A healthy diet is important at any age, but in the elderly it’s especially critical that they eat food that is packed with nutrition. Family caregivers can create delicious and nutritious meal plans for their aging loved ones so they get all the benefits of nutrient-dense foods that boost health and wellness. It will take some coordination with other family members and home care aides that help out with grocery shopping and preparing food for the elderly loved one, but it’s definitely worth it. When every bite counts, seniors need food with maximum nutritional value.
Reduced Caloric Intake in Seniors
Seniors generally take in fewer calories with every meal for a number of different reasons. Some experience a diminished appetite and are satiated after just a small portion. Others struggle with chewing and swallowing issues from dentures, mouth sores or other oral problems. If the elderly person is dealing with the aftermath of a stroke, arthritis, tremors or other condition that makes muscle control a challenge, eating can be more of a chore than a pleasure. Still others battle with eating disorders that often go unrecognized.
The problem with a lower caloric intake in seniors is that they are a high risk for malnourishment, which can lead to numerous health issues. Nutrients in healthy food help combat many of the effects of aging, boost the immune system and help the body run more efficiently. Because seniors take in few calories, the food they eat needs to be as nutrient-dense as possible.
Nutrient-Dense Foods for Seniors
The best foods for any age are those that are nutrient-dense, packing in lots of vitamins and minerals without a lot of calories. Nutrient-dense foods have been linked to helping the body in reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, cardiovascular health and more. While a multivitamin can deliver missing dietary elements, the best way to get nutrients is through wholesome foods.
Fruits and vegetables contain numerous nutrients with few calories and little fat or cholesterol. When it comes to vegetables, seniors should eat a variety every day, taking in as many different colors as possible. Darker and more intense colors are generally healthier—such as spinach over pale lettuce. When possible, serve up dark leafy greens, tomatoes, carrots, red peppers, and sweet potatoes, which are particularly nutrient-dense. Fruit is more nutritious when eaten whole, cut up and pureed, as opposed to fruit juices that leave behind the healthy fiber.
Whole grain foods are much more nutritious than refined grains. When planning meals for seniors, look for whole grain bread, pasta, crackers and cereal for a nutritious boost. Refined grains have much of the germ and bran removed, stripping it of most of the nutritional value. Low fat dairy is ideal for seniors, delivering nutrients without too much extra fat. The right kind of protein is extremely important in a nutrient-dense diet, so opt for lean meat and eggs as well as seafood and beans.
A big part of home care for elderly loved ones is making sure they have access to delicious and healthy meals. Between family caregivers, other family members, home care aides, friends and community organizations that cater to seniors, there are plenty of resources to ensure that seniors are getting nutrient-dense food as opposed to empty calories and little nutritional value.
When you are in need of care for a senior loved one, consider home care provided by Golden Heart Senior Care. We have offices nationwide. For more information, call us today at (800) 601-2792.