Eating a nutrient-rich and balanced diet is important throughout every stage of life. As we age, our bodies naturally change, and with that comes different nutritional needs. Some changes may include absorbing less calcium, which can lead to loss of bone mass. Luckily, staying up to date with doctor visits will help you understand how to cater your diet to your unique needs. Here are some suggestions for how to navigate through your body’s changes and feel your best.
Eat smaller portions every few hours. In aging adults, a growing concern is a decreased appetite, which can be caused by a variety of factors. While older adults require fewer calories, this can lead to unexpected weight loss and nutritional deficiencies. Lower levels of hunger hormones can lead seniors to feel hungry less often and fuller faster. If large meals seem too daunting to finish, try eating several smaller portions a day. These smaller sized plates should contain nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables, lean protein, fruit, yogurt, and nuts.
Incorporate more nutrients. Older adults require more protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium to maintain strength and prevent injuries. Incorporating more protein, such as eggs, in your diet can help combat weakness from muscle loss. Vitamin B12, found in enriched cereals and lean meats, aids in healthy blood production and DNA synthesis. Calcium helps build and maintain healthy bones, and vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Foods such as dairy products and leafy green vegetables contain calcium, while vitamin D can be found in salmon and egg yolks. These are just some of the nutrients that your body may need more of. Your doctor can tell you about your individual nutritional requirements.
Good fatty foods. Foods such as avocados, olives, walnuts, seeds, and fish have the unsaturated fats that your body needs for brain and heart health.
Hydrate. Staying hydrated becomes more of a challenge later in life when our thirst signals are not as strong. Lack of thirst is not a reliable indication that you do not need water. Older adults should build a habit of hydrating regularly by keeping a water bottle with them throughout the day or drinking a glass of water before every meal. Drinking other liquids such as milk/milk alternatives or eating high-water-content fruits and vegetables can count toward daily hydration goals, as well.
Your nutrition needs vary depending on factors such as age, weight and medical history. This advice is not a one-size-fits-all approach. For a curated care plan, speak with your physician and a clinical dietitian.
Marion Viglietta is a clinical dietitian at Wesley Enhanced Living Main Line.