As adults age, nutrition takes on new importance. In fact, proper nutrition could be the difference between life and death for some seniors with chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease. March is National Nutrition Month® and this is a great time to ensure older people have the right information about appropriate food choices and how proper nutrition impacts health.
Nutrition is about eating a healthy and balanced diet so the body gets the nutrients that it needs. Nutrients are substances in foods that our bodies need so they can function. Nutrients include carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and water. Proper nutrition helps lower the risk of developing a chronic disease or helps older keep a condition in check if they already have one. Eating properly can also help older adults maintain a