Nutrition for Older Adults: Maintaining a Healthy Diet as You Age
Aug. 16, 2022
By Danielle Andersen
Nutrition Counts Even More as You Age and Is Associated with Reduced Risk for Illness and a Longer Life
Maintaining good nutrition and a healthy diet is always important, but it is especially important for adults as they get older.
Nutrition for aging adults is key for long-term health, but these needs evolve as people age. Older adults need a balanced diet so that their bodies get the nutrition they need to function properly. While the temptation of fried foods, sweets, and sugary drinks is constant no matter what age you are, nutrition can be a particular challenge for older adults.
Why can it be hard for aging adults to maintain healthy diets? Many of those who are on fixed incomes may not feel they can justify the expense of buying fresh produce, while others may be in living situations in which they are not in control of what they eat.
Further, many older adults simply eat less as they age due to a decreased appetite, which can be the result of naturally fluctuating hormone levels, and some may make dietary adjustments as they start to see changes in their activity levels and overall health.
Despite all the challenges, nutrition is critically important for aging adults. Let’s look more closely at why that is, and what you can do to ensure your diet is healthy no matter what your age may be.
Why Adult Nutrition Is Important
Nutrition is important no matter what your age is, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Good nutrition plays a key role in everything from maintaining a properly functioning digestive system to keeping you alert all day long. Good nutrition can also help fight off chronic disease, lower your risk of a heart attack or obesity, and even keep cancer at bay. Overall, it means you can spend less time worrying about your health, and more time doing the things you enjoy.
Why Is Good Nutrition Hard to Maintain for Older Adults?
Good nutrition is difficult for many aging adults to a large degree because many lack the resources, money, and ability to research, purchase, and prepare healthy meals. Most older adults also have a declined appetite as they age. This is due to a variety of reasons, including:
- Lower metabolism and less physical activity mean they need fewer calories.
- Things smell and taste different as we age.
- Many older adults have dental or gastrointestinal issues that make eating uncomfortable.
- A lack of a daily routine, or confusing changes to long-established routines, means that some older adults may be confused about what normal mealtimes are and miss meals altogether.
A loss of appetite can also be a warning indicator, as it can occur due to depression, loneliness, dementia, medication side effects, certain cancers, a thyroid disorder, or an infection in the mouth or throat.
Food Tips: How to Eat Healthy as You Age
While it is not out of the ordinary for older adults to experience poor nutrition as they age, that does not have to be the case. Here are some ideas for maintaining a balanced diet and getting all the nutrition you need.
- Increase nutrition density: Make each bite count. Nutrient-dense foods packed with healthy fats and good calories include avocados, olive oil, and peanut butter. Other foods with dense nutrients include salmon, kale, and blueberries – all of which are readily available at almost every grocery store.
- Make eating fun: Sometimes the act of eating can seem laborious – an option is to make it fun. Ideas include making meals social, setting a proper table, setting the mood with music, providing food that has visual appeal, and serving fun drinks, even if it is just water with a slice of lemon or lime.
- Stimulate appetites: Promote regular exercise, choose foods wisely, properly plan for and prepare meals, and consider the use of appetite stimulants with the help of a physician.
Problems With Good Nutrition? Knute Nelson Can Help
Knute Nelson’s personal home care services can assist individuals with grocery shopping and meal planning, while moving into a community with restaurant and dining options can assist individuals in maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle.
If you are seeking help with nutrition, contact us to learn more about our services.