Healthy eating for the elderly

For older adults, the benefits of adopting a healthy diet include increased mental acuteness, resistance to illness and disease, higher energy levels, faster recuperation times, and better management of chronic health problems. As we age, eating well can also be the key to a positive outlook and staying emotionally balanced. But healthy eating doesn’t have to be about dieting and sacrifice.

No matter your age or your previous eating habits, it’s never too late to change your diet and improve the way you think and feel. When you choose a variety of colourful fruits and veggies, whole grains, and quality proteins you’ll feel vibrant and healthy, inside and out. Improving your diet now can help you:

Prepare meals rich in these nutrients

  • Omega 3 fatty acids
    The acids have been proven to reduce inflammation, which can cause heart disease, cancer and arthritis. They can be found in flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, walnuts, canola oil, and different types of fish. Your older relative should have foods rich in this nutrient twice per week. If this is impossible, check with their doctor to see if an Omega 3 supplement would be beneficial.
  • Calcium
    The need for calcium increases as people age. This is primarily to preserve bone health. One added benefit of calcium is that it helps to lower blood pressure.The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults over the age of 50 get at least 1200 milligrams per day of calcium – equal to about four cups of fortified orange juice, dairy milk, or fortified non-dairy milks such as almond or soy. Leafy greens like kale and cabbage are also great sources of absorbable calcium.
  • Limit sodium content
    For those with hypertension (high blood pressure) one of the most important things caregivers can do to help reduce a loved one’s hypertension is to prepare foods that are low in sodium. Most people are surprised to find out that added table salt accounts for only a small percent of sodium content in food. Frozen, processed and restaurant foods are typically extremely high in sodium, and should be avoided or only be a very small part of the diet. Fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, dry beans, unsalted nuts and and grains like brown rice and oats are all foods that are naturally low in sodium, so try and incorporate them as much as possible in their diet.
  • Hydrate
    As people age, they do not get thirsty very often, even though their bodies still need the same amount of liquids. If you notice that your loved one is not drinking liquids very often, make sure that you provide them with it. If they do not feel thirsty, chances are they may not think about drinking a glass of water.
  • If you are concerned that your loved one may not be properly hydrated, check his or her urine. Urine is the surest sign of hydration or lack of it. If their urine is clear and light, then they are most likely properly hydrated. If, however, their urine is dark and/or cloudy, they will need to start drinking more liquids.
  • Incorporate changes gradually
    Older people are usually skeptical of change. They need to make small changes gradually. As the caregiver, you should reinforce this and make sure that your loved one is incorporating the new foods into their diet.
  • For example, if your parent is diabetic and needs to adjust their carbohydrate intake consistency, incorporate oatmeal as breakfast once or twice per week. As they get used to it, oatmeal can be added to three to four times per week. If your parent normally eats white bread, give them a brown bread sandwich a couple times per week, and gradually increase it so that white bread is completely cut out of their diet.
  • Set an example
    When an older adult has to change their diet for health reasons, they can feel singled out.  Eating is a social activity and it is important to eat meals with your loved one. It is equally important that when you eat with them, you eat the same foods as them. When sitting down for a family meal, don’t make a special meal for your aging loved one and something different for everybody else. By eating with them and eating the same foods as them, the dietary changes being made won’t seem so drastic.

For further articles and for all queries relating to Home Care services in the greater Dublin area please contact us at www.kareplan.ie or call us on 01 8511411.