Nutrition for Older Adults
Table of Contents
The aging process progresses at different rates among individuals because of overall health, lifestyle, and genetic tendencies. However, nutritional status remains consistently important. Good nutrition throughout life is vital because it:
- Improves quality of life
- Supports immune function
- Helps the body resist infection
- Encourages faster healing from surgery or other wounds
- Maintains strong bones and muscle
- Increases energy level
- Contributes to improved outcomes from medical treatments
- May shorten the length of hospitalizations
Guidelines for good nutrition that include eating a variety of foods each day have been established by experts. The amounts of food may vary depending on calorie and protein needs,and occasional modifications may need to be made based on medical conditions, special dietary restrictions, and physician recommendations.
- Water or other non-alcoholic liquids each day to help prevent dehydration and constipation. Fruit juice, milk, tea, or coffee all count towards this goal. Seniors generally have a decreased thirst response, so they might not always seem to be thirsty when they actually need to drink.
- Bread, fortified or enriched cereal, rice or pasta. Choosing nutrient-rich whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat pastas, and bran cereals add fiber and improve the quality of the diet.
- Fruits fruits or vegetables. Brightly colored foods (dark green, yellow, orange, or red) are typically higher in nutrients and good sources of fiber.
- Lean Meat, lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, peanut butter, or dried beans. These foods are necessary for protein.
- Dairy products. These foods add prtoein to the diet and provide calcium and vitamin D to help maintain bone health.
Older adults should consume 1500-2400 mg of sodium daily, but frequently they need to restrict sodium/salt intake because of a
medical condition. If so, the following suggestions may be helpful:
- Select fresh, frozen, or unsalted canned vegetables.
- Use fresh, frozen, or canned fruits. They are naturally low in sodium.
- Eat fresh (rather than processed) meats such as poultry, beef, fish, and pork. Check the labels of canned and frozen fish for added salt.
- Limit high sodium items such as canned soups, bacon, sausage, ham, luncheon meats, salted snack items, frozen meals, and many fast food and restaurant meals.
- Avoid high sodium seasonings (salt, seasoning salt, lemon pepper, bouillon, soy sauce, meat tenderizer). Instead, season with herbs, low sodium seasonings, fresh onion, and fresh garlic.
- Low sodium salt substitutes (“Nu-Salt” and “No Sal”) are high in potassium. Be sure to ask the healthcare provider if it is advisable to use these products.