What we eat is important throughout our lives, but as we get older it becomes especially essential to eat a healthy diet and follow doctor recommendations.

Why is Proper Diet so Important for Elderly Citizens?

Our bodies change as we get older. Metabolism slows down, an effect that is exasperated by decreased exercise. While many elderly people maintain exercise regiments, many others exercise less, often because medical conditions like arthritis or back or hip pain make a lot of exercises impossible.

As our metabolisms slow down, we need to eat less. Even active older citizens need fewer calories than they needed when they were younger. This means that the calories that we do eat need to be as nutrient dense and balanced as possible.

Add to this the likelihood that senior citizens have a disease that would benefit from a particular diet, and it is clear why diet is an essential consideration for elderly citizens.

When the Elderly Stop Eating

So what do you do when the elderly ones in your life stop eating the meals they used to enjoy? Without a proper diet, serious health issues can occur.

Generally, as people age, appetites begin to dwindle. There can be many reasons that cause them to lose the urge to eat, such as:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of routines
  • Inability to prepare meals
  • Loss of taste
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Sensitivity to smells
  • Loneliness or depression
  • Loss of control
  • Irregular meal times

Doctor Recommendations

Diet Recommendations by Doctors

Doctors recommend special diets for things like diabetes, Alzheimers, obesity or needed weight gain and many more special considerations. The best diet for one elderly citizen may not be the best for another, so it is essential that you find a health care professional that follows the dietary recommendations that your loved one’s doctor has made.

If your parent or grandparent has been diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol, a diet low in processed sugar and saturated and trans fats will be recommended. If, however, your loved one’s doctor is concerned about weight gain, a higher calorie diet rich in easy-to-digest fruits may be a better choice.

Avoid Negative Food Interactions

Certain medications can also have food interactions. Grapefruit, for instance, renders a variety of medication, including heart medication, useless. Some foods increase the effect of certain medications, so they should also be carefully monitored.

It can be hard for elderly citizens to keep track of all of the interactions between food and medication, so it is a good idea to have a certified caregiver look over a potential meal plan, along with your loved one’s medications, to make sure there are no dangerous combinations.

Tummy-Friendly Foods

Easy to Digest Food Sources

As we get older, digestion can become finicky. This is because the body produces fewer digestive fluids, making it less able to digest certain foods, vitamins, and minerals.

Folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 are all less easy to digest as we get older. Finding tummy-friendly foods is about finding foods that are easy to digest and that give us all of the important vitamins and minerals that we need to be healthy.

Foods that naturally have an antagonistic effect on the body, but are tolerated in younger people, like spicy foods and peppers and onions, as well as foods that have always been well-tolerated, like dairy, can begin to wreak havoc on an older digestive system.

What are the best choices for a happy older belly? Your loved one’s caregiver can help her plan a tummy-friendly meal plan and keep a food journal to make sure that foods that cause a negative reaction are avoided. In general, here are some foods that work well to ease an aging belly.

Fiber-Rich Foods

Fiber Rich Meal Choices for Seniors

Fiber helps move everything through, reducing the negative effects of anything that isn’t digested well. Fiber helps to keep an older person regular and comfortable.

There are many sources of fiber. If weight-gain is needed, a high-caloric option like prunes might be a good choice, but if weight-loss or a sugar-free diet is desired, a whole-grain or vegetable option might be better.

These foods are also great because they fill you up, making it easier for people who need to lose weight or who may forget they have already eaten if they don’t feel full.

Healthy Liquids

Non-Sweetened Tea for Seniors

Drinking caffeine-free liquids is very important to staying regular and healthy. Juice is a good choice for people who need to gain weight, while good old fashioned water or caffeine-free non-sweetened tea is a better choice for anyone who needs to lose weight.

Avoid Fat

Fat leads to heartburn and other digestive problems, and is best avoided. If you want a fatty taste or need a calorie boost, use a vegetable fat like avocado or nuts. Keep in mind that nuts aren’t always easily digested, so use these in moderation and keep an eye on digestion. For protein, lower-fat lean meat like fish or chicken is better than red meats or pork.

Keeping it Interesting

Following a diet is never much fun, and as we get older, it can become even more challenging to find ways to make a diet interesting. Here are some ideas to mix it up and keep it fun, even on a diet.

Color

Colorful Food Choices for Seniors

Colorful meals attract us to eat them and even taste better while we’re eating. Chefs know well the effect of color, just look at any five-star restaurant’s entrees. Color doesn’t just make meals look more appealing. A range of colorful foods is actually more likely to lead to a well-balanced diet.

Get Creative

Fruit is generally easy to digest and a good source of calories, but it’s easy to get sick of plain old fruit. If your loved one digests bananas well, make bananas more fun by freezing and making banana ice cream or heating in a skillet for a take on a banana foster. A simple apple pie with no added sugar can tempt even the pickiest eater.

Your loved one may hate veggies, but a good soup packed with undetectable veggies may be her new favorite. A home care professional who treats your loved one like family can learn what works for your loved one to make meals delicious and healthy.

Make it Easy

Pre-preparing foods or choosing healthy ready-made options can make eating well easy. Even if your loved one loves to cook, making enough healthy food with plenty of variety can be an exhausting job. A home care professional can prepare foods for your loved one when she doesn’t feel up to cooking.

Meal Prep for a Senior's Diet

Meals can also be prepared ahead of time and frozen so that if your loved one has an off day when a home care professional isn’t on duty, all she has to do is heat a meal in the microwave or oven. Your loved one’s home care professional can also shop for the best ready-made foods for her, choosing cereal, granola bars, frozen meals, etc. that will appeal to your loved one’s particular tastes but also fit a doctor’s dietary recommendations.

How Home Care Can Help

From helping with meal plans to preparing food, home care can help. A healthy diet is so important for your loved one, and it is often the first thing to begin to slip as your parent or grandparent has less energy. If your loved one is eating lots of junk food or a procession of freezer dinners, it may be time to consider getting her some help.

You may think about making your own home-cooked meals in larger portions with your loved one or subscribing to a meal delivery service, but you must be careful that dietary recommendations are being followed.

If you are in the Aptos, California area, consider contacting Pacific Angels Home care for help. A certified home care professional can make sure that your loved one is eating well, whether a week’s worth of food is made ahead of time, or whether food is cooked fresh for your loved one each day.

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