Healthy Eating In Old Age

Eating a well-balanced diet is an important part of staying healthy as you age. It can help you maintain a healthy weight, stay energized, and get the nutrients you need.

As we age, physical changes to our bodies occur, affecting how we think and feel about food.

These changes can prevent us from accessing a healthy diet and make us believe we are less hungry. The changes may include the following;

• Reduced mobility means shopping for food becomes more challenging or a chore rather than an enjoyable activity.

• Our taste buds are renewed less frequently, and our sense of smell reduces, meaning an older person’s appetite can decline, reducing food intake.

• Surgery, illness, and medication may all directly impact your appetite.

• Changes in our mouth may produce less saliva, and changes to teeth and jaw shape may mean dentures no longer feel comfortable or fit correctly.

• Long-term conditions such as dementia can cause cognitive impairment leading to problems with Eating and drinking.

But it isn’t just physical changes that affect an older person’s attitude to food. Social isolation is a significant factor in making seniors feel unmotivated to cook for one, or they may lack cooking skills. Stressful events such as family issues and bereavement may create a ripple effect and can cause a reduction in appetite. On top of this, elderly individuals could potentially have lower food budgets leaving them feeling they cannot afford to eat healthily.

Here are ten warning signs that someone may be affected by a poor Diet;

1. Depression and emotional well-being – Struggling with depression can cause a change in appetite, and a level of stress can also affect our appetite. If you suspect someone is depressed or struggling to cope, raise awareness with their doctor.

2. Sudden weight fluctuation – A sudden weight change over the past six months is another sign that something could be amiss. Warning signs include ill-fitting clothes and jewellery.
3. Poor concentration, tiredness, and lack of energy can indicate that the body needs essential nutrients to produce sufficient energy.

4. Taking a long time to recover from infections – Slower recovery can be caused by a deficiency in vitamins and nutrients.

5. Skin tone and nails – If someone is eating correctly, the skin should look bright and well-hydrated, and the nails should be healthy.

6. Forgetfulness – Seniors who live alone may forget to eat. Dementia and cognitive problems lead to nutritional deficiencies.

7. Difficulty keeping warm – With reduced muscle and tissue mass, people become more susceptible to being unable to regulate their temperature.

8. Persistent bowel problems – Malnutrition can irritate the stomach and the intestine lining, causing constipation and diarrhoea.

9. More than three medications – Medication can influence both appetite and weight. Check with the GP if you suspect medications could be the culprit.

10. Expired or spoiled food – Check the fridge for use by or best-before dates. This will help identify when food is at risk of spoiling and is no longer safe.

How can you help to tackle malnutrition?

You can use several methods to track nutrition for individuals who live in their own homes. Our purpose is to assist in spreading information and identifying those who may be in danger, allowing families and carers to take appropriate measures.

Here are some ways of preventing malnutrition:

• When planning meals, it’s important to consider personal food preferences. As we age, our tastes change, so the foods someone liked before may not be the same as they are now.

• Keep mealtimes interesting. Aromas can help to stimulate the appetite. You can encourage your loved one to participate in selecting, preparing, and serving meals whenever they can.

• Make the dining area comfortable, remove distractions, and create a nice atmosphere.

• Think about portion sizes; if appetite is a problem, it is better to introduce smaller portions more often instead of a large plate of food three times a day. Offering finger food is also an excellent way to encourage people to eat.

• Ensure healthy snack options and food and drinks are easily accessible throughout the day.

• Avoid calorie-free or low-fat products unless your loved one has been advised to eat them by their GP.

• Always prioritize mealtimes and try to create a mealtime routine. Avoid rushing and coercing someone to eat; gentle persuasion is better.

Additional things you can do for older people:

• Make a shopping list for the person or help them with their shopping journeys.

• If home cooking is not possible, assist with access to prepared meals via a home delivery service.

• Ensure any family members, friends, or anyone providing care and support are kept up to date with the person’s wishes about food.

• Avoid using the term ‘malnutrition’ with older people who may become frightened or associate it with negative issues such as neglect or poverty. Instead, refer to ‘Keep well.’

• Confront the myth that weight loss is a normal process with aging as our bodies become less active. Weight loss is not a normal part of the aging process

Here's more guidance that looks more like a menu you can eat every day:

3 Servings of Higher-Protein Foods
Good choices include fish, chicken, lean beef or pork, tofu or soy-based meat substitutes, or
legumes. A serving is about 3 oz or the size of a deck of cards.

2-3 Servings of Dairy or Other Calcium-Rich Foods
Good choices include low-fat yogurt or milk, calcium-fortified soy milk, part-skim ricotta or mozzarella, and reduced-fat goat cheese. To ensure proper serving sizes, it’s recommended to have 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 1/2 cup of cottage cheese, or 1/4 cup of soft cheese.

5 Servings of Non-Starchy Vegetables
Don’t panic: a serving is just 1/2 cup or about the size of an ice cream scoop.

2-3 Servings of Fruit
Choose fresh or unsweetened frozen fruit whenever possible.
A serving is 1/2 cup.

2-3 Servings of Healthy Fats
These include olive oil, canola mayo, avocado, peanut butter, and nuts. A serving is one tablespoon of oil or mayonnaise, ¼ of an avocado, or a small handful of nuts.

4 Servings of Grains or Starchy Vegetables
Best choices include intact grains like rice or barley, whole-grain bread, high-fiber cereals, or potatoes. A serving is one slice of bread, 1/2 cup of rice or cereal, or half of a baked potato.

1 (But Just One) Serving Whatever Your Heart Desires
Chocolate? Frozen yogurt? A piece of decadent cheese or pastry? A few pretzels and a dip with the evening news? Go for it!

It’s okay to follow this recipe every single day precisely. But as a general template, it can help ensure your Diet is reasonably balanced. These guidelines also provide the suggested amounts of calcium, vitamin D, fiber, fluids, and other nutrients essential for healthy aging.

Healthy body, healthy mind

A balanced diet is not enough to maintain healthy muscles. Incorporating exercise into your routine is crucial to protect and strengthen them. You can rebuild and repair your muscles by doing weights or resistance activities.

Eating the right food and keeping physically active and mentally stimulated is vital to protecting yourself as you age. Ensure you make eating as social as possible and try to make mealtimes happy, healthy, and an important part of your daily routine.

Help and support are never far away

If you are feeling under strain and need a helping hand or a bit of respite time, Home Instead Ruislip and Harrow can help. Our Care Professionals can help around the house and assist with meal preparation, shopping, and errands. Please get in contact with us today on 01895 624 230.