Eat well, drink well, age well

This week is Nutrition & Hydration Week which aims to highlight and educate people on the value of food and drink, with a focus on health and wellbeing in social care. This reflects our #StayNourished campaign, which focuses on the wellbeing of older people through proper nutrition and hydration.

In this article, we are highlighting the top 10 myths about ageing and eating a healthy diet.

1. Your stomach reduces as you get older
Although appetite and capacity to eat may change, stomach size does not shrink when we get older. Our bodies change as we age and there is usually a decrease in lean body tissue and an increase in fat tissue, but the stomach stays the same size.

2. You need to eat less when you get older People often wrongly believe that as energy requirements reduce, we need to reduce our food intake but this isn’t the case. Our metabolism may slow down when we age but eating good food is what protects and fuels our bodies and is key to ageing well.

 3. Weight loss is healthy Unfortunately, this is not the case when we get older. Instead, dieting and unintentional weight loss should be avoided in later years unless advised by a GP or dietician. Instead, an eating plan packed with essential nutrients and vitamins should be followed.

4. You should only eat when you feel like it The ageing process can affect the usual triggers that tell us if we are hungry or full. An outright loss of appetite is not normal and could be a symptom of an underlying health problem. If eating a large meal feels too much, try to introduce more regular smaller meals, even if you don’t feel particularly hungry.

5. You need a low-fat diet
Contrary to popular opinion, a low-fat diet is not always the best approach, especially for older people. Some fats are important as a source of calories and some older people may need to eat more to maintain a healthy weight. 

6. Eat more vegetables Nutrient-rich vegetables are essential in any diet but should be eaten as part of a balanced diet including protein, carbohydrates and fluids. Protein is, in fact, more important as we age as it protects our muscles, immune system, body organs and brain. So it is essential to eat a balanced diet. The Eatwell Guide guidance from Public Health England is a good reminder of what should be included in our diet.

7. You only need to drink water when you’re thirsty 
If you feel thirsty, chances are it is your body telling you that you are low on hydration. Dehydration can cause confusion and hampers normal kidney function. It may also worsen other conditions that commonly affect older people.

8. Meal supplements are sufficient 
Our bodies cannot live off meal supplements and vitamins alone. Some supplements can interact with medication and some just don’t work the way they claim to. Meal supplements also cut out the opportunity to enjoy food with other people, family and friends.

9. You must always eat 3 square meals a day 
Making sure you eat regularly is essential to remaining healthy and well, but eating three satisfying meals a day can be a struggle if your appetite is affected. If three good sized meals are too much of a challenge, by eating 5 or 6 smaller meals or well-proportioned snacks. Make sure that the food you eat throughout the day contains different sources of energy such as protein, carbohydrate, vegetables, fats and dairy.

10. Malnutrition is a symptom of getting older 
Malnutrition can affect anyone at any age and is not a normal aspect of the ageing process. Malnutrition can occur in bodies of any size, large or small, but older people are particularly at risk. Don’t dismiss the warning signs of malnutrition as being par for the course.

To find out more, including the 10 warning signs someone may be affected by poor diet and how you can help to tackle malnutrition visit