Getting Your Nutritional Requirements as You Age
As you age your nutritional requirements change even though your need for healthy foods remains the same. But according to the Australian Dietary Guidelines the quantities of nutritious foods changes over time.
When you’re struggling with preparing healthy meals your first point of call would typically be your doctor who can guide you if you need further assistance. For example, you could need additional support if with a recent diagnosis of Type II diabetes. It’s also possible that you’ve developed an another underlying health condition in which case you’d be best to seek the consultation of an accredited dietician or nutritionist to assist you further. At the end of the day, eating healthy reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases.
What are Healthy Choices?
Maintaining a healthy weight is important at all ages and stages of life. This is achieved by using up as much energy as the energy that you consume from your diet. Choosing healthy dietary options and controlling the portion sizes of meals is a good start to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
Although your choices of foods come from the 5 food groups, quantities will vary. Firstly, you should opt for an abundance of vegetables, legumes and fruit of all colours.
Also, consuming a diet that’s high in fibre is necessary to maintaining a healthy digestive system. High fibre whole grains can be found in foods including brown rice, wholegrain breads and pastas to name a few. When you go grocery shopping, read the labels and make choices based on the foods with the highest fibre.
Also, it’s necessary to have protein in your diet, but you don’t want to consume much fat. With this in mind, when choosing meats be sure to select the leanest options. Some lean options include seafood, low fat beef, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds.
Unfortunately too many people don’t consume enough calcium rich foods which is essential for healthy bones. If you’re dairy intolerant or don’t like dairy foods, there are other varieties of food that are calcium rich. Foods including leafy green vegetables, tofu, nuts, seeds and fish all contain calcium too. Older women and men need to consume approximately 1300mg of calcium daily. Although calcium is important, it’s always best to opt for the low fat options once you’ve reach adulthood.
Finally, and of no less importance, it’s always important to stay well hydrated. Drink lots of water unless your doctor has told you not to due to a health condition.
Limit/ Avoid Certain Foods
There’s many myths out there surrounding the consumption of certain foods including saturated fats, sugar, salt and alcohol.
The fact is that fats are really calorie dense and can lead to weight gain. Also certain fats just aren’t good for you including saturated fats. The best fats to eat are healthy fats/ polyunsaturated fats that are found naturally in foods including oily fish, nuts and avocados.
In most cases you don’t need to add salt to your diet either, as you usually get enough salt from natural foods that you consume. But if you’re eating packaged foods, make a habit of reading the food labels and choose the foods with the lowest sodium content.
Recently in the media there’s been focus on the dangers of a high sugar diet. In order to reduce your sugar intake, avoid sugary drinks, cordials, sugar rich desserts, and all other foods that are high in sugar.
Finally it’s a good idea to limit your alcohol intake, or avoid alcohol all together if you can.
Changes to Your Diet as You Get Older
As you get older there are many factors that impact on our diet. Some people have a very limited budget. Others don’t have much of an appetite and lack energy too. Whatever the reason, here’s some ideas to help you with your diet.
Salt is added to just about everything. In most instances you don’t really need to add salt to anything as it’s found naturally in several foods. If you have too much salt in your diet it can lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Salt that’s found naturally in foods is usually enough to meet your sodium requirements.
Even though you might not be as thirsty as you get older, it is still really important to remain hydrated. A lot of people really struggle to drink enough water, but rest assure that you can get enough fluid by consuming a number of liquids. Try adding an extra cup of tea to your diet. Even water based coffee could be an option. Many people like the bubbles of soda water and find it easier to drink. And reduced fat milk is good option for hydration as well as calcium. Drinking enough fluids will keep you hydrated, maintain your blood volume, and help you to digest food.
Older people are more prone to Osteoperosis. It’s really important to look after your bones at all stages of life. By consuming the recommended amounts of calcium rich foods as you age, you have a better chance of maintaining healthy bones. This is around 1300mg for older people. Adding exercise into the mix will also aid your bone health.
