Nutritional Tips To Help Your Aging Loved One Keep Their Health with Healthy Food
The phrase “you are what you eat” applies regardless of age. However, as your loved one gets older, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet becomes even more vital because it can help prevent the chance of illnesses and the weakening of their bodily systems that come as they age. According to Medline, good nutrition can help prevent some diseases, such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Learning and understanding good nutrition and how to incorporate it into your loved one’s diet can help them stay strong, healthy, and energetic for as long as possible.
Aging and Poor Nutrition
Common Wisecare states a variety of factors can cause poor nutrition in regards to aging:
- Having trouble getting around and not being able to properly cook
- Suddenly living alone
- Certain medications cause food to taste different or reduce appetite
- Losing senses (e.g. taste and smell)
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Loss of income to buy healthy food
- Memory loss/Dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease
- Depression and anxiety
- Dental health
As a caretaker, you can help your loved one counter these difficulties and maintain the necessary nutrition as their body and situation change through the following tips:
- Know what a healthy plate looks like– Your loved one’s meals should be full of color! A healthy plate incorporates the five food groups so they can get all the nutrients they need from the variety of foods in their diet. The USDA provided an infographic called My Plate which can help you and your loved one better understand the five food groups and how to include them in their diet.
- Incorporate important nutrients– Maintaining a healthy body and mind comes from eating the right nutrients. Your loved one should take in foods that are high in fiber and low in sodium or salt. Foods rich in vitamin D should also be incorporated as it is a mineral that benefits the aging process. Nutrition comes from the following foods and should be included in your loved one meals:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Lean protein (lean meats, seafood, eggs, beans)
- Whole grains (brown rice, whole-wheat pasta)
- Low-fat dairy (milk and its alternatives)
- Read nutrition facts label– The healthiest foods in the grocery store are whole foods, such as the produce, meat, and dairy sections. However, if you need to shop for packaged foods, it’s smart to read the labels. Sometimes these foods can be advertised as the healthy choice but are loaded with added fat, sodium, and sugar. Read the labels carefully so you can avoid being fooled and hurting your loved one’s diet.
- Follow recommended servings– Your loved one can maintain a healthy weight by following the recommended serving size for their age and body. The American Heart Association provides more information on the right serving sizes for seniors.
- Stay hydrated– Your loved one should drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration! They should drink beverages that are low in salt and sugar unless their doctor says otherwise. Tea, coffee, and water are the best choices.
- Plan your meals– If meals are thought out and prepared ahead of time, it is less likely your loved one will resort to unhealthy eating habits due to hunger and last-minute planning. Preparing a week’s worth of dinners and keeping them frozen until you need them can prevent going through the McDonald’s drive-thru.
- Consider supplements– Eating from the five food groups, specifically fruits, and vegetables, is the best way to get the nutrients you need. However, sometimes it can not be enough for your loved one. Talk to their doctor and look into them taking supplements and minerals to ensure overall health.
- Choose healthy fats– You may think your loved one must avoid all fats in their diet. However, they only need to eliminate saturated and trans fats. There are healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. These fats can help protect your body against disease and support mood and mental well-being.
- Use less salt– As you age, your sense of taste can decline which can cause the overuse of salt. However, using a great deal of salt to season food is a bad idea for your loved one’s health. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, consuming too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which can ultimately lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. Your loved one should be eating no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium every day. So, instead of using salt to season food, you can use herbs and spices. Cayenne pepper, basil, sage, rosemary, and turmeric are healthy choices that are packed with flavor.
- Reduce sugar consumption– Refined sugars are loaded with empty calories and offer no nutritional value. If your loved one has a sweet tooth, they can replace sugary treats with naturally sweet whole healthy foods such as fruits, sweet peppers, and yams.
You can help your loved one stay healthy and strong, as their body faces change, through maintaining a balanced, nutritious diet. Cutting on fast food and packaged meals is worth your loved one not losing their health over.
1 +1 Cares is a referral agency that works for clients and caregivers. We match caregivers with clients and inform them of your requirements. We work for you so you and your loved one can have a safe, enjoyable caregiving experience.