Nutrition for Healthy Seniors

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Navigating meal planning and staying updated with the latest diet and nutrition advice can be confusing. Thankfully, we now have sufficient scientific evidence to back basic nutrition principles applicable to any adult age group. However, older adults possess specific dietary requirements crucial to understand. Making changes to your eating habits can pose challenges, but starting gradually and concentrating on gradual improvements yields significant benefits. Here are some nutrition fundamentals, meal planning tips, and ways independent living communities can help you.

Why Nutrition is Important for Seniors

Nutrition is one of the pillars of good health, and your diet can be considered a foundation of health and well-being. You may be surprised to learn what an impact poor nutrition can make.

  • Chronic diseases include heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. Poor dietary choices and lack of physical exercise contribute to these diseases.
  • Healthy dietary choices have been associated with improved cognition and memory. A combination of two diets (Mediterranean and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension DASH) has been shown to prevent or slow brain decline. Studies show that it lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s by 53% in those who follow it closely.
  • Good nutrition, specifically the Mediterranean Diet, is associated with improved mood.
  • Older adults may need more protein than younger adults to maintain muscle mass.
  • Dehydration is a serious concern for seniors since the thirst mechanism declines with age. Drinking water throughout the day and avoiding sugary beverages is critical.  Placing Celtic sea salt under your tongue before drinking water will aid in water absorption at the cellular level, and also restores minerals like magnesium and potassium.

The Basics of Good Nutrition

Let’s get down to the basics of good nutrition and what to avoid. Any change can be beneficial to your health.

What to Avoid in Your Diet

The American diet largely consists of high-fat, processed foods, high sodium, refined grains, and animal products. Try to avoid:

  • High-sodium foods that can contribute to high blood pressure.
  • High-sugar foods and drinks, such as soda and sugary desserts, and processed foods that are high in sugar.
  • Highly processed foods that contain a lot of preservatives, added flavors, colors, and other ingredients you don’t recognize! Think packaged foods and pre-made frozen foods. 
  • Eating excessive amounts of red meat and high-fat dairy products.
  • Excessive Alcohol.  Alcohol is now linked to several chronic diseases. If you do drink, limit the amount.

What to Include in Your Diet

Now, let’s look at what to include more of in your diet. Some of what you include will be personal preference. Remember to try different foods! Inevitably, you will be surprised at what you like.

  • Fresh Vegetables and Fruits

Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits every day, such as greens, broccoli, kale, swiss chard, carrots, apples, bananas, cantaloupe, blueberries, etc.

  • Eat Whole Grains

Whole grains include whole wheat flour, oatmeal, bulgar, brown rice, and quinoa.

  • Legumes

Legumes are high in fiber, protein, B vitamins, iron, folate, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc. They include all beans, such as chickpeas, pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, and black-eyed peas. If you purchase canned beans, watch out for added sodium content.

  • Lean Meats

If you do eat meat, try to limit your consumption to lean meats such as poultry and pork tenderloin.

  • Seafood

Salmon, in particular, is high in Omega 3s AND a healthy alternative to other meats. 

  • Olive Oil

Olive oil has large amounts of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects.

  • Nuts and Seeds

Nuts are nutrient-rich foods that contain fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients. Just watch the salt!

How to Plan Meals

Healthy meal planning may require some adjustments and certainly requires some planning and careful shopping. Here are some suggestions on how to prepare healthy meals.

  • Shop for diversity. By that, we mean a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
  • Focus on high-quality protein sources such as fish and chicken and ensure you are getting your recommended protein intake each day.
  • Make a list of all the basics you need for good nutrition, such as whole grains, nuts, low-fat dairy, and fish. If you don’t have what you need for a healthy meal, you are more likely to revert to unhealthy snack foods.
  • In a pinch, a diverse salad with avocado and beans is a terrific meal for lunch or dinner.
  • Talk to your doctor about any potential vitamin and mineral deficiencies that you can’t get from your diet and whether supplements are recommended.
  • Work with your neighbors in our community to make grocery lists, try out new recipes and prepare meals ahead of time.   
  • Our independent living community partners with grocery and meal delivery companies to further assist you in making healthier choices. 

How to Get Started

If you feel you need a lot of work to improve your diet, be patient and give yourself time to make the transition. Additionally, always talk with your doctor before making any significant changes. Have faith that over time, a healthier diet will give you more energy, improve your thinking, and have positive effects on blood pressure, cardiovascular health, and blood sugar. Now is the time to get started!

About Park Place by Highlands

Park Place by Highlands is an age-exclusive community for those 55 and older. If you would like more information on our property, or to schedule a tour, please contact us.