Fats and Oils
As people get older they tend to be less physically active and therefore they don’t need to eat as many calories. Because fats are really hight in calories, it’s a good idea to limit/ reduce your fat intake. Avoid saturated fats as these types of fats are really bad for you. If you want to eat foods such as pastries and desserts, read the labels and try to opt for the lower calorie options that contain the least amount of saturated fats as possible.
Energy From Food
For some older people they find it difficult to maintain a healthy weight, and are often under-weight. If this is you, it might sound crazy to suggest that you should stop eating certain foods that you’ve always enjoyed. If you’ve lost weight without trying to as you’ve gotten older, It’s a good idea to visit your G.P. to talk about your health status. Meeting your nutritional needs is important at any age and your G.P. can start the process of helping you to reach your daily nutritional requirements.
Cost of Food
It’s all well and good to make suggestions about diet for those who have enough money, but unfortunately for some people money is the reason that their nutritional requirements aren’t being met. If you’re on a strict budget, all of the above ideas are suggestions. Take these suggestions on board and try to do your best within your budget. There are many recipe suggestions online as a helpful guide. Eating healthy can be expensive, but there’s ways that you can save on food.
By carefully planning your weekly meals you’ll significantly reduce waste. By reducing your time in the kitchen you’ll be more likely to cook too, so opt for simple and healthy recipes. And foods are always cheaper if you buy them in bulk. Consider cooking up a big pot of casserole or Chicken Cacciatore, and freeze the leftovers for another day, always remembering to store food safely.
A lot of us eat too much food and don’t exercise enough. Your energy needs depend on how much you exercise, how old you are, as well as your height and muscle mass.
Muscle mass gets less as you get older and you often exercise less due to lower energy levels. When this happens, you won’t need to consume as much food. It’s easier said than done, but try doing 30 minutes of activity each day as well as choosing healthy meal options.
Portion control has everything to do with serving size. If you’re gaining weight, reduce your food portions. If you’re losing weight, increase your food portions. But if you’re finding it difficult to portion control or to maintain a healthy weight, take a visit to your doctore and express your concerns sooner rather than later.
Do you find it difficult to shop for groceries? If so, you could ask a friend or family member for some help. If they can’t help you to shop or prepare meals you might need to start looking at some kind of home support. To access help and support in the home via government funded services, contact My Aged Care on 1800 200 422.
Finding it difficult to grocery shop and prepare meals happens to many people as they age. Others have other needs surrounding the consumption of food. You might be having difficulty cutting up food, or even swallowing food. If this is you, your nutritional needs probably aren’t being met. Please seek help as soon as possible by talking about this with your doctor. Also look at contacting My Aged Care to arrange an assessment and start the process of being able to access aged care services.
Maintaining a Healthy Body as You Age
Many older people worry about their bowel functions. To keep your bowels in good working order you need to stay hydrated, be active and consume enough fibre. If you do all of this and your bowels still aren’t working efficiently, you need to go and get a check-up.
Older people are prone to Osteoporosis. You need to consume calcium as well as get enough Vitamin D in order to build and maintain bone health. Calcium needs increase as you age and if you have Osteoporosis, diet on it’s own won’ be enough to look after your bones. You’ll likely require a supplement as well, and your doctor will put you on an Osteoporosis treatment plan.
Oral health is a major concern for seniors. A lot of older people find it a challenge to get to the dentist. If they’re having troubles with their teeth, it can significantly impact on nutrition and diet. This could be a result of poorly fitted dentures, oral cavities, and pain as well.
Unfortunately dentists don’t typically do house visits and as a result of this some people just don’t get to a dentist. If you can’t get to the dentist, look at contacting My Aged Care to arrange help for you. Sometimes you can arrange transport assistance to and from oral health appointments. Also, if you can’t afford to visit the dentist, you might be eligible for free dental services. Public dental services are managed by each state health department in Australia, so you’ll need to contact them to determine your eligibility.
So as you get older, make the changes that you need to in order to get your nutritional requirements. Stay hydrated, eat a balanced diet and get help if you need it.