The caregiver roles are now reversed and it is your turn to take care of your parents. Too often, elderly loved ones are not getting the proper nutrition because they forget to eat or have trouble preparing their own meals. It is important to recognize the signs that a loved one may not be eating enough and know what you can do to help.
As you get older, nutritional needs change and to reflect these changes, researchers from Tufts University have designed modified nutritional guidelines to correspond with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recommendations. “MyPlate for Older Adults” is similar to MyPlate and provides information about the specific nutritional needs of seniors to ensure they’re eating enough of the right kinds of foods and staying hydrated.
Half of the plate is made up of fruits and vegetables, in a variety of colors, to emphasize the importance of eating dark-skinned produce, such as tomatoes or berries. There are also options which would be easier for seniors to prepare, such as low sodium, low sugar canned fruit and veggies. Other foods that are illustrated are whole grains, non-fat and low-fat dairy products, meat and liquids.
Older adults also lose interest in food due to sensory changes, which could include change in smell, taste, or metabolism. Sensory changes could also make food less appetizing. Encourage a loved one to add new spices and flavors to food, such as basil, dill, curry, lemon or vinegars, to make food more interesting to them again. Additionally, according to Colorado State University, loss of visual acuteness can lead to fear of cooking, using a stove, or grocery shopping. A solution to this would be to help seniors with shopping and food preparation. Food texture can also make a big difference for seniors with dentures. Help loved ones with cooking time to prevent overcooking and encourage a diet rich in fresh foods with different textures to prevent them from becoming bored with a diet.
MyPlate also emphasizes the important of exercise, such as walking, resistance training, and light household chores. It encourages senior adults to engage in regular physical activity to maintain a healthy weight. Aging also causes a decline in thirst, but it is important to stay hydrated to prevent dehydration. Remind your loved one to drink a mix of fluids every day, such as juice, milk or other beverages, to keep themselves properly hydrated and healthy.
Eating healthy when getting older can be difficult, so providing occasional guidance might be necessary. Paying attention to the nutritional needs of an elderly loved one will ensure they maintain a healthy diet. Follow the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) recommendations for those over 50:
- Half of the grains they eat should be whole grains.
- Aim to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Eat a limited amount of saturated fats.
- Eat seafood two times per week.