Eating right is important no matter your age. But there are special nutritional considerations to take into account as you get older.
With age, we experience physical changes such as a lower metabolism, reduced appetite and thirst, diminished sense of smell and taste, and muscle loss. Fortunately, you can address some of these changes with small modifications to your diet.
For starters, focusing on getting enough nutrients can help you stay healthier. In particular, you should focus on the following items.
- Protein – Eating more protein will help you better maintain muscle mass.
- Fiber – Increasing your intake of fiber can help you feel fuller with fewer calories. It can also help you avoid constipation – a common health problem people face as they age.
- Calcium & Vitamin D – Getting enough of these vitamins is important to maintain bone health.
But you’ll need to find a way to get enough nutrients while taking in fewer calories each day. Older adults need fewer calories because they usually exercise less and carry a lower amount of muscle mass. One strategy is to eat more vegetables, fruits and nuts – these foods are packed with nutrients minus tons of calories. Another approach is eating five to six small meals throughout the day instead of three large meals. This will help you stay full throughout the day and also provide an opportunity to eat more nutrients.
Some people find they struggle to get enough nutrition due to social factors or a reduced appetite. They may start skipping meals because they live alone or they no longer have a family to cook for anymore. In these cases, it helps to start with small steps – for example, eating breakfast every day. It may also work to focus on preparing simple meals. Instead of trying to prepare a complicated recipe, it’s okay to eat a can of soup or a frozen meal as long as it’s an appropriate portion size and not too high in fat, sodium and other additives.
It’s also important to stay hydrated. Six to eight 8oz glasses of water per day is the recommended amount. If you don’t like plain water, add fresh lemon slices or strawberries. Black coffee and tea without sweeteners are also okay.
To learn more about getting the right nutrition as you age, reach out to your primary care physician. To find a primary care physician near you, contact your health insurance provider.