As people grow older, they start noticing changes in their physical appearance. Their hair may not be quite as silky or they may have less of it; they’ve got some lines on their faces. Their bodies don’t bounce back into shape as easily as they used to after a weekend pizza nosh. Their food consumption has changed as well. Many older adults begin to eat less. Although this is a natural part of dietary changes taking place over a lifetime, it can also be a concern.
Not eating enough as they grow older may mean that many aging adults don’t have all of their nutritional needs met. Getting all their vital nutrients is essential for bodily functions, having energy, and meeting the needs of their bodies. Eating less may mean less opportunity to get adequate nutrition. Without proper nutrition, the body is at a higher risk for developing diseases and health conditions from malnutrition.
Changes in the body, such as poorer hearing, vision, dental concerns, and other issues, lead to less interest in food because it is less enjoyable to eat in a restaurant when seniors can’t hear a dining partner or smell or taste their food. A declining sense of smell and atrophying taste buds make eating a less pleasant experience. To compensate, seniors may add more salt or sugar, which can make health conditions worse.
Because eating isn’t as much fun for older adults, they are more prone to malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies. By following a healthy food plan, seniors can get all the nutrients that they need and also have more energy and feel better. Eating well can help prevent diseases and ailments that might otherwise interfere with quality of life.
To be healthy, it is commonly recommended that seniors enjoy a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy with limited oils, solid fats, and sugars. Because they are likely to eat less and get less activity than more active adults, it is important that older adults eat foods that are high in nutrition but lower in carbs and calories.
Seniors may notice that they have slower bowels and choosing foods that are high in fiber can help move things along more smoothly to prevent constipation, gas, and gastrointestinal discomfort. Staying hydrated is also an important part of ensuring good digestion and good health. Calcium for strong bones is also recommended but often overlooked in senior diets. Supplements for calcium and other nutrients can help increase nutrients that aren’t provided through diet alone.
Because taste changes in advanced age, it is important to continue to limit salt and sugar intake, which have both been linked to health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. The risk for serious health conditions is further increased by a more sedentary lifestyle, which is why it is important for older adults to remain active.
Although seniors require smaller amounts of food, it is important that they continue to eat a well-balanced diet full of nutrients.