We have a fantastic guest post this week from writer Carolyn Ridland, the founder of CaregiverConnection. She has provided us with some important nutrition and health tips for seniors, a group of individuals who are at high risk of nutritional deficiencies and health problems secondary to poor nutrition. Therefore, if you are a senior yourself, or have a loved one that is a senior, these tips are worth reading (for more information about Carolyn and why she started caregiver connection, please see her bio at the bottom of the post)!
It’s important for people to eat a healthy diet at any age. But for seniors, diet and well-being are especially closely linked. If you are over the age of 65, these tips will help you eat a balanced and healthy diet that keeps you feeling energetic.
Eat Plenty of Whole Grains
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in vegetables, fruits, and minimally-processed grains. It’s essential for a healthy digestive system. It also plays an important role in cardiovascular health. Try to include whole grains in most of your meals, if you can. One easy way to do this is to replace white flour products like bread and pasta with whole-wheat versions. Other healthy and delicious whole grains include oats, brown rice, and barley.
Focus on All the Food Groups
Eating the same meals over and over again can lead to nutritional deficiencies, so make sure to include a wide variety of foods in your diet. Try to eat some fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, and dairy every day. If you like to cook, make a habit of trying one or two new recipes every week, so you don’t fall into a rut.
Drink More Water and Tea
Age can actually reduce your body’s thirst signals, so it’s important for seniors to drink plenty of water and eat high-fluid foods. Vegetables, fruits, and soups are a few examples of hydrating foods. If you don’t like drinking water, tea may be a good alternative (just watch the caffeine, if you’re sensitive to it).
Rethink Your Seasonings
Seniors are especially prone to developing cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure. It may be a good idea to cut back on your salt consumption, especially if you have a family or personal history of heart disease. No worries, though — there are plenty of ways to make your food taste great without loading it with salt. Try adding a squeeze of lemon, a few shakes of black pepper, or some fresh garlic to your food as you cook it. You can even find pre-made seasoning blends at the store that make it easy to cook without added salt.
Avoid Empty Calories
Empty calories are calories with no nutritional value. Soda, candy, and pastries are a few examples. While it’s fine to have a treat occasionally, it’s not a good idea to get into the habit of consuming empty calories all the time. For one thing, these foods aren’t very filling, and they’ll probably leave you hungry — and more likely to gain weight as a result. For another thing, even if you don’t gain weight eating junk food, you’re missing out on valuable nutrients. Focus on eating nutrient-dense, minimally-processed foods most of the time, and save treats for special occasions.
Get Enough Protein and Calcium
Everyone’s nutritional needs are different. But one thing most people have in common as they get older is a need for more protein and calcium. Calcium is essential because it strengthens your bones and reduces your risk for developing osteoporosis. Protein is important because it keeps your muscles strong and prevents atrophy, especially if you exercise. Seniors should focus on eating plenty of lean meats, eggs, legumes, dairy, sardines, and leafy greens to meet these nutritional needs.
Eat with Friends or Family
Eating is inherently a social activity for most people, and even in our busy times, it remains one of the best ways to reconnect with loved ones at the end of the day. If you can, try to arrange to have dinner with friends or family members at least once a week. Turning eating into a social activity doesn’t just give you a reason to visit your favorite restaurant or show off your cooking skills — it’s also a great way to prevent loneliness, which is a major health risk for seniors and younger people alike.
Consider Taking Supplements
Many people find that they need to begin a specialized supplement regime once they reach their senior years. For instance, many seniors become deficient in vitamins D and B12 without supplements. Ask your doctor if taking supplements is a healthy choice for you. Do not begin taking supplements without consulting a healthcare provider first, especially if you currently take any medications or have any health conditions.
I hope you enjoyed and learned something that can help yourself or your loved ones from this fantastic guest post. If you need further help and guidance for yourself or your senior loved ones, A Taste of Health (Denver’s Dancing Dietitian) can help implement these tips and adjust for your individual needs.
Wishing you a week of health and wellness,
–Ricci-Lee Hotz, MS, RDN
Denver’s Dancing Dietitian
A Taste of Health, LLC
“Improving Quality of life one bite at a time”
Carolyn Ridland BIO:
“Hello. My name is Carolyn Ridland, and I am the founder of CaregiverConnection.
About 10 years ago, my parents began reaching the point where they could not be self-sufficient anymore. I was just married with two toddlers, so I felt like I couldn’t take them in, yet I wanted to make sure they were taken care of.
I want to share my story, and let you know that you are not alone if you are in a similar position. Children are expected to take care of their elderly parents when the time comes, but it’s not always that easy.
Caregiver Connection emerged from a place of real love and compassion. We understand the struggle that exists when you care deeply about your loved ones, but you’re faced with decisions you never wanted to make. Our main message is that nobody should have to face these times alone.”