Throughout our lives, eating a proper diet is essential for helping us stay healthy, active, and at an ideal weight. For seniors, eating healthy is even more important due to all the great benefits a good diet brings, like building stronger bones and teeth, aiding in digestion issues, building cognitive function, and keeping all systems of the body functioning as they should.
However, our eating habits and nutritional needs do tend to change as we grow older. Seniors need the proper nutrients possibly more than any other age group in order to maintain their health and feel better overall. Proper senior nutrition can help decrease the risk for issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.
Senior Nutrition: Debunking the Myths
That said, there are certain myths surrounding senior nutrition. Here are just a few of the most common ones, as well as some healthy eating tips for seniors to ensure your loved one is getting the nutrition that is so vital to quality of life:
As long as seniors are eating something, they’ll stay healthy. In seniors’ cases, eating anything at all is not necessarily better than eating nothing at all. Many older people find that cooking a meal gets too difficult or time-consuming, and will reach for prepacked snacks or frozen dinners. However, these types of foods are usually high in sodium and fats and can lead to health complications- even malnutrition!
All seniors will inevitably lose their appetites. It’s true that our metabolisms slow down as we get older and we’ll need less calories. However, when seniors lose their appetites altogether it’s usually a sign of a more serious health problem.
Seniors who are already at a healthy weight can eat whatever they want. It seems like we all know that one person who can eat whatever he or she wants without gaining a pound. However, just because they’re at what appears to be a healthy weight doesn’t necessarily mean that they are healthy. Eating excessive amounts of sugar or fatty foods can lead to complications like diabetes or heart disease.
Eating alone isn’t a problem for seniors. Studies have shown that a senior will eat better and more with others. Seniors are prone to depression, often stemming from loneliness, and are less inclined to cook a healthy meal just for one person. One of the main benefits of an assisted living community is the dining experience they offer to residents, with healthy, delicious meals eaten in a social setting.
Skipping meals is no big deal. When seniors don’t feel as hungry as they used to, they might think that skipping a meal here and there is just fine. However, this can lead to overeating when they do sit down to eat and can actually further decrease their appetites altogether.
Following general nutrition guidelines is all a senior needs to do to stay healthy. Our needs do change as we age, so food that is good for someone in their 30s may not have the same dietary requirements someone in their 70s needs. Seniors need additional vitamins and nutrients, like calcium and vitamin D for better bone health. Plus, some types of food may present adverse reactions to medications seniors are taking.
It’s important to pay attention to your elderly loved one’s eating habits. If you notice extreme weight loss or gain, talk to their doctor to see if any changes are needed to keep them healthy, happy and improve their overall quality of life.