The Importance of a Healthy Diet for Seniors
A healthy diet for seniors is essential for living life to the fullest. Seniors have slightly different nutritional needs than younger people, but many dietary habits — like avoiding too many fried foods and eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables — remain the same. Many seniors are at risk for vitamin B, vitamin C, and some mineral deficiencies, and others must tailor their eating patterns to age-related health conditions.
Following a healthy diet may allow older adults to experience less frequent viral illnesses, enjoy an active lifestyle, and protect their memory throughout their golden years. Good nutrition can also go a long way to preventing health conditions such as heart attacks, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. This is incredibly important as seniors are at higher risk of health complications than younger people. Your chance of stroke, for example, dramatically increases as you age.
Proper nutrition may also help stave off normal aging complaints, such as fatigue, decreased stamina, and mild memory loss. Consider the following information when creating a dietary plan that’s right for you.
The Importance of a Balanced Diet
Why is nutrition important? According to The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, good nutrition for seniors can help prevent chronic conditions, decrease age-related problems like bone loss, and replenish the body’s vitamins, minerals, and protein stores that have been depleted by long-term medications.
A balanced diet will contain the following building blocks:
- Protein: Protein is an essential macronutrient that helps prevent muscle loss, speeds up the healing of wounds, and aids in cognition. Experts advise that you aim for around 50 grams of protein per day if you weigh 140 pounds and 70 grams per day if you weigh around 200 pounds.
- Carbohydrates: Whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and other healthy sources of carbohydrates are important for energy and blood sugar control. If you have diabetes or a condition that affects your blood sugar, you should speak to your doctor to determine the type of carbs you should be eating (and how often you should eat these items).
- Healthy fats: These may include healthy oils, avocados, nuts, and other sources of nonanimal fats. Saturated fat, which typically comes from animals, can increase cholesterol and contribute to heart disease. Most coronary experts maintain that you should limit saturated fat to 7%-10% of your daily calories.
- Plant-based foods: Nutritionists agree that around half of your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables regardless of your dietary plan.
- Water: Drinking water is an essential part of a healthy diet for seniors as this liquid helps power nearly every body function. Older adults tend not to feel thirsty as often as younger adults, so watching fluid intake is important.
Aside from the actual foods and drinks you’ll be consuming, it’s important to pay attention to how much you’re eating — and how often. Portion control is crucial for maintaining a healthy weight and stabilizing blood sugar. You don’t have to give up on everything you like, though. Sometimes making small changes can lead to dramatic results in your health. Consider switching from sugary snacks to fresh fruit, sub whole milk in your coffee with low-fat or plant-based milk products, for example.
The Impact of a Healthy Diet on Overall Health
While food isn’t a cure-all for aging-related issues or chronic illnesses, the importance of nutrition can’t be understated. The foods you eat, for example, can help you live a healthy, involved life — or they can work against you to foster tiredness, illness, and poor cognition. Here are a few ways that your diet can boost your overall health:
- Improve cognition: A diet high in anti-inflammatory nutrients can help your brain stay healthy. Fish and seafood that contain DHA, a compound in fatty fish that helps with cognitive health, can help decrease the risk of developing dementia in older adults.
- Boost energy: Eating the right types of food can help you feel better overall and give you more energy. Try sticking with unprocessed, whole foods and talk to your doctor about the right balance of macronutrients if you’re unsure what to eat and when.
- Prevent or help with chronic disease: Nutrition is a lifelong endeavor, but you can start eating healthier anytime. Nutrition can slow the progress of several chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and certain types of cancer. A healthy diet can also lower your risk of developing other chronic diseases.
Overcoming Common Barriers to Healthy Eating
Putting the principles of healthy eating into action is simple for those living in retirement communities. Residents have a variety of options in the onsite restaurants and rotating menus to keep things fresh. Depending on your location, there are also plant-forward menus and options that fit nicely into a Mediterranean diet plan.
If you live alone or with family, brainstorm a few ways to increase your diet’s nutrition before buying that next load of groceries.
Common Barriers to Healthy Eating
Financial difficulties can make it challenging to eat a healthy diet. To save money, seniors on a fixed income may buy less expensive — and less healthy — foods. Fortunately, healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive. Sticking to fresh foods, fruits and vegetables, and inexpensive proteins like beans and nut butter can be a great start.
Lack of appetite can be another obstacle to implementing a healthy diet. Even if you want to eat well, your body may not prompt you to do so. It’s normal for your metabolism to slow down in your golden years, but frequent loss of appetite is a cause for concern. If it’s OK with your doctor, consider increasing your exercise or switching to a different type of exercise to boost your metabolism.
Living in a retirement community can remove the barriers of budgeting for food and planning meals, as food is included in your monthly rent, so no need to go grocery shopping or worry about what healthy dishes to make. If you are unwell or frequently don’t feel hungry enough to eat, a social environment may help you realize this more quickly than you would at home.
Finding Affordable, Healthy Options
It can be difficult to know how to start eating better. Here are a few options to get you started:
- Cook for yourself: If you’re interested in cooking but are out of practice or have never done so, consider taking a cooking class, watching cooking videos online to get ideas, or simply trying a new recipe.
- Have meals delivered: Subscribe to a meal delivery service that creates meals based on a healthy eating plan.
- Research food assistance programs: If you’re concerned about affording a healthy diet, you may qualify for a food assistance program regardless of your income.
- Choose a high-quality retirement community: The nutritious menus carefully planned and executed by the community’s culinary team take the stress out of planning and cooking multiple meals a day. You may notice a boost in your overall health and a renewed ability to commit to a healthy eating plan in a communal environment.
Learn More About a Healthy Diet for Seniors
Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the best ways to care for your health as you grow older — but it isn’t the only facet of healthy aging for seniors. If you plan to join a retirement community, you’ll gain access to a group of people who can help you live your golden years to the fullest.
Research has shown that communal living environments provide residents with many social, emotional, and nutritional benefits. Get in touch with Senior Resource Group to learn more about your options for your next home and start planning the next phase of your life as soon as today.