Eating is a sensory experience on so many levels. Not only does a good meal nurture our bodies, but it also awakens all of our senses. Beautiful food has amazing visual appeal. The aroma of home cooking literally makes the mouth water. The texture and crunch of food make our taste buds tingle. When mealtime is fun, it also feeds our souls.
Healthy eating keeps our bodies in better working order, lessens the effects and duration of illness, and increases energy. Leafy green vegetables, nuts and fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can increase mental acuity and may even stave off memory loss. The fact is, when we eat better, we feel better.
Our appetites naturally decrease with age as does our sense of thirst. Thus, many of the elderly do not get the nutrition their bodies need. Sometimes this is simply because eating has ceased to be an enjoyable experience. The elderly actually experience a decreased sense of taste and smell and the side-effects of certain medications can intensify this. Older adults are also prone to digestive issues that make them cautious and less adventurous about what they will eat. Slower metabolism, poor dentition and depression can also contribute to seniors not getting the recommended daily vitamins and minerals for their age.
The United States Department of Agriculture lists 10 tips for older adults who would like to improve their nutrition.
1. Drink plenty of fluids especially since some medications can dehydrate you. It’s best to stay away from sugary drinks likes juices and stick to water or even add more soups into the mix.
2. Turn mealtime into a fun social event! Make eating a pleasant experience by sharing the time with others either in your home at a senior center. You can even listen to music as you eat.
3. Plan healthy meals in advance and the National Institute on Aging has a handy tool ChooseMyPlate.gov for building a balanced plate that includes fruits, vegetables, grains and protein.
4. Have an idea of how much to eat – both too much and too little. There is so much emphasis on how obesity carries health risks that we can sometimes forget that deficiencies in the frail elderly can be just as dangerous.
5. Vary your vegetables using the old rule of thumb. Follow your mother’s advice and make sure different colored vegetables are amply included in your diet as each is composed of different and important nutrients.
6. Keep your teeth and gums healthy both in terms of what you eat to strengthen them and proper hygiene and maintenance. Losing teeth can also affect your taste buds, so it is best to take care even in your choice of hard to chew versus softer foods.
7. Use herbs and spices to counteract any new sense of blandness to your food. A bonus is the newly included spices can bring with them added nutrition such as turmeric with its anti-inflammatory effects and mental acuity.
8. Keep food safety top of mind. Often seniors forget how old something is or are hesitant to throw out food due to financial constraints. Better to be safe than sorry – don’t eat anything that can jeopardize your health.
9. Read those nutrition and ingredient labels. In addition to calorie, carbohydrate and fat content, they will clue you into the important nutrients contained.
10. Ask your doctor about personal nutritional requirements and deficiencies and speak to him/her about vitamins and supplements. Many necessary prescription drugs have side effects that deplete your body of important nutrients which are important to replace. For example, it is important to beware of anemia which can actually contribute to dementia or to take CoQ10 while on cholesterol reducing statin drugs which can zap your strength.
Healthy eating is a lifestyle choice that promotes good nutrition in the elderly. For additional tips on helping our senior family members stay active and productive, contact us. David York Agency could provide direction as to how to manage the total care of your senior loved one. Please call us at (718) 376-7755 or visit us on our website DavidYorkAgency.com to become acquainted with all we offer. Please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.