Home Care Elder Eats: Nutritional Tips for Seniors

Seniors that are home bound or receiving in-home care services often have special nutritional needs.  Home Care services can help ensure you or your loved one nutritional needs are met.  Proper nutrition has a plethora of benefits, including increased energy, a healthy cardiovascular system, weight loss, maintenance or (better yet) prevention of undesirable conditions like diabetes, even clear skin. Eating right and avoiding harmful foods are important for people of any age. As individuals pass the half-century mark, however, good nutrition sense becomes even more vital and should reflect the changes that are a natural part of the aging process.

What Happens When People Age

The reasons baby boomers’ bodies are not the same as those of their younger counterparts are varied. Those reasons play a role in the fact that 3.7 million seniors suffer from malnutrition, and emphasize the necessity of making older people and those who care for and live with them to be better aware of proper nutrition and diet.

While the changes to an aging person’s physical makeup are wide-ranging, there are several that most directly impact eating habits. Those that seniors should pay special attention to include:

.   Sensory. Hearing, vision, and even smell and taste change. As people age, the number of taste buds decreases, and as a result, food often has a bitter or sour taste. Visual changes also can play a role; reduced vision means someone might be less interested in eating food they have difficulty seeing. In the same vein, the loss of hearing that so often accompanies aging makes dinnertime conversation less comprehensible and diminishes the pleasure of eating. And as anyone who has a cold knows, when a person cannot smell, food does not taste the same. Older folks whose olfactory sense is not what it used to be may find food less enjoyable, and may avoid eats that are more beneficial in favor of what tastes good to them.

.   Physiological. As people enter their golden years, body systems change. Metabolism slows down, and because elders need fewer calories to function, they may develop a tendency to gain weight, especially if they become less active. On the flip side, many seniors unintentionally lose weight. While this may occur because of illness or medication side effects, no cause can be found for 1 in 4 golden-agers who have involuntarily shed pounds. What’s more, an altered body shape, nervous system changes, and reduced kidney function all have an effect on nutritional requirements.

.   Health. Digestive issues like gas, constipation, gastritis that does not go away, and a stomach that takes longer to empty can put a damper on healthy eating, and the sufferer often avoids essential fruits and vegetables. In addition, changes in the condition of teeth and dentures (particularly if they do not fit well) reduce the desire and ability to eat some kinds of foods. Age-related conditions, such as osteoporosis, collagenous colitis (which is more prevalent in women over 50), and osteoarthritis, come with a whole set of nutritional needs and challenges.

Nutrition Tips for Seniors

The above changes in the over-50 crowd’s physical makeup may make eating properly more difficult, but the following recommendations can make the golden years healthy ones.

.   Eschew fat. Crying fowl has its benefits: chicken and turkey are lower in fat and packed with protein and B vitamins. People who find skinless cuts and ground chicken and turkey too dry for their tastes might try cooking cutlets in water, topped with favorite spices or honey on the stovetop, for a half-hour. Mixing grated zucchini with ground meat and then forming them into patties makes a moist and flavorful burger. Also avoid high-fat dairy products and butter, which can also boost cholesterol levels–something which everyone should be on the lookout for and is especially pertinent for golden-agers.  However, there are some fatty foods that belong on the menu, including oily fish like sardines, salmon, and trout, and avocadoes. High levels of omega-3s keep tickers healthy.

.   Add protein. People lose muscle mass and experience a decline in energy levels as they age. Protein goes a long way toward fixing these problems. One serving of salmon contains 11 grams of protein, and sardines weigh in at a healthy 17 grams, 22 percent and 34 percent of the daily requirement, respectively. Those who prefer to avoid animal products can see the same results from chickpeas, oatmeal, tofu, spinach, nut butters, almonds, and a host of other goodies.

.   Fiber up. Fiber is important in so many ways. It can keep blood cholesterol and blood sugar at an even keel. One study showed that patients who consumed five or more helpings of fiber-rich nuts a week cut their risk for heart attack in half. Fiber makes people feel full, so they are less likely to overeat and gain weight. What’s more, it staves off constipation. Fiber is found in a variety of foods, including whole grain breads, cereal, and pasta; fruits and vegetables (especially unpeeled); beans, peas, and lentils; and nuts. It’s a good idea to add fiber gradually to prevent gas, and drink lots of fluids to keep fiber moving through the digestive system.

.   Be colorful. Fill that shopping cart with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Each color provides different health benefits. Red peppers are higher in vitamin C than green ones, and even contain more of the nutrient than oranges. Tomatoes, romaine lettuce, and kale contain healthy amounts of eye- and heart-protective lutein. Some veggies are protein powerhouses; these include broccoli, asparagus, green peas, and green beans. Artichokes are high in fiber. If fresh produce is unavailable or too time-consuming to prepare, frozen fruits and vegetables pack the same nutritional punch. Canned varieties are also good, but check labels to make sure they do not contain added salt or sweeteners.

.   Read labels. Anyone with a health condition affected by certain ingredients or food allergies knows to check the label. Seniors, for example, should have no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day. Salt, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats,  and other undesirables are often added to packaged foodstuffs. To ward off weight gain, diabetes, heart issues, high blood pressure, and poor digestion, forego anything containing these ingredients. Become a tea-totaller: replace drinks laden with sugar, corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners with herbal tea. If something sweet is desired, try maple syrup; it has a pleasing flavor and contains a trace of calcium.

Following these simple guidelines will insure that those golden years are truly golden, full of vitality, improved health, optimism, and well-being. Enjoy the journey.  Your Home Care experts at Already HomeCare can help answer questions you have regarding nutritional needs.  Contact us today at 843-371-1419!

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