As we age, our bodies and nutritional needs tend to change. Seniors often have slower metabolisms and may not be as active as they once were, meaning they need fewer calories. At the same time, they may lose their desire to eat as their sense of taste diminishes.
These barriers to maintaining a consistent and well-rounded diet can prevent seniors from getting the vital nutrients their aging bodies needs, such as Vitamin B12, calcium, Vitamin D, fiber and antioxidants. And for seniors living with chronic health conditions, negative, depressive thoughts may prevent them from believing that improving their diet will improve their overall health.
So how do you ensure you are eating well and, more importantly, maintain the desire to eat well as you age?
It starts with mindful eating. Mindful eating, as Nathan Estrada, a physical therapist and program manager for BAYADA Home Health Care, says is the belief that what someone consumes has a physical outcome on their body’s performance. In other words, you get out what you put in.
Nathan knows that eating healthy can be a challenge, mainly because of the prevailing belief that there’s little you can change because of age-related health issues. “Older adults are not often seen as reactive to therapy,” Nathan said. However, as someone who spends his days treating older adults living with both chronic and acute conditions, Nathan has seen firsthand the major strides seniors can make given time, patience and effort. “I’ve made it my career to demonstrate that at any age quality of life can improve if functional ability improves,” he said.
Nathan also believes that quality of life can improve through diet. “Healthy eating is a part of healthcare in general,” Nathan said. “Everyone in healthcare has to realize that nutrition is a variable for everything.”
Nathan’s approach when working with clients is about more than just stretches and exercises to improve our residents’ physical capabilities. He also encourages them to evaluate their diet and take a holistic look at their health.
So popular are the notions of holistic health and mindful eating with his individual clients that Nathan now hosts health-related talks for all the residents at our community. Many of his talks address the various diets that are in vogue for seniors — the DASH diet, the Mediterranean diet, the MIND diet — and what scientific evidence there is back the merit of these diets. Other recent topics he has covered include eating for recovery; diet in relation to heart disease, diabetes and urinary tract infections; and nutrition supplementation.
Nathan has helped our residents better understand the slew of health information available, what to make of it and what steps to take to improve their diet and overall health. If you are considering a change, he encourages you to start with these tips:
- Eat protein at every meal
- Choose whole grains and low-fat dairy products
- Pick nutrient dense foods rather than empty calorie options
- Strive to have an array of colors on your plate
- Limit salt and use healthy cooking techniques like steaming, baking or roasting
- Eat small meals throughout the day and drink plenty of water
Eating healthy is easier said than done, and it’s important to have strategies in place that allow you to overcome barriers to healthy eating as you age. If you no longer have the appetite you once did or ability to taste foods like you used to, try new recipes and spices, and choose foods that are easy to eat. If you’re on a limited budget, make a list ahead of time based on sales; use coupons and look for discounts; and only buy fruits or vegetables that are in season. If you don’t like to cook or eat alone, consider trying a meal-ordering service and scheduling weekly meals with friends and family.
It’s never easy to adopt a new habit but deciding to adopt a healthy lifestyle is one habit that will ensure you not only live longer, but happier! For more tips on eating healthy as you age, click here.