January is the perfect time to start a healthy lifestyle. Caregivers can help seniors maintain health with proper nutrition, exercise and lifestyle habits.
It is extremely important for seniors to practice good nutrition. Poor nutrition affects the body, but also affects the mind, energy levels, and can lead to other health issues. The more caregivers know about nutrition for seniors, the better they will be able to care for them.
Tips to making meals and snacking easier:
- If the person has a hard time using a knife and fork, serve finger foods. Try bite-sized pieces of sandwich, meat, or cut-up fruit or veggies.
- Serve one or two foods at a time. Too many choices can be overwhelming.
- If chewing or swallowing is a problem, mash, puree, or moisten foods with broth, sauce, or milk.
- Add flavor to meals with spices and herbs.
- Put out bowls of nuts and fruit to encourage snacking.
- Serve nutritional supplement drinks or smoothies with protein powder and fruits.
Healthy Eating After 50
1,600 to 2,800 calories/day, depending on physical activity and weight.
- Fruits | 3–5 servings (one serving = one small peach, ¼ cup dried fruit, ½ cup sliced apples)
- Vegetables | 2–4 cups leafy vegetables (spinach, kale)
- Protein | 5–7 servings lean protein (one serving = one egg, ¼ cup cooked beans, tbsp peanut butter)
- Grains | 5–10 servings (one serving = one small bran muffin, ¼ cup brown rice, 1 slice whole wheat bread)
- Dairy | 3 servings (one serving = one cup milk, one cup yogurt)
- Oil | 6–8 servings (one serving = ¼ cup avocado, 1 tsp olive oil, 8 olives)
- Sugar & Solid fats | Keep to a minimum (chips, cookies, animal fats)
- Eat fish 2x per week
- Drink plenty of liquids including water, milk, soup & juice
- Limit caffeine & alcohol intake
As a person ages, some nutrients become more important:
- Fiber to stay regular
- Potassium for blood pressure and to help avoid fatigue and depression
- Healthy fats to lower chances of heart disease
- Vitamin B12 for energy and brain function
- Vitamin D and Calcium for bone health
Vitamin and Mineral Intake Guidelines for Seniors
- Vitamin B12: 2.4 mcg (micrograms) daily. Some foods, such as cereal are fortified with B12. Up to one-third of older adults can no longer absorb natural vitamin B12 from food.
- Calcium: 1200 mg (milligrams), but not more than 2500 mg per day. As people age, they need more calcium and vitamin D to keep bones strong. Bone loss can lead to fractures in both older women and men.
- Vitamin D: 400 IU (international units) for people ages 51 to 70 and 600 IU for those over 70.
- Iron: Men and postmenopausal women need 8 mg of iron per day. Extra iron may be necessary for women past menopause who are using hormone replacement therapy. Iron helps keep red blood cells healthy.
- Vitamin B6: 1.7 mg for men and 1.5 mg for women daily. B6 is needed for forming red blood cells and to keep overall health.