Diet and Aging: Healthy Diet Habits for Older Adults
Healthy diet habits can be difficult to follow as we age. There are a number of factors that can make it difficult to maintain healthy diet habits. Maybe you aren’t as active as you used to be but are still eating the same amount of calories. Perhaps there are dental problems that make it difficult to chew. Even medications can cause dry mouth or make swallowing difficult.
The good news is that whatever the challenge in keeping a healthy diet as you age, there are plenty of solutions.
Challenges With Diet and Aging
As we age it’s even more important to keep a consistent and healthy diet. We need better nutrients to help with memory, bone health, heart health, digestion and to maintain a healthy weight. Eating the right foods and maintaining a healthy weight can prevent falls and help fight off sickness or recover after surgery. So, what causes older adults to stop eating healthy?
In older adults with Parkinson’s disease or arthritis, there could be a physical challenge to eating. In those cases, an occupational therapist may be able to help solve issues by rearranging your kitchen or providing a special tool to assist in eating.
Another challenge with diet and aging is eating alone or just being tired of cooking for one. Make sure to visit your loved ones during meals or invite them over to your place to encourage healthy and consistent eating habits. Even arranging a potluck with friends, where everyone brings one part of the meal, can prove extremely beneficial in taking the loneliness out of eating alone.
An important solution to the loss of appetite in older adults is to remain physically active. Physical activity like swimming, walking or biking can help increase your appetite and better your mood. It’s very important to feed your body with the right type of calories when your appetite does increase. You want to avoid ‘empty-calories’ with things like chips, cookies, soda and alcohol.
Diet and Aging
There is a wide range of diets that address different aspects of health and disease prevention. You could follow a diet that is good for your heart or focus on a diet that helps with memory. Whichever you are looking for, there are plenty of solutions. Even if food just doesn’t taste good anymore you can add lemon juice or a variety of herbs to help with flavor. Avoid using salt as a flavor-booster, as too much of it it can increase the risk of heart disease.
Below are examples of functional foods, that provide proper nutrition, help you maintain cognitive health and can prevent diabetes or heart disease.
Fruits and Vegetables
Eat your vegetables, especially dark green veggies like broccoli, cabbage or kale.
Fruits like blackberries, blueberries and cherries can be used as a snack or added to cereal for extra nutrition. Dark berries are great because they provide antioxidant benefits that help prevent disease.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
One of the best ways to help with brain health is to eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. You’ll find salmon, bluefin tuna, sardines and herring to be an excellent source of omega-3 so make sure to substitute one of these a couple times a week. Finally, eat some walnuts! Walnuts are great for the heart and the brain and prove to be a great snack, but can also be added to cereals, salads and dessert!
Taking Charge of Your Diet
Whatever diet you decide to follow it’s important to monitor your calorie intake and your physical activity. Staying active and eating the proper amount of the right foods can help ensure you maintain a healthy diet as an older adult.
If you ever run out of ideas or just want to try something new, simply do an online search for a type of food and add the word ‘recipes’ (for example: broccoli recipes) and you will get a wide variety of new ways to eat the right foods to improve and maintain your health.
“Nutrition for Seniors”. Medline Plus. Retrieved from: https://medlineplus.gov/nutritionforseniors.html. Accessed on November 7, 2018.
“Overcoming Roadblocks to Healthy Eating”. National Institute on Aging. Retrieved from: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/overcoming-roadblocks-healthy-eating. Accessed on November 7, 2018.
“Seniors and Nutrition.” Comfort Keepers. Retrieved from: https://www.comfortkeepers.ca/seniors-and-nutrition/. Accessed on November 7, 2018.
“4 Types of Foods to Help Boost Your Memory”. Eat Right. Retrieved from: https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/healthy-aging/memory-boosting-foods. Accessed on November 7, 2018.
“Smart Food Choices for Healthy Aging.” National Institute on Aging. Retrieved from: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/smart-food-choices-healthy-aging. Accessed on November 7, 2018.