Elderly Health
Healthy Nutrition for Older Persons
 

Overview:

As people age, their bodies change, and so do their lifestyles. Such changes do not only affect their daily life but also their health, medications, sense of comfort, food taste and exercise.
Healthy body weight:
As people age, there occur certain changes to the structure of their bodies. Most notably, a loss of muscle mass takes place. Older persons may need to reduce the intake of calories, to avoid gaining weight. Since maintaining healthy body weight is essential, it is advisable to discuss the healthy weight with your doctor. Overweight and obesity are worrying; since they increase the risk of heart diseases, high blood pressure (hypertension), type 2 diabetes and bone (orthopedic) problems. There are two methods through which a healthy weight can be determined:
  • Body mass index (BMI): is a value calculated by dividing the person’s mass (weight) to his or her height. For adults, normal BMI is 18.5 - 24.9.
  • Waist circumference: a waist circumference that is above 35 inches, for women, or 40 inches, for men, indicates a high risk of several health problems.
Healthy nutrition:
As people age, they need fewer calories, along with an adequate intake of several nutrients. Older persons are advised to have foods that are rich in nutrients, such as:
  • Fruits and vegetables—pick a synthesis of colorful and lively fruits and vegetables;
  • Whole grains (e.g. oat flour, whole-grain bread, brown rice);
  • Skimmed or semi-skimmed milk and cheese, or soymilk, and rice supported with vitamin D and calcium;
  • Seafood, poultry, and eggs;
  • Beans and nuts.
As for the high-carb foods and beverages, the consumption of them should be limited. They include:
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages and candies;
  • Fatty and greasy foods;
  • White bread, rice, and macaroni made of processed flour.
How to adopt a healthy diet
Control the portion size— which means specifying portion and limiting it to a single-serve meal. Most people eat more than they need, especially when eating outside. To avoid this, you need to:
  • Read the labels on packages of foods or beverages, to find out the number of calories and the amount of fat in each item;
  • Avoid eating while watching TV or using the computer.
You may also consider having healthy, well-planned meals, by following the instructions below:
  • Cook your meals by yourself;
  • Keep the frozen or processed vegetables available, as well as beans and fruits, so that you have fast and healthy snacks; 
  • Wash processed foods, to eliminate salt; 
  • Share your meals with someone you enjoy their company; 
  • Discuss the healthy diet plans with a nutritionist.
Factors that may affect the older person’s ability to eat:
  • Oral and dental pain
  • Loss of some or all teeth
  • Living on their own
  • Some diseases
When to see a doctor?
  • Difficulty chewing, loss of appetite, or problems with the denture;
  • Depression discouraging the older person from eating, caused by the death of a loved one, having to leave home, etc;
  • Medications that affect the food taste, or appetite.
Recommendations: 
  • Vitamin B12: At the age of +50, pick the foods rich in Vitamin B12 (e.g. grains supported with it, or supplements). This vitamin helps improve blood circulation and protect the nervous system.
  • Vitamin D: At the age of +70, you need a daily intake of 800 IU of Vitamin D. As for those under 70, they need a daily intake of 600 IU. The natural sources of Vitamin D include sunlight, salmon fish, and foods supported with Vitamin D (e.g. grains, dairy products and orange juice). Vitamin D helps protect from osteoporosis, and reduce the risk of fractures.
  • Too much sodium (in salt) may trigger hypertension. Therefore, the people aged 51 years old, or more, should reduce the intake of salt to less than 1500 mg (about two-thirds of a small spoon) a day, by following the instructions below:
  • Read the nutritional information, to find out the amount of sodium content;
  • Limit the consumption of processed food;
  • Limit salt in the food your cook or eat;
  • Pick the foods with limited sodium content;
  • Make sure to have your breakfast;
  • Don’t drop meals; since this makes the older adult hungrier later;
  • Choose the foods rich in fiber (e.g. whole grains, whole-grain bread, fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes);
  • Drink adequate quantities of fluid throughout the day;
  • When cooking, replace butter and salt with lemon, herbs and spices;
  • Limit the consumption of fat, especially saturated fat, mainly found in animal foods. Unsaturated fat is found in cakes, cookies, and margarine. Both saturated and unsaturated fat increases the level of blood cholesterol;
  • When eating outside, pick the dishes they contain non-greasy meat, little or light-cheese, and salads; Choose the baked, grilled, steamed or boiled foods instead of fried foods.  


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