A good diet is the foundation of a healthy life and an important part of caring for an older adult. Therefore, knowing what foods an older adult should consume in abundance, and on the contrary, which ones to avoid, represents a significant help for grandparents who suffer from a chronic disease or are at risk of suffering from it.
Do you want to know what are the best eating habits in the elderly? In this guide we will cover everything about best eating practices for older adults.
What is Diet in the Elderly according to WHO?
Food according to the World Health Organization (including that of the elderly) is a concept that refers to food intake in relation to the needs of each person’s body. Therefore, it is important to carry out a healthy and balanced diet to maintain good health. In addition, some daily exercise routines should also be included for best results. A poor diet can weaken the elderly and make them more vulnerable to certain diseases that can reduce their productivity and alter their physical and mental development.
In general, poor diet occurs when there is an increase in the consumption of processed foods. Since the speed with which the world moves today has forced us to change our lifestyle. So many people tend to eat processed foods to save time. These foods contain unhealthy substances with high caloric levels along with a series of free sugars, fats and salt. This is something that can be very harmful to the body, especially if you do not eat enough vegetables, fruits and dietary fiber.
It should be noted that the diet for older adults will be different in each case. This happens because to determine a good balanced, healthy and varied diet, various aspects of the person’s life must be taken into account. These aspects include age, lifestyle, sex and degree of physical activity. Therefore, you should go to a specialist so that he can evaluate the characteristics of the elderly and can create an effective diet based on them.
Characteristics of a healthy diet in the elderly
For an older adult to have a good diet, they must carry out a diet that includes the following characteristics:
- It should be as complete as possible. This means that the diet must include certain nutrients that provide a wide variety of benefits to the body. For example: vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, water and fats.
- It has to be adapted to your personal characteristics. As we mentioned before, each person must have a different diet based on their age, height, sex, work, physical activity that they carry out and their state of health.
- It must be varied. It is essential that the diet of the elderly is made up of foods from all the groups in the food pyramid to ensure that they are obtaining all the necessary nutrients. Among these groups, some foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, cereals, meats, cereals and vegetables stand out.
- It is extremely important that your diet provides you with a sufficient amount of energy for your day-to-day life.
- You have to maintain a balance. All the nutrients in the diet must be distributed in a balanced way. So the total percentage of daily calories should be composed as follows: 60% carbohydrates, 30% fat and 10% protein. In addition to this, the elderly person should drink between 1.5 and 2 liters of water a day.
- It should be enough. The amount of food that must be incorporated into the diet must be adequate so that the elderly can maintain a normal weight based on their height so that they can reinforce their health.
What foods and nutrients should be included in the Diet for Adults?
It is very important to follow a nutritional diet that includes certain foods and nutrients that cover all the needs of the body in a healthy way. These foods and nutrients are:
The diet of the elderly must contain a percentage of fat less than or equal to 30%. Since in this way the excessive consumption of calories will be avoided in order to prevent overweight problems. For this, the person must limit the intake of trans fats and control the consumption of saturated fats. In addition, it is vital that you replace these two elements with the unsaturated fats found in walnuts, sunflower seeds, corn or soybean oil, flaxseeds and in some fish such as albacore, trout and salmon.
To include the consumption of these fats in a healthy way, the following tips should be followed:
- Replace common butter with oils rich in polyunsaturated fats such as corn, soy or sunflower.
- Instead of frying food, it should be steamed or boiled.
- Consume the least amount of baked or appetizing foods such as cakes, donuts, biscuits, and cookies as possible.
- Include lean meats and skimmed dairy.
Both the teeth and bones of the human body are made up of a large amount of calcium. As well as neurons, blood and body tissues, but in this case this mineral is found in smaller quantities. This nutrient is one of the most important of all, since it influences:
- Maintaining a normal heart rhythm.
- Blood clotting.
- The development of teeth and bones.
- Relaxation and muscle contraction.
- The sending and receiving of nerve signals.
- The secretion of hormones.
This mineral is present in foods such as cheese, milk, yogurt, broccoli, chard, spinach, asparagus, and fish such as salmon and sardines.
Fruits, vegetables and greens
The consumption of these foods is one of the best options to reduce the risk of suffering from non-communicable diseases, such as cancer or cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. For this reason, it is recommended that the older adult ingest at least 400 g of fruits, vegetables and greens during the day as follows:
- Add vegetables to all meals.
- Eat snacks of fresh fruits and raw vegetables.
- Choose a varied selection of vegetables and fruits that include grapes, oranges, broccoli, carrots, blueberries, apples, beets, tomatoes and other foods of this style.
- Make sure vegetables and fruits are fresh in season.
Zinc is a fundamental element for the enzymes in charge of metabolism to maintain their proper functioning. Likewise, it also has a great influence on the formation of DNA, the acuity of the senses and the maintenance of the immune system. It can be acquired by consuming beef, liver, lettuce, spinach, carrot, peach, mushrooms and in egg yolk.
Like calcium, vitamin D is an ideal substance for bones and teeth to develop properly. Therefore, an adequate consumption of this vitamin can help the elderly not suffer from diseases such as rickets or osteoporosis. This mineral can be obtained through exposure to the sun’s rays or through foods such as:
- Fatty fish like mackerel and salmon.
- Fish liver oils.
Potassium and sodium
Potassium and sodium are two elements that work together to maintain proper functioning in the muscular and nervous system. In the same way, they help the production of proteins, the maintenance of muscles and the regulation of the water level in the body. This nutrient can be included in the diet of the elderly through foods such as:
- Meat and fish.
