Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is a key factor for good health across our lifetimes. As we age, our nutritional needs change, and it is important to know the ins and outs of healthy eating as an older adult. How much should we be eating to maintain a healthy weight? Do we need more of some kinds of foods than others? What if our appetite has dropped off, or preparing meals independently is too difficult? Let’s break down some of the key information around good nutrition for seniors.
Some advice around healthy eating is constant across a lifetime: eating a variety of colourful vegetables for instance or limiting saturated fats and salt. But there are some specific changes that should be noted by people over the age of 65. Here are some changes to consider.
Reduce kilojoules while maintaining nutrients
For many older adults, levels of activity begin to reduce and to maintain a healthy weight, older people should also reduce their intake of kilojoules. This doesn’t just mean eating less – it is important to ensure that nutrition requirements, particularly for the elderly, are being met. This might mean changing the make-up of what’s on the plate, to ensure that empty calories are replaced with foods that are high in vitamins and minerals.
TriCare’s Group Chef Manager Casey Montesalvo explains, “All of our residents are assessed by a dietitian to determine the best meal plan for them. The dietitian will identify the foods that can and cannot be eaten by residents and this is passed on to our Chefs and updated on regular basis.”
“All menus are designed with wellness in mind, creating a seasonally adjusted plan that takes advantage of seasonal produce to provide the most nutrition to our residents”.
Feed your bones and muscles
The older we get, the faster our muscle mass decreases. Similarly, increased age means a decrease in bone density. Reduced muscle mass can lead to an increased risk of falls, and falls can lead to broken bones. Therefore, nutrition for seniors and people over 65 years should focus on foods that support muscle and bone health. Proteins, such as meat, fish, eggs and beans, and calcium-rich foods such as milk, cheese, and yoghurt are essential for building good health from the inside out.
“The TriCare menu has four weeks of rotational options to provide variety and seasonal options to our residents. On a monthly basis we host a resident meeting at each site to provide the opportunity for our residents to have their say on what they want to see over the next four weeks.” says Group Chef Manager, Casey Montesalvo.
Do what you can with what you have
Something is always better than nothing! If shopping for and preparing healthy meals on a regular basis is too difficult, it’s important to do what you can. One serve of calcium-rich food per day is better than none. Frozen vegetables are perfectly fine if you can’t afford or prepare fresh. If preparing meals is a struggle, consider a meal delivery service – Meals on Wheels has long served the elderly, but many companies provide pre-packed healthy meal delivery options.
As with any stage of life, ensuring that nutrition requirements for elderly people are met can reduce the risk of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis, and support muscle and organ function. For more information about nutritional needs for people aged over 65 years, you can visit the Better Health website, or contact one of our Aged Care consultants to find out how TriCare Aged Care Residences ensure comprehensive nutrition for seniors in residential Aged Care.