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Helping Seniors Get Proper Nutrition

It isn’t uncommon for a person to eat significantly less as they get older. Your aging loved one may eat less because he/she is less active, which can lead to decreased appetite, or because he/she isn’t able to prepare food. However, even though your senior isn’t burning as many calories, they still need to take in proper nutrition to maintain a healthy body weight and remain strong.

Malnutrition is common in seniors, which can affect their risk for diseases and their ability to fight disease. Some things caregivers can do to help aging seniors maintain a healthy diet is collaborate with them on ways to get in the proper nutrients or ensure they have simple meals and snacks ready to go.

General Nutrition Tips for Seniors

The USDA has provided the following dietary recommendations for older adults. Ensuring your aging parent has access to healthy meals and snacks can increase their odds of maintaining a healthy diet.

  • Choose fiber-rich foods often

  • Drink water and beverages low in sugar

  • Use fortified foods or supplements to meet your Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 needs

  • Eat more dark green vegetables (broccoli, salad greens, cooked greens)

  • Eat more orange vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes)

  • Eat dried beans and peas

  • Eat 2 ½ cups of vegetables every day

  • Eat a variety of fruits (1 ½ cups per day)

  • Choose fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruit

  • Eat fruit, rather than drinking fruit juice

  • Eat at least 3 oz. of whole grains every day (cereal, bread, rice, crackers)

  • Eat cereal fortified with Vitamin B12

  • Choose low fat or lean meat or poultry

  • Bake, broil or grill protein

  • Vary protein sources to include items such as eggs, dried beans, tofu, fish, nuts and seeds)

  • Eat 5 oz. of protein per day

  • Choose low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and milk products

  • If you can’t consume dairy, choose lactose-free products

  • Get your oils from fish, nuts and liquid oils such as canola, olive, corn and soybean


Realistic Ways to Incorporate Nutrition into Seniors’ Diets

While we may know the healthy eating rules, it can be difficult to help your elderly loved one incorporate this knowledge into their daily life. Here are some simple ways to help your parent eat healthy, even if they aren’t hungry.

Breakfast Ideas:

  • Make a yogurt parfait with fresh or frozen fruit, plain yogurt and a small amount of granola

  • Make a yogurt smoothie with yogurt, frozen fruit and milk

  • Boil 7 eggs at the beginning of the week and have a hard-boiled egg with a slice of whole wheat toast and fruit

  • Have a bowl of whole grain, fortified cereal or oatmeal with a side of fruit

Lunch Ideas:

  • Pre-chop vegetables and grill chicken at the beginning of the week to assemble salads through the week

  • Make a pasta or couscous salad at the beginning of the week with a variety of vegetables and tofu or beans

  • Make a fruit salad with a variety of fruit and a ½ cup of cottage cheese or yogurt

  • Eat leftovers from the night before

  • Utilize a meal delivery program such as Meals on Wheels

Dinner Ideas

  • Cook large portions of chicken, fish or meat and vegetables to eat throughout the week

  • Prepare pasta casseroles packed with vegetables to eat throughout the week

  • Make large batches of soup or chili and freeze in individual servings

These are just idea starters to make healthy eating more manageable for your family and your aging loved one. You can also incorporate healthy snacks such as nuts and cheese for between meals. If you have budget concerns, there are some options for affordable healthy options.


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