Though eating right seems like common sense, there’s a great deal of misinformation floating around about what to eat and what not to eat. And especially when it comes to our aging loved one’s health, diet is a primary concern. Gluten, protein, high fructose corn syrup, and all those other buzzwords that warn us of terrible consequences for eating this or that become a great burden on those caring for the elderly. Fortunately, there are some great resources out there for science-based nutrition for all including those we care for.
One of the first places to stop for information is Nutrition.gov. There you will find great information including a section for older adults with information on subjects ranging from exercise to choosing healthier beverages. A related but a separate site is ChooseMyPlate.gov (hosted by the USDA) where you can get specific nutrition suggestions for your loved one and suggestions for healthy eating. ChooseMyPlate.gov also has healthy recipes under the “Popular Topics” tab in addition to an extensive page about eating right on a budget. Eatright.org, a product of a consortium of food and nutrition professionals, also has great information on their website with articles ranging from Kidney disease to healthy aging tips.
As far as specific rules go, seniors in particular need a diet low in saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. Sodas and junk food in particular should be minimized. ChooseMyPlate.gov also suggests flavoring food with herbs and spices rather than salt to keep sodium levels in check. Be sure to check labels of foods for nutritional content as some seemingly healthy foods may have a significant amount of added sugars or sodium. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of healthy aging is physical activity in addition to proper dieting. With a doctor’s approval, daily exercise should be a focal point for a caretaker’s duties in caring for the aging.
However, though there is a lot of information on the internet, it may be best to see a Registered Dietician or Nutritionist. These professionals go through rigorous training and certifications based in science-backed research. They can help you cut through all of the myths and tailor a diet specifically to you or your loved one’s individual need. Some insurance may cover a dietician’s visit so ask your doctor for a referral. It may be difficult to change old habits, but small changes in your senior’s diet and activity regiment is a great way to help him or her live a healthy and happy lifestyle.