Now, let’s talk about our favorite thing: FOOD!
As we age, our appetites diminish, our metabolisms slow and our level of physical activity decreases. Aging means weaker muscles, inflexibility, a decrease in energy and a need for increased attention to nutrition.
Did you know that approximately 65% of seniors could potentially suffer from malnutrition? More and more seniors are at risk and consequently, need to prioritize their nutritional health. Because of the slowed metabolism and the reduced appetite, seniors aren’t eating as much and are therefore, not getting the nutrients they need to keep them strong and healthy.
What are the benefits of good nutrition for seniors?
Good nutrition is important in all stages of life. But when we get older, we need to be keener to what we eat. Older adults need all the extra nutrients they can get. Here’s why:
It increases mental capacity
It provides high energy
It strengthens immune system
It improves muscle and bone strength
Again, these are all important for everyone of all ages. But older adults are more at risk of malnutrition. They can use all the energy they can get. Seniors are more prone to certain illnesses and having a strong immune system and a good mental capacity can help to ward off those illnesses. Also, older adults’ bones break easily, additional help to keep those bones strong is necessary.
Follow these steps to improve your senior’s nutrition and maintain good health:
1. Routine is Your Best Friend
Routine and habits are inherent in our bodily functions. Try your best to schedule your senior’s meals around the same time. This helps to boost metabolism and to keep our appetite in check. When we skip meals, our metabolism slows down to facilitate the lack of food and nutrients that we are getting. If we eat at the same times every day, it encourages a fast metabolic rate and therefore, increases our appetite.
2. Quality Over Quantity
More is not always better. Ensure that the foods you're feeding your senior is substantial in nutrients. Doctors and nutritionists have been beating this dead horse for centuries: eat your vegetables. Vegetables are healthy carbs that help to boost your energy and metabolism. But don’t forget to incorporate your protein and healthy fats. I say “healthy” to suggest that not all foods are created equal. Healthy fats include: avocado, egg yolk, olive oil and some nuts. On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find bad fats in processed foods such as pizza, burgers and fries.
To keep you meals healthy and balanced, you should keep your meals as colorful as possible. Add the green, the red, the blue the orange. This is often a good indication of a healthy and balanced meal.
NB: Add protein to every meal!
3. Add Some Flavor and Spice
When you drive by Wendy’s and smell the fries, don’t you immediately get hungry? Most of the times, you weren’t hungry prior to smelling those fries, but the scent whets your appetite. Adding some spice and flavors is good for just that reason: your older relative is more likely to have an appetite to eat if the food is flavorful and the aroma is filling their senses. Add the rosemary. Add the thyme. Add the cilantro. The variety of flavor and scents will certainly get your senior to eat.
4. Limit Processed Foods
A lot of the food afforded to us is processed, if even minimally. That doesn’t mean that it’s good for us. Try to avoid heavily processed foods such as cereal, bread, bacon, chips and crackers. Many of them are high in sugar, unhealthy fats and/or sodium. It is hard for young adults' digestive systems to process these foods, imagine how much harder they are on an elder’s digestive system.
5. Stay Hydrated
Three quarters (3/4) of the human body consists of water. This is not by accident. We need water to function. Most, if not all forms of bodily discharge consists of water—urine, feaces, sweat and tears. As a result, we need to replenish the body of the water that it’s losing. Beyond replenishing the body, water is needed to:
Transport nutrients in our blood stream
Aid in flushing waste
Serve as cushion for brain and spinal chord
Help regulate the body temperature
Malnutrition is a growing issue among seniors. Nutritional health is paramount for the well-being of older adults. Implement these 5 strategies to prevent your senior from falling prey to this illness.