Healthy Eating for Seniors

You are never too old to enjoy the benefits of improved nutrition and fitness. 

Eating right and staying fit are important no matter what your age.  However, as we get older, our bodies have different needs, so certain nutrients become especially important for good health.  Eating right can help keep our bodies and minds sharp, extending our quality of life. 

  • The following are some tips to help maintain healthy eating habits.  Focus on Nutrient Density – As adults age, they need fewer total calories due to changes in metabolism.  However, despite needing fewer calories, older adults need higher amounts of certain nutrients.  Incorporating wholesome foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy plant-based fats will provide those nutrients and help control caloric intake.  The focus should be on quality, not quantity.  For optimal physical and mental health, older adults need to make every calorie count. 
  • Harness the Power of Protein – People of all ages need protein for strong, healthy bodies.  However, some older adults do not get the amount of protein needed to maintain muscle mass, repair and build body tissue, and keep their immune system strong.  And, meat-based proteins can be difficult for some older adults to chew.  The following suggestions will help put more protein into mealtime.
  • Include low-fat dairy such as milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • Enjoy more beans by adding fresh or canned beans to salads, soups, and casseroles
  • Cook with milk – add milk instead of water when making oatmeal, soups, etc.
  • Add nut butter to fruits and crackers
  • Include eggs a few times a week
  • Eat fresh or canned fish regularly
  • Get Enough Fiber – Fiber helps keep bowel function normal and may influence digestive health by promoting the survival of good bacteria.  Higher intakes of dietary fiber have also been shown to help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and prevent Type 2 diabetes.  Include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and lentils throughout your day.  Try to make at least half of your grains whole grains.  Oatmeal, brown rice, whole-wheat bread, and whole-wheat pasta are all good sources. 
  • Don’t Forget Calcium & Vitamin D – Older adults need more calcium and vitamin D to help maintain bone health.  Eat three servings of calcium-rich foods each day.  Calcium-rich foods include low-fat and fat-free dairy foods including milk and yogurt, fortified cereals and fruit juices, dark green leafy vegetables, and canned fish with soft bones. 

The Value of Working with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

One of the many advantages of being a participant at Senior Care Partners PACE (formerly CentraCare) is that each participant is assigned their own Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN).  Each of the RDN’s on staff works with participants to guide and motivate them to make lifestyle changes to improve their overall health and to manage different disease states. 

As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with Senior Care Partners PACE, I have had a multitude of opportunities to work with older adults in our community to improve their lives through nutrition.  In one instance, upon enrollment into our program, a participant expressed interest in improving his eating habits to help manage his diabetes.  He admitted that he had minimal knowledge of the diabetic diet but was willing to learn.  Several visits later, he now has a better understanding of diabetes and how the foods he chooses affect his blood glucose levels.  He has made small, impactful changes that led to improved lab values and better diabetes management.  He is motivated to continue to make lifestyle changes and recently said to me, “You changed my life.  I am now eating more vegetables than I have ever eaten before and had a better understanding of what to eat.” 

RDN’s are the nutrition experts of the Interdisciplinary Team at Senior Care Partners PACE. 

They must complete a four-year degree which includes a specially designed and accredited nutrition curriculum, complete an extensive supervised program of practice, and pass a rigorous registration exam.  RDN’s use science-based practices to administer medical nutrition therapy, provide nutrition support, and educate clients about the influence of nutrition in overall health.  An RDN will learn about a person’s health history, favorite foods, and eating and exercising habits to help set nutrition goals.  Routine follow-up visits will focus on maintenance and monitoring of progress. 

For more information about the many services provided by Senior Care Partners PACE or to inquire about enrollment, please call (269) 441-9319 or visit www.seniorcarepartnersmi.com.

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