As a person ages, having access to the right senior diet is vital. Though many of the basic principles of healthy eating still apply in the context of nutrition for seniors, there are also some additional aspects to take into consideration. Certain vitamins and minerals become more important for the maintenance of muscle and bone health, for example, and proper hydration should be prioritized, too. Unfortunately, issues like reduced appetite and practical barriers may prevent aging individuals from accessing the right food for seniors.
Whether you’re looking to improve your own senior diet or that of an aging loved one you care for, here are 7 useful tips to improve nutrition for seniors.
- Include all food groups. Ensuring senior diets include a range of carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats and dairy is often a great place to start in developing nutritionally balanced eating habits. Including foods from all of these major groups can help reduce a senior’s risk of experiencing common health issues like heart disease, raised blood pressure or diabetes.
- Consider micronutrients. While macronutrients like protein and carbohydrates are a great building block, it’s also beneficial to think about the micronutrients foods can provide. Certain micronutrients are particularly useful when considering nutrition for seniors; calcium from foods like milk, cheese, broccoli, and almonds is vital for good bone and dental health, and vitamin B-12 found in liver, salmon, tuna and eggs may prevent osteoporosis, macular degeneration and cognitive decline, while also boosting energy and mood.
- Serve fruits and vegetables with each meal. Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of micronutrients and a valuable component of any healthy senior diet. For example, fruits and leafy greens like blueberries and spinach are great sources of vitamin K which can aid bone health, and carrots are rich in vitamin A, associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Limit sugar, saturated fats and sodium (with caution). While there are plenty of foods to be encouraged in senior diets, some should be limited, too. Consuming too many foods high in sugar, saturated fat or sodium can increase a senior’s risk of a range of health issues, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. If a senior’s appetite has vastly reduced, however, it may be beneficial to take a more flexible approach to avoid rapid weight loss. Enjoyment of food should also be prioritized, so forcing a senior to cut out their beloved mid-afternoon coffee and cake is unlikely to be beneficial in the long run.
- Prioritize healthy protein sources. Protein is essential in everything from building and repairing tissues to fighting off infection, with protein deficiency contributing to increased muscle loss and difficulties in recovering well from illness or injury. When considering food for seniors, then, be sure to include a range of good protein-rich products. Lean meats, eggs, beans, nuts, seeds and poultry are excellent sources of protein, with plant-based sources typically containing less saturated fat.
- Be smart with supplements. In an ideal world, senior diets would contain all the nutrients an aging adult needs, but sometimes this isn’t possible. If a senior is experiencing reduced appetite or has specific dietary requirements, for example, they may struggle to get all the macro and micronutrient content they need from diet alone. Supplements can be a great option for seniors, but should always be carefully discussed with a medical professional first.
- Don’t forget hydration. Dehydration is common in aging seniors, and can lead to health complications like low blood pressure, severe muscle cramps and urinary tract infections (UTIs). Proper hydration can also help with digestion and the absorption of nutrients from food. Hydration can come from drinking water, fruit juice or milk, and eating foods containing water like soups, fruits and vegetables.
How Senior Living Provides Excellent Nutrition for Seniors
Particularly if you are a family caregiver with limited time, providing nutritionally balanced food for seniors each day can be difficult. For seniors living alone who struggle to get to the grocery store or cook, these challenges can be just as significant. In a senior living facility in Tucson like Saguaro Ranch, residents are provided with freshly prepared meals and snacks each day. These foods are carefully, nutritionally balanced by dietary experts to support the needs of aging seniors, with the unique preferences and dietary requirements of individual residents considered too.
In a senior retirement community in AZ, residents can also receive any assistance they need with the physical aspects of eating and drinking, enabling them to truly get the most from each mealtime. Food and fluid intake are carefully monitored, too. This allows any issues that could lead to residents missing out on the nutritional benefits of food for seniors to be identified early. By addressing problems and unmet needs as they arise, health complications caused by malnutrition or dehydration can be better avoided.
When to Consider Senior Living
If you feel that you or your loved one are struggling to get the right nutrition for seniors, senior living could be a positive step forward. With nutritious senior diets provided daily, eliminating the need for grocery shopping, meal planning and cooking, seniors can rest easy knowing their needs are in safe hands. For more information on how Saguaro Ranch Assisted Living prioritizes nutrition for seniors, get in touch to arrange a visit today.
Note: Before making changes to a senior’s diet, speak to their doctor or dietician to discuss any unique medical and dietary requirements.