The importance of proper nutrition for seniors

The importance of proper nutrition for seniors

It has become increasingly clear over the years that unbalanced food intakes increase the risks of a number of chronic diseases that face senior citizens. Making the necessary food choices is not always easy, but necessary. Recently, the focus for dietary change has been on the maintenance of body weight and nutritional adequacy, with emphasis on increased intake of complex carbohydrates and fiber and decreased intake of sugars, total fat, cholesterol, sodium and alcohol.  As people age, their activity levels change and therefore many other aspects of their lifestyles adjust thereby compounding all of these factors. Illness also alters food intake and the use the body makes of food.  How do medications modify food intake, digestion and absorption?  How does food interfere with the effectiveness of medications? These questions must be answered to best suit ones individual dietary needs as he or she ages.

Many dietitians are now looking at changes in the patterns of living when trying to help people develop better food habits. In today’s society, there is a great reliance upon convenient and ready to eat foods. Evidence has also shown that people are eating much more frequently than in the past, partly because of the many attractive snacks that are available. I suggest eating five small meals a day as an effective way to maintain a well balanced diet. Eating five meals a day will train your body to digest more foods more often. As long as the meals you are eating are not filled with too many calories, your body will learn to digest food quicker, allowing you to digest foods much more easily.

When deciding on what to eat, many seniors factor in taste, smell, temperature and texture. These factors govern our food acceptance and we usually end up eating what we are most familiar with.  Sweet, sour, salty and bitter are the four taste sensations provided by the taste buds and as we age, older adults generally demand that foods are hotter, and despite being seasoned, are bland.  While many people start losing their appeal for different foods due to a reduction in their taste buds, it is still important that each individual receives the proper amount of nutrients when deciding what to eat and seniors can do so by choosing a good variety of healthful foods from each of the five food groups.

Below are my suggestions on what you should take into consideration when making food choices for you, your patients or loved ones.

1. Select four or more servings of fruits and vegetables. These are important for vitamin A, carotenoids, vitamin C and fiber.  Include cruciferous vegetables often: broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage or cauliflower.

2. Substitute whole-grain breads and cereals for white breads and cereals.  Use four to six or more servings daily.

3. Select low-fat milk and cheeses instead whole milk and cheeses.  Use cream, ice cream and whole milk cheeses rarely. 

4. Include four to five ounces of lean meat, poultry or fish daily.  Use chicken and fish more often.  5. Include three or four eggs a week.

6. Reduce the consumption of sugars and fats.

7. Reduce the intake of salt and heavy salt infused products.

8. Abstain from alcohol or drink in moderation.

9. Reduce the intake of salt-and smoke-cured meats or charbroiled meats.

10. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water.

Based on the ten criteria I have provided, I would suggest the following meals based on numerous options at Park Springs. With over 40 entrée items, 35 accompaniments and many other options to choose from, a Member can always find something to meet any diet and conform to any medication demand they may have.

Main Dining Room Menu

Field green salad with Italian dressing

Baked Scrod

Lima Beans

Brown Rice

Fruit Plate

The accompanying beverage should be water, skim milk, v-8 juice, orange juice, or if wine is desired one should have red wine and limit it to four ounces as alcohol does have the tendency to conflict with many medications and is high in calories.

The Springhouse Grill Menu

Hearts of Lettuce Salad with Italian dressing

Queen cut Filet

Fresh Asparagus

Fresh Carrots

Fruit Plate

The beverages would fall into the same category as in the Main Dining Room.

The Bistro or Market Café Menu would have selections from a variety of entrée salads, turkey sandwich, soups, fresh Salmon, and boneless, skinless chicken breast.  These items can be accompanied by a wide variety of freshly prepared vegetable items.

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