Nutritional needs change as we age. Young people need more calories than seniors. Seniors need more omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber than they did when they were younger.
Your parents or grandparents may need more or less food than they are currently eating. Obesity is a risk for the elderly. But, paradoxically, becoming undernourished is also a risk for many people over seventy. Loss of appetite often occurs because of loss of taste or smell or ill health, depression, or hospitalization.
Furthermore medications can interfere with a senior’s ability to absorb nutrients, especially the vitamin B complex of vitamins. Some medications may even cause nausea or diarrhea which also contribute to weight loss and poor health.
Assess your loved one’s nutritional needs
When determining whether your senior is getting the right nutrition, consider their shopping and cooking habits. Some seniors dial back on the food preparation. This might occur because chopping and working with whole foods has become too difficult or time consuming.
Look at what your senior buys at the store. White bread, sugary cereals, and sodas do not contribute to good nutrition. Your senior needs to eat whole grains, vegetables, and milk, instead.
You also need to know if your senior is taking the right multivitamin. Multivitamins for seniors typically contain good amounts of Vitamins B6 and B12, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, folate, and magnesium. Consult your senior’s primary care physician about supplements because the wrong supplement can do harm.
How to promote good nutrition
Some seniors guard their health very carefully. Others will need some nudging in the right direction. Here are some ideas for getting the right nutrients into your loved one.
Push the fish–Omega 3 fatty acids, which are vital to your senior’s heart health, occur in only a few foods, mostly flax seeds, walnuts, and fish, including salmon, lake trout, cod, sardines, and canned tuna. Some seniors are resistant to fish, so try adding it to foods that they like, such as stew, homemade burgers, macaroni and cheese, etc.
Push milk–We know that children need lots of milk, but milk is vital to most people over seventy as well. Studies show that seniors often have deficits of calcium, Vitamin D, protein, and B vitamins. Milk is rich in all those nutrients. Drinking milk can also help seniors stay hydrated without extra effort. Furthermore, the kind of milk your senior is drinking can be adapted to help with weight control. Underweight seniors should drink whole milk, and overweight seniors should drink skim milk.
Set up home deliveries–If your loved one has trouble getting to the store, you can easily remedy that problem by setting up deliveries of fresh vegetables, milk, fish, and whole grains. You can do this with your local grocery store or subscribe to a food delivery business like Misfits Market.
Consider hiring a home care service
Home care providers do a wonderful job of bridging the nutritional gap that some seniors fall into. By bringing in the groceries, cooking up big batches of food, freezing some, and serving lovely meals, these health professionals address nutritional needs across the food preparation spectrum.