Annie’s doctor told her she needs to eat more but she just doesn’t have the desire to shop or cook. Frankly, she has found the older she gets, the less hungry she has become. Plus, eating less has saved her much needed money to pay her energy bills. A cup of tea and a small bowl of potato chips or a cookie is all she really wants in the evening.
Senior Nutrition and Hunger
The National Council on Aging states, “More than 10 million older Americans are at risk of hunger. Fortunately, there are benefits and tools than can assist low-income seniors to buy the food they need for good health.”
Additionally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), good nutrition can help reduce the risk of developing or managing the symptoms of diseases. “Degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and cancer, which are among the most common diseases affecting older persons, are all diet-affected.”
Seniors and Nutrition: The Challenges Older Adults Face
Weight management in seniors can be affected by reduced physical activity and a slower rate of metabolism. Seniors may experience digestive changes, chewing issues due to teeth loss or dentures, swallowing changes, and a reduced absorption of some vitamins and minerals. Medication may affect appetite and taste buds. Social isolation and emotional health can affect hunger and the desire to eat. The shopping, cooking and cleanup of meal preparation can be prohibitive for older adults who may not have access to transportation, have physical or cognitive impairments, or issues with financial security.
Here are a few healthy eating tips seniors should keep in mind for optimal nutrition habits:
Senior Nutrition Tip 1: Eat Nutrient Dense Foods
To maintain good nutritional health, seniors should focus on nutrient dense foods. Nutrient dense foods include whole grains, lean meats, low-fat, enriched dairy products, fruits and berries, vegetables including potatoes and leafy greens, beans, nuts and seeds.
Soft, high nutrition foods can be tasty and inviting for seniors with eating challenges. Fruit and yogurt smoothies, softened or canned fruits and vegetables, mashed potatoes, whole grain cooked pasta with blended vegetable and protein sauces, puddings and egg custards can provide high levels of nutrition.
The calorie requirement of older adults varies by age, height, gender, muscle mass and activity level. Moderately active persons calorie needs range between 1800 and 2400. Calorie needs for not physically active persons range from 1600 to 2200 per day.
Senior Nutrition Tip 2: Stay Hydrated
Age can lessen one’s awareness of thirst. Seniors should drink plenty of liquids throughout the day. General guidelines note that 64 ounces per day of water is optimal. Remember that there is water in fruits and vegetables too.
100% juices or low-fat milk are nutrient dense liquids to incorporate into the daily diet. Do not drink sodas, energy waters, excessive caffeine drinks, or beverages with added sugars.
Senior Nutrition Tip 3: Make Dining a Social Event
Age, medical issues and medication can lessen the desire to eat regularly. Creating social events around eating and mealtime can increase interest in food, encourages eating and provides important nutrition.
Senior Nutrition Tip 4: Plan Ahead for Healthy Meals
Elders and caregivers should plan ahead for easy to make meals with healthy ingredients to increase nutritional success.
- Understand portion size and design a healthy visually pleasing plate with a variety of vegetables of multiple colors.
- Season liberally with herbs and spices instead of salt to increase nutritional value and enhance taste.
- Include foods rich in vitamins like B12, D, and B6 as well as calcium, like fish, lean meat, whole grain cereals, low-fat dairy products and dark leafy greens.
- Use healthy fats like olive, flax seed, avocado and nuts oils.
- Read nutritional labels.
- Serve safe foods. Stay away from unpasteurized dairy, undercooked proteins, and unwashed produce.
- Check with your physician about foods that could interact with prescription and over the counter medications.
Senior Nutrition Tip 5: Add Healthy Snacks
A routine of eating healthy snacks is an important part of both an effective nutritional plan and social activity that enhances a senior’s day. It can also balance one’s metabolism and sugar levels throughout the day. Three to four snacks per day, approximately 100 calories each, can easily be incorporated into an 1800 to 2400 daily calorie meal plan.
Nutrients dense snacks of approximately 100 calories per include:
- 1 scrambled egg cooked in ¼ tsp of health fat
- 20 peanuts
- ½ low-fat cottage cheese with ½ cup cantaloupe
- Vegetable slices with 2 tablespoons of goat cheese
- 10 baby carrots with 2 Tablespoons of hummus
- ½ cup low-fat yogurt with ¼ cup berries or fruit
- 1 slice of whole grain toast with 2 slices of turkey or chicken breast.
- ½ an apple with a 1oz wedge of soft cheese
- 1 rice cake with 2 teaspoons of almond butter
- 1 baked apple with cinnamon
Senior Nutrition Tip 6: Add Vitamins and Nutritional Supplements
As we age we need more vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B6 than can be consumed by food alone. Medications and chronic diseases can impede the body’s ability to maximize the benefits of one’s nutritional intake.
Vitamins and liquid nutritional supplements can be an effective way to consume the calories and nutrients a senior may need. Check with your physician before using any meal or nutritional supplements.
Nutrition for Seniors at Green Hill
Green Hill nutritionist Michiko Tomioka and Chef Jomar host monthly superfood cooking and nutrition demonstrations for the residents and caregivers at Green Hill. Educating residents about food choices whether choosing meals in the dining rooms, selecting snacks in the Café or from the Country Store, or cooking and storing food in their suites and apartments, supports the health and nutrition goals and mission of Green Hill. The demonstrations also provide an important social engagement activity where nutritious foods are consumed by residents.
Learn more about Senior Food Security and Nutrition
SNAP National Council on Aging
Senior Hunger and SNAP enrollment
AARP -Senior Food security in the US.
MyPlate for Older Adults – https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1260
This article is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen.