Diet plan for elderly is essential to a healthy lifestyle, especially for senior citizens. Diet plays an important role in the general health of a person. Follow these tips on dieting for seniors to maintain good health.
A health diet is often prescribed to elderly people, particularly those with chronic diseases. They are usually told to consume foods that are low in fat, high in vitamins and minerals, rich in antioxidants and gentle on the stomach.
What is nutrition and why is it important for older adults?
Nutrition is about eating a healthy and balanced diet so your body gets the nutrients that it needs. Nutrients are substances in foods that our bodies need so they can function and grow. They include carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water.
Good nutrition is important, no matter what your age. It gives you energy and can help you control your weight. It may also help prevent some diseases, such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.
But as you age, your body and life change, and so does what you need to stay healthy. For example, you may need fewer calories, but you still need to get enough nutrients. Some older adults need more protein.
What can make it harder for me to eat healthy as I age?
Some changes that can happen as you age can make it harder for you to eat healthy. These include changes in your:
- Home life, such as suddenly living alone or having trouble getting around
- Health, which can make it harder for you to cook or feed yourself
- Medicines, which can change how food tastes, make your mouth dry, or take away your appetite
- Income, which means that you may not have as much money for food
- Sense of smell and taste
- Problems chewing or swallowing your food
How can I eat healthy as I age?
To stay healthy as you age, you should:
- Eat foods that give you lots of nutrients without a lot of extra calories, such as
- Fruits and vegetables (choose different types with bright colors)
- Whole grains, like oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, and brown rice
- Fat-free or low-fat milk and cheese, or soy or rice milk that has added vitamin D and calcium
- Seafood, lean meats, poultry, and eggs
- Beans, nuts, and seeds
- Avoid empty calories. These are foods with lots of calories but few nutrients, such as chips, candy, baked goods, soda, and alcohol.
- Pick foods that are low in cholesterol and fat. You especially want to try to avoid saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats are usually fats that come from animals. Trans fats are processed fats in stick margarine and vegetable shortening. You may find them in some store-bought baked goods and fried foods at some fast-food restaurants.
- Drink enough liquids, so you don’t get dehydrated. Some people lose their sense of thirst as they age. And certain medicines might make it even more important to have plenty of fluids.
- Be physically active. If you have started losing your appetite, exercising may help you to feel hungrier.
What can I do if I am having trouble eating healthy?
Sometimes health issues or other problems can make it hard to eat healthy. Here are some tips that might help:
- If you are tired of eating alone, try organizing some potluck meals or cooking with a friend. You can also look into having some meals at a nearby senior center, community center, or religious facility.
- If you are having trouble chewing, see your dentist to check for problems
- If you are having trouble swallowing, try drinking plenty of liquids with your meal. If that does not help, check with your health care provider. A health condition or medicine could be causing the problem.
- If you’re having trouble smelling and tasting your food, try adding color and texture to make your food more interesting
- If you aren’t eating enough, add some healthy snacks throughout the day to help you get more nutrients and calories
- If an illness is making it harder for you to cook or feed yourself, check with your health care provider. He or she may recommend an occupational therapist, who can help you find ways to make it easier.
Seniors & Low Carb Diets
The Low Carb Diet for Seniors
Learn about how our nutritional needs change as we age and how a low carb diet could improve your physical and mental health later in life.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to replace personalized medical advice. A low carb diet may not be suitable for you. Consult your health care provider before making any changes to your lifestyle or use this information at your own risk.
Our bodies are always changing from the moment we are born. What our bodies require at each stage of our life differs vastly, and it is important to know how to nourish ourselves accordingly for optimal health and well-being.
In this article, we focus on the needs of those who are 60+ years. At this age, our metabolism, nutritional needs and digestive systems have changed a lot and the same diet we followed when we were young adults may not be the best, or healthiest, choice anymore. Our direction in this article is to explain the health benefits of a low carb diet in older age as well as to address other things to consider about nutrition when you reach later stages of life. Keep reading for health insights, tips, and products that are useful for older adults and especially those coping with certain physical conditions.
As always, it is a good idea to consult your doctor before making any changes to your lifestyle to ensure they are personalized to your specific health needs. If you are currently on any medications or dealing with any medical conditions, you may be at higher risk for certain complications.
What Happens to Our Bodies When We Age?
As we age, there are a few key changes that happen to the body that we should be mindful of when it comes to food and nutrition. These are described below.
- Our metabolism slows down.
Your metabolism is the amount of energy that your body burns (or the rate at which it breaks down food) in order to function and maintain itself. As we age, our metabolism slows as much as 10% every decade after age 20. So, by the time you reach age 60, your metabolism has slowed down by nearly 40% since your refrigerator-raiding teenage years! If you are age 60 or older, you have probably already noticed a decrease in your appetite. Some people go from having three meals a day to just two, or smaller more frequent meals and snacks.
So, what does this mean? With a slower metabolism, the body absorbs nutrients from foods at a slower rate, meaning that we should focus on more nutrient-dense foods as we get older. In addition, it can be easier to put on pounds and harder to lose weight. Even if you don’t eat much more than usual, the body will store any excess calories that it is unable to burn in the form of fat. Having a higher body fat percentage can create several health problems and increase your risk for things like diabetes and heart disease.
- We lose muscle mass.
Another not-so-nice thing that happens when we age is that we tend to lose muscle mass. Muscle mass is important for mobility and strength, but also, having more muscle mass can increase your natural metabolic rate since muscles burn more energy than fat.
Maintaining muscle mass is one of the keys to preventing excessive weight gain in older age, which we mentioned previously is more likely to occur due to slowing metabolic rates. However, it can be challenging to lose weight and build muscle later in life, which is why a healthy diet and daily exercise regimen become even more important around mid-life, if not earlier. Inactivity can accelerate muscle loss that already begins to occur around age 30.
Eating lean protein and incorporating resistance training (anything that requires the muscles to work against gravity, weights or rubber resistance bands) are all good ideas to help maintain or increase muscle mass. However, one thing to note about protein consumption in older age is that due to our slowing metabolism, animal proteins may not be broken down as easily. Instead, reach for plant-based proteins or grass-fed or marine collagen, which are a bit easier on the digestive system. Furthermore, research has shown that the amino acid profiles of animal proteins can trigger certain enzymes in the body that have negative effects on aging. Don’t worry about cutting out animal protein altogether, but opt for things like vegan protein shakes, tofu or tempeh more frequently.
- We are at higher risk for cardiovascular diseases.
Our heart and blood vessels become “stiffer” as we get older, meaning that our blood flow is slower and our blood pressure tends to increase. That said, the heart still functions well, but it may have to work harder to pump more blood when we exercise or become ill. Regular aerobic exercise (anything that gets your heart rate up and oxygen flowing, such as running, walking and swimming) can all contribute to improved heart health and athletic performance in seniors.
In addition, plaque from years of unhealthy eating can build up and exacerbate blood pressure problems. The good news is that this can be reversed, mainly through making changes in the diet. Avoid sugar and trans fats while increasing your fibre intake as well as healthy fats and lean protein. Do not rely on medications such as aspirin to provide bandage solutions for poor lifestyle habits.
Benefits of a Keto Diet for Seniors
Improved Heart Health
A ketogenic diet rich in healthy fats can actually improve heart health. While this may seem counterintuitive because we have been told that fat is “unhealthy” for so many years – especially if you were born around the time these claims started coming out – it has been shown that ketosis promotes fat burning, as well as many other benefits that can help reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. As long as you are choosing the right sources of fat, that is, mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (found in many plant foods and grass-fed animal foods), your risk for diet-induced cardiovascular disease should be reduced. This is because ketosis can help you lose weight and manage conditions such as diabetes that put you at higher risk for heart attack, stroke, etc. In addition, eliminating foods that cause plaque in the arteries to build up (such as trans fats found in processed food and fast food) further reduces your risk. For more information on how a low carb diet can improve artery health and cholesterol levels, check out our article, “Exploring Cholesterol Level Impacts on Health.”
Blood Sugar Control
Many seniors suffer from insulin resistance, a condition associated with or which can lead to diabetes that has serious life-threatening complications. The ketogenic diet is especially recommended for those wanting to manage their blood sugar levels and reverse insulin resistance, mainly because it drastically reduces dietary sugars allowing for blood sugar and insulin levels to return to normal. That said, if you are taking insulin or other medications currently to combat diabetes, talk to your doctor first about switching to a ketogenic diet, as these two things can work against each other.
Improved Cognitive Function
Another key benefit of the ketogenic diet for seniors is improved cognitive function. As we age, we all experience some loss of memory, reasoning and other thinking skills. In more serious cases, we can experience dementia, and even develop Alzheimer’s disease which can have life-threatening effects.
To reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, it is often recommended to make positive lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, keeping alcohol consumption to a minimum, following a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Recent research has found that a ketogenic diet, in addition to the other activities mentioned, can significantly reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. This is because ketones offer a better fuel source for brain cells; studies have shown that ketones provide long-lasting energy, increase nerve cell growth, and strengthen nerve cell signalling. Another big benefit of the ketogenic diet is that it helps reduce inflammation in all parts of the body, including in the brain. This is when a ketogenic diet is compared to a diet rich in refined sugars and carbohydrates, which trigger inflammation. Finally, researchers have found that the brain loses its ability to use glucose (obtained from dietary carbs) as a viable fuel source in Alzheimer’s disease, so it makes sense to provide an alternative for its continued functioning.
Prevention of Nutrient Deficiencies
A low carb or ketogenic diet often focuses on nutritionally dense whole foods, which can help prevent nutrient deficiencies in older adults. This group is the one of the most susceptible to nutrient deficiencies due to changing appetite levels and digestive capabilities. Some of the most important nutrients to be mindful of include iron, B vitamins, vitamin D and healthy fats. A lack of these can cause neurological dysfunctions, decreased energy levels and more physical signs of aging. Including enough healthy fats in the diet is also important because many of these essential nutrients are fat-soluble, meaning they require dietary fats in order to be properly absorbed by the body. You can get tested to check your levels of these and other nutrients to ensure you have healthy levels. Daily vitamins can also reduce the risk of nutrient deficiencies, but are not a replacement for a healthy diet.
The Elderly 7 Day Meal Plan
Porridge: Rolled oats with 1.5 cups milk. + 1 piece of fruit (eg. 1 medium banana or 6 dried apricot halves).
Egg and Chicken Salad Bowl (1 serve): + 1 tub yoghurt
Chicken & Cashew Noodle Stir-fry: Chicken tenderloins sliced, stir fried in peanut oil with vegetables, rice noodles and cashew nuts.
Fruit Salad and Ice Cream: Fresh fruit salad with ice cream.
1 glass milk. Wholemeal bread (toasted) with baked beans.
Peanut Butter on Toast: Wholemeal or seed bread (toasted) with peanut butter. + 1 glass of milk. + 1 piece of fruit (eg. a orange or 2 small pieces).
Grilled Fish & Vegetables: Fish with steamed vegetables. + a bread roll thinly spread with butter. + 1 tub yoghurt.
Greek-Style Egg Lemon Soup with Chicken and Greens (1 serve): Serve with mixed salad vegetables.
Fresh Fruit & Cheese Platter: Slice and serve a variety of fresh fruits in season and cheese.
Fruit & Yoghurt. Avocado on a slice of rye toast.
Mushroom Soufflé Omelette (1 serve): + 1 glass of milk. + 1 piece of fruit (eg. 1 medium banana or pear).
Lentil, Vegetable and Barley Soup: Lentils with vegetables, vegetable stock and barley. + 1 serve of fruit (eg. 2 cups berries).
Spaghetti Bolognese: Lean mince with spaghetti, tomato, cheese and olive oil (for cooking). + a side salad (baby spinach, carrots, cucumber).
Berry & Cheese Dessert: Stir 2 cups berries into ½ cup smooth ricotta cheese, drizzle with honey and top with a sprinkle of almond meal.
1 tub yoghurt + canned tuna in oil on crackers.
Cereal & Fruit: Wholegrain flaky cereal sprinkled with linseeds and served with 1.5 cup milk. + 1 serve of fruit (eg. 6 dried apricot halves or 4 small plums).
Curried Egg Sandwich: Egg (add curry powder when mashing egg), wholemeal or seed bread, salad vegetables (eg. lettuce), and mayonnaise. + 1 tub yoghurt.
Grilled Chicken and Vegetables: Lean chicken with corn on the cob, vegetables baked in a little olive oil, + sweet potato mash.
Banana Souffle (1 serve): +1 glass milk.
Ice cream + handful of mixed nuts.
Fruit Toast: Fruit loaf with a favourite spread. + 1 glass of milk. + 1 piece of fruit (eg. 1 medium apple or orange).
Chicken & Pasta Salad: Lean chicken + pasta + leafy green vegetables + avocado + oil (for cooking). + 1 serve of fruit (eg. 1 medium pear or orange).
Salmon, Rice and Vegetables: Oven-baked Salmon fillet + potato wedges served with steamed vegetables.
Fruit Smoothie: Made with 1 cup milk + 1 tbsp walnuts + fruit (eg. a small mango or berries).
1 tub yoghurt. Strawberry slices + ricotta cheese + nut butter on toast.
Cereal: Wholewheat cereal biscuits + 1.5 cup milk + handful of crushed almonds. + 1 serve of fruit (eg. berries, raisins or sultanas).
Tuna, Cheese and Salad Wrap: Canned Tuna + cheese + avocado + salad vegetables (eg. lettuce, cucumber, carrot, capsicum) rolled up in a wholegrain wrap. + 1 glass milk.
Lamb Chops and Vegetables: Trim lamb chop + sweet potato + vegetables + small amount oil (for cooking).
Yoghurt Parfait: Layer 1 tub of yoghurt and muesli/rolled oats in tall serving glasses. Top with a sprinkle of crushed nuts.
1 serve of fruit (eg. 1 cup fresh fruit salad or 3/4 cup grapes) + handful of mixed nuts.
Scrambled Eggs on Toast: Scrambled eggs served on sourdough bread. + 1 glass of milk. + 1 serve of fruit (eg. 1 medium apple or banana).
Chicken and Vegetable Soup: Chicken pieces + vegetables (eg. tomato, celery, carrot) with vegetable stock. + a bread roll spread with avocado. + 1 tub yoghurt.
Roast Dinner: Lean roast pork + baked potato + baked vegetables + small amount of oil (for cooking).
Wholesome Baked Custard (1 serve)
Chocolate Drizzled Banana: Made with a banana and 2 tsp melted dark chocolate + cheese on crackers.