and make sure they include sources of vitamin B and vitamin D in their daily intake.
Fiber Is Your Friend
There is always a lot of conversation about eating more fiber. Besides the obvious reason, why should sources of fiber be part of a healthy diet? For starters, eating at least 21 grams of fiber/day (women) or 30 grams/day (men) can help lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, as well as boosting the immune system and weight loss. But fiber doesn’t only come from grain. Excellent sources of fiber include: beans, nuts, carrots, celery, tomatoes, apples, berries, citrus fruits and pears.
Make Good Nutrition Easier – And More Fun!
Loneliness and depression can have a significant impact on healthy eating. For some, it results in overeating and poor food choices. For others, it manifests itself as loss of appetite. Either way, there are steps you and your loved one can take to improve their overall nutrition plan:
• Share meals with others – it’s always more enjoyable to eat with friends or family. The social nature of a shared meal gives them something to look forward to and helps them make good, healthy food choices.
• Investigate grocery store home delivery services – If your loved one is unable to go or uncomfortable going to the grocery store each week, Lehigh Valley grocery chains such as Weis Market and Giant offer home delivery services. Simply make a shopping list, call in or enter the grocery order online, and it will be delivered to their home.
• Sign up for Meals On Wheels – This valuable community service delivers healthy, ready-to-eat meals for seniors throughout the Lehigh Valley. To take advantage of this program, call 610-398-2563 In Lehigh County; call 610-691-1030 in Northampton County.
• Hire a homemaker or caregiver to help with shopping and meal prep – Senior Helpers of the Lehigh Valley offers a full range of customizable daily companion care options, including transportation and grocery shopping. Our senior care experts can create a care plan that will keep your senior loved one eating healthy and nutritious meals. Call us at 610-770-2036 for more details.