- Soy products.
- Dairy products.
- Fruits like kiwi and bananas.
- Vegetables such as tomatoes or potatoes.
Foods to Avoid Adults Over 60
In addition to knowing what foods to include in a healthy diet, it is also important to know what foods or drinks older adults should avoid to further complement this plan.
The elderly should reduce the consumption of free sugars to less than 10% to maintain good health. Since free sugars can increase the risk of being overweight or obese and promote the development of dental cavities and. These sugars are obtained by consuming processed foods and beverages with a high sugar content, such as sugary snacks, sweets, energy drinks, flavored water, ready-to-drink coffee and soft drinks. Therefore, it is important for the elderly to limit their consumption as much as possible.
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Excessive consumption can greatly influence the increase in blood pressure and thus make the elderly more likely to suffer a stroke or coronary artery disease. That is why the diet should contain this mineral but in moderate amounts of a maximum of 5 grams per day.
To reduce salt intake it is important to follow some tips:
- Choose products with a low sodium level.
- Limit your intake of sodium-rich seasonings such as fish sauce and soy sauce.
- Avoid using high-sodium sauces.
- Cut down on salty snacks.
As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, convenience foods are highly harmful to the body. Since they are prepared with some preservatives so that they last long and can be consumed several days after purchase. Although this is a very effective option to save time cooking, what many do not know is that these foods contain salts, sugars and fats that can stimulate the appearance of some diseases in the elderly, such as obesity.
Seniors should consume the least amount of alcoholic beverages possible. Because these substances intervene in the effect of vitamins and decrease appetite, something that would make the person not follow the eating plan to the letter. In addition to this, if the elderly adult is taking any medication, it is essential that they avoid alcohol intake so that the drug can take effect and not cause adverse effects.
The ways of cooking are also a fundamental factor to maintain a correct diet. For this reason oils and fried foods should be avoided. Instead we can opt for a healthier technique such as steamed, baked or even grilled.
Importance of Nutrition in the Elderly
Food is a very important element in the life of each person that allows the correct physical, personal and intellectual development, especially in older adults. Since during the third stage of life, it is very common for some physical changes to appear along with some diseases associated with age that can be prevented or controlled with a good diet. Among these changes, the weakening of the senses and the loss of teeth stand out, which in turn reduce salivation and make the person have problems chewing. Both factors directly influence the adult and make him lose interest in food, thus promoting malnutrition.
For that reason, in old age it is important to follow certain diets that are adjusted to the conditions of the elderly and that limit the consumption of certain foods that are harmful to the body. They must be composed of proteins, fibers, vitamins, calcium, iron and other minerals.
The consumption of these substances helps to maintain good health, prevent the appearance of certain diseases and improve the absorption of nutrients that in many cases is compromised by the use of certain medications. In addition to this, they are also responsible for providing energy to the person so that they do not feel fatigued and can carry out their day-to-day activities without any limitation.
What factors influence the Diet of the elderly?
Today it is very common for all people, including older adults, to make certain decisions that are not compatible with a good diet, something that can lead to a weight or health problem. Among these factors that do not allow the person to carry out a healthy diet, the following stand out:
- Economy: Currently fast food is one of the cheapest ways to eat. However, these foods are full of sugars and fats that increase the amount of calories consumed and put the life of the elderly at risk
- Tastes and preferences: Many times people tend to resort to fast foods for their attractive flavor and leave aside vegetables that, although they do not have a very pleasant taste for everyone, they do help maintain a good state of health.
- The relationship between satiety and the brain: Some negative thoughts or mental illnesses make the adult feel the need to continue eating and it is more difficult for them to be satisfied.
- Time pressures: The fast pace of life today means that we have less time to eat healthy and exercise, for that reason many choose fast foods.
- Food education: It is very common to see how some elderly people do not have any knowledge about food, so their daily diets tend to lack the essential vitamins and minerals that the body needs.
How do you know if a person is not eating properly?
If an elderly person is not eating properly, they are likely to experience any of the following symptoms:
- Damaged hair
- Tooth and gum problems.
- Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, constipation, or indigestion.
- Sudden weight gain or loss.
- His wounds take time to heal.
- You get sick frequently.
It is extremely important to see a doctor as soon as possible when these symptoms appear frequently.
Special Diet for Older Adults
A healthy diet should be composed of several foods in adequate quantities that are not excessive and that are distributed throughout the day in a balanced way. For this, different food plans can be applied, such as:
- Yogurt or milk.
- Cereals, cookies type Maria or bread.
- Cheese, bread or ham.
- Rice, potato, pasta or legume.
- Fish, meat or eggs.
- Garnish: vegetable or salad.
- Milk or yogurt
- Cookies or cereals.
- Vegetable or salad.
- Fish, meat or eggs.
- Garnish: rice or potatoes.
- Dairy or fruit dessert.
This diet is simply one example of how a meal plan should be structured. Since, as we mentioned before, each older adult must follow a diet that takes into account their health and other aspects of their life. For this, you should go to a geriatric nutritionist who can build a special and complete diet for adults to help them avoid certain health problems.
Recommendations for a good diet in the elderly
Diet in the elderly also needs other elements in addition to adequate food consumption. These elements are:
- Drink a lot of water.
- Perform daily exercise routines.
- Take care of the mood.
- Limit the consumption of alcoholic beverages, soft drinks and ice cream.
- Eat in a regulated way without skipping meals, especially breakfast.
- Maintain a healthy body weight.
- Choose whole foods.
- Avoid fried, breaded or precooked foods.
- Do not use the microwave.