6 healthy eating tips for older adults

Maintaining a healthy diet in old age will help you have a good quality of life. See how to do it.

Last update: December 20, 2021

Aging is a normal process. The adult lifestyle must adapt to the physical and emotional changes that arise. The question is what to do to grow old with a good quality of life. Well, in addition to incorporating new habits and behaviors, it is essential to maintain a healthy diet as an older adult.

According to the magazine University Nursing, nutrition is one of the most influential factors in older adults. Healthy food offers essential nutrients and energy.

Complying with the correct eating patterns during old age also helps prevent or improve chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and osteoporosis.

Healthy Eating Tips for Older Adults

Reaching a long life is a sign of good health. Each stage has its own requirements, but in the case of older adults, their body and their daily life are modified.

Magazine Hospital Nutrition points out that, to achieve a satisfactory old age, a healthy diet must be achieved that avoids deficiencies and excesses. An adequate lifestyle and achieving a more friendly society with older adults is also desirable.

1. The diet must be balanced

A balanced diet must be in accordance with the new needs of the elderly. The Eating Guide for Seniors emphasizes that the guideline should be individualized and cover the following:

  • Energy: as age advances, physical activity becomes less. For this reason, it is advisable to reduce energy intake to prevent obesity.
  • Proteins: the values ​​range between 10 and 15% of the total caloric intake. 60% animal protein and 40% vegetable protein are recommended.
  • Fats: the recommended fat percentage for older adults is also the same as for adults. Between 30 to 35% of total calories.
  • Carbohydrates: carbohydrate intake should be between 55 to 60% of total calories. It is important that these are low glycemic.
  • Fiber: the requirements for the elderly population range from 20 to 35 grams per day, depending on the calories consumed.
  • Water: the hydric needs oscillate between 1ooo to 1500 milliliters of water or liquid of drink. This represents approximately 8 glasses a day.
  • Vitamins and minerals: the recommendations are higher for vitamin D, thiamine, vitamin B12, and calcium. While they get lower for vitamin K and niacin.
Some older adults need help with their shopping to have ingredients that allow them to prepare balanced meals.

2. Combine a variety of nutrient-dense foods

The aging person must eat a varied diet to ensure the different nutrients:

  • Vegetables and fruits: They provide water, vitamin A, antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium, insoluble and soluble fiber, natural sugars and starch.
  • Beans, lentils, and other legumes: the National Consumer Service clarifies that if legumes do not cause flatulence in the elderly, they are recommended.
  • Nuts and seeds: Nuts provide omega 3 fat, protein, fiber, antioxidants, B complex, vitamin E, zinc, magnesium, iron and phosphorus.
  • Whole grains: They are a source of fiber, minerals and B vitamins. They also contain carbohydrates.
  • Skim dairy products: milk fat is characterized by being high in cholesterol. The Spanish Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology emphasizes the type of fat that the elderly should consume. This way, your arteries won’t get clogged and heart attack is prevented.
  • Lean protein: fish, poultry, egg whites and other meats are necessary for the maintenance of lean body mass, which tends to decrease in the elderly.

3. Include enough fiber

The organization Hermanas Hospitalarias declares that constipation is a common problem in the elderly. Another article says that older people should eat enough fiber to regulate intestinal transit.

Insoluble fiber prevents constipation and soluble fiber maintains healthy cholesterol levels. If more fiber is required, add oatmeal and oat bran, legumes, untrained fruit juices, nuts, and whole grains.

Of the 20 grams of fiber that an older adult needs, the insoluble must be between 5 to 11 grams per day. The rest should be soluble fiber.

4. Increase your intake of calcium and vitamin D

The Pan American Health Organization declares that bone diseases are also common in the older adult population. Therefore, they require an increase in calcium intake.

It is suggested to increase it through skim dairy. So yogurt, low-fat cheeses, and liquid skim milk are good options for healthy eating in older adults. Yogurt can also be a source of probiotics that improve bowel function.

Calcium is better absorbed and used with vitamin D. Fortunately, getting it is a matter of expose yourself to the sun for 20 minutes a day.

5. Eat more healthy fats

To avoid cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative disorders, it is important to consume more omega 3 polyunsaturated fats. These are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA).

These are found in blue fish such as tuna, mackerel, bonito, salmon, yellowtail, scallops, and lobster. Nuts are also an important source of this type of fat. Without leaving aside the pure oils, such as sunflower, corn, canola and soy.

Monounsaturated fatty acids, such as those contained in olive oil, should also be included in a healthy diet. The benefit of this fat is recognized to prevent or treat chronic diseases.

6. Drink enough water

Older people are at permanent risk of dehydration, because total body water decreases with age. An alarm symptom is when thirst does not appear during the day.

The Spanish Society of Community Nutrition establishes in the healthy eating pyramid for those over 70 years of age the intake of 6 to 8 glasses of water of 8 ounces each one or another liquid per day. Natural juice, tea, soups, and even fruits and vegetables are also included.

Foods to avoid in a healthy diet for older adults

To ensure a healthy diet in older adults, the following foods should be avoided:

  • Sugary, with honey or panela: sweets, cakes and pastries are also excluded here.
  • Canned or processed: for example, sausages, mortadella, canned fish or brines in general, as they contain a lot of sodium.
  • Greasy: like fried foods. The use of margarines, butter and products rich in trans fat is also not allowed.
  • With hard texture: the use of vegetables in the form of purees is recommended.
  • Energy drinks: cola drinks, caffeine and alcohol.
Whenever possible, older adults should eat food made at home, by them or by those who help them.

How to maintain a healthy lifestyle in old age?

The World Health Organization, since 2002, adopted the concept of active aging as the central axis for policies related to the quality of life of the elderly. So in addition to healthy eating, other areas need to be addressed.

The older adult should exercise regularly. It is good to do some physical activity between 30 minutes and 1 hour, 4 times a week.

Regarding social life, the EU Guide to Healthy Habits for Older Adults recommends participate in activity groups. Likewise, maintain contact with family members or participate in some volunteering.

In the same Guide It is suggested that older adults sleep between 6 and 8 hours a day, although the important thing is that they have a good night’s sleep.

A healthy diet should remain throughout life, especially as we age. By eating healthy, older adults will feel more active and enjoy their golden years with dignity.

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