Jan 28, 2019 by Comfort Keepers
For each stage of life, there are the proper foods that will promote growth and energy levels. At the infant stage, we require breast milk or formula with DHA. In adolescence, healthy bones and a strong heart are needed to keep up with growth spurts and sports. As an adult, diet becomes even a larger part of our lives because we have established our eating habits. It’s easy to go for junk or fast food because it’s cheap and easy to get. Yet, this causes health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.
With each stage, the right amount of calories must be achieved for the proper weight and brain development. At the senior stage, the amount of calories varies based on lifestyle and other health problems that arise from aging. For example, sedentary seniors require 1,600 to 2,000 calories a day, whereas active seniors require 1,800 to 2,000. Mental clarity decreases as do energy levels. Bones loose calcium, which is important for bone health and leads to osteoporosis. The heart weakens and other diseases can develop such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The importance of a healthy meal plan is to provide a path that can be redirected, help aid in preventing disease and keep seniors fit.
If you care for a senior, whether a loved one or client, you understand the challenge of getting the right foods into his or her diet as well as getting your senior to eat. And as you age, you will know which foods are good for you too. But first, let’s review the food groups. With hectic schedules, family life and work, it’s easy to neglect or reduce the amount of intake in one or all of these groups. The food groups are:
When choosing the diet, a term to remember is micronutrients. A deficiency in micronutrients is caused by reduced food intake as well as eating the wrong foods. This deficiency is found mostly in seniors who live alone. They have no one to guide them (i.e. create a grocery list) and/or they live on a fixed income. They will scrimp on food in order to pay their bills. It’s interesting to note that Americans’ sense of smell and taste decreases with age. Medication can also affect a seniors’ sense of taste and smell as well as cause stomach problems, leading them to not want to eat at all. Seniors must not skip meals, and if need be, they can use substitutes such as nutritious shakes or smoothies. Don’t forget about dental problems! They, too, can cause a senior to not want to eat due to lose or missing teeth and/or jaw pain.
So, which foods should you choose for your senior? Let’s look at some guidelines.
Senior Food Guidelines
There are many diets older adults can benefit from (e.g. low-fat), especially for chronic conditions. For a healthy diet with nutrients that increase mental sharpness and energy levels, the Mediterranean Diet is recommended. It also helps maintain optimal health levels and reduce the risk of stroke. Foods included on this diet are peanuts, beans, vegetables, Greek yogurt, lean meats and fish as well as olive oil. Meat is not the star of this diet; it’s actually a side dish. Food that is known to sharpen the brain, reduce memory loss and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s are broccoli, kale, oranges, avocadoes and blueberries. There are many sources for information on the best foods for seniors as well as the latest medical news for older Americans, such as WebMD and Annals of Neurology (e.g. cognitive decline).
In addition to healthy eating, seniors need to be mindful of portion sizes. Seniors (or caregivers) should cut up meats and fish into small serving sizes. This ensures portion control and portions can be frozen to save money. Seniors can also buy bags of frozen vegetables and only use what is needed for each meal. It’s vital to read food labels to keep an eye on fats and sugars in products. The USDA creates easy-to-read food labels, which indicate if a food item is organic and/or non-GMO. If your senior has a high-blood pressure, the diet should consist of low-sodium foods.
Comfort Keepers Services Southwest Florida
If you are reaching the point where you need a companion for your elderly loved one or need senior care services, look to Comfort Keepers in Ft. Myers! We offer a multitude of services from respite care to dementia care. We also provide concierge services at some assisted living facilities in Lee and Collier counties. Contact us today for a free consultation!