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Nutrition for Older Adults: The Importance of Adjusting Nutrition for Seniors

As we age, our bodies begin to need more of certain types of nutrients and vitamins in order to function well. Unfortunately, it’s very common for older adults to overlook the importance of good nutrition and a balanced diet, which can lead to a variety of both physical and mental health concerns. Estimates show around 16% of adults aged 65 or older eat fewer than 1,000 calories per day (representing a risk for malnutrition), and up to half of hospitalized seniors are malnourished. 

Typically, seniors do develop a smaller appetite because they don’t require as many calories, but they still require the same amount of nutrients found in larger servings, if not more. This creates a puzzle — how do seniors get the nutrients they need without feeling completely overstuffed?

At Holiday Retirement communities, our culinary team solves this puzzle every day by offering seniors three meals — each with multiple entree options — and meeting the specific dietary needs of all residents. Our chefs work with dieticians to create meals that are not only delicious, but also healthy and full of the nutrients needed for mental and physical wellbeing in older adults.

Whether you’re currently living in a retirement community or thinking of transitioning into one, your nutritional needs as a senior are of utmost importance. The following will provide an overview of how our bodies change in regard to dietary needs, what we need to eat, and how we can do it.

Nutritional Needs for Elderly People

The primary factors that cause elderly nutrition issues include:

  • People become less active in older age, which slows the metabolism and means fewer calories are needed. Elderly people begin to eat less, but they may not receive adequate nutrients.

  • The body’s ability to absorb and utilize nutrients decreases as a person ages.

  • Health conditions and medications often affect nutrient requirements.

  • Changes in taste, smell, and appetite can lead seniors to limit their food intake and eat healthy foods less often.

For these reasons, it’s especially important for seniors to eat plenty of nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and fish. These foods contain high amounts of protein, vitamin D, calcium, and B12 vitamins, which are among the most important nutrients that aging adults need but often lack in their diets. Calcium promotes bone health, and vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium better. Vitamin B12 promotes healthy brain function and creates red blood cells, and protein helps prevent the loss of strength and muscle mass. Other important nutrients include potassium, magnesium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Tips for Senior Nutrition

Changing something like your eating habits can often be easier said than done, so it’s recommended to gradually introduce new items into your meals, try new approaches, and take small steps toward a healthier diet. Here are some more tips that can help you ensure you get the nutrients you need without making mealtime a chore:

  • Eat balanced meals with quality foods: It’s important to avoid processed foods or meals that are high in salt content, sugar, or saturated fats. Meals should include a healthy form of protein, such as fish, whole grains, and fresh vegetables or fruit. It’s not always easy to follow a diet for elderly people, as high-quality foods can often be expensive or difficult to prepare. Our culinary staff takes care of this issue by providing healthy, balanced meals, snacks, and drinks, which are all included in each resident’s monthly payment.

  • Try new foods: It can be easy for seniors to fall into bad eating habits when they find something simple and tasty. Though something may taste good, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy or provides adequate nutrition. Trying new food items is one way to create a more balanced diet, and trying different methods of food preparation (grilling, sauteing, baking, etc.) can give even “bland” foods an exciting burst of flavor.

  • Eat small meals often: As mentioned, because seniors often need fewer calories each day, many find it difficult to eat enough food. To prevent yourself from feeling too full or forcing yourself to eat large meals, it’s often a good idea to eat small meals throughout the day. For many, that means snacking on fruits, vegetables, or other healthy foods between breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

  • Shake it up: Shakes, smoothies, and juice blends are great ways to get the nutrients you need in a tasty, easy-to-drink package. The best nutritional drinks or shakes for seniors may include fruit, vegetables, and supplements like whey and protein.

  • Add some spice: One of the easiest ways to make foods more appetizing is to add a bit of spice to your meals. Ingredients like ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and turmeric can help elevate the taste of many foods, and they all have surprising health benefits for seniors.

Senior Nutrition Program in Independent Living Communities 

Our fully staffed dining communities put a priority on providing healthy, nutritious, well-balanced meals to residents. Seniors at Holiday Retirement enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day, and each meal comes with three entree options to choose from, as well as a variety of side dishes. Seniors also receive snacks and drinks throughout the day, ensuring they eat the right amount of food and get the nutrients they require in a way that fits their needs.

Our chefs also cater to any specific dietary and nutritional requirements that residents may have, meaning that all seniors receive the best diet possible. Additionally, residents can share ideas about potential meals they’d like to try, provide recipes, and work side-by-side with the culinary team to enjoy an unmatched dining experience.

Nutritional Focus at Holiday Retirement

At many of our retirement communities, we offer nutrition services for seniors and provide guides to healthy eating for older adults. We help residents understand the daily nutritional requirements for seniors and work with them to create healthy eating habits, meet their nutritional goals, and enjoy new, tasty foods. 

If you’d like to learn more about food, cooking, and nutrition at Holiday Retirement communities, contact one of our helpful representatives today. We’d be happy to help you.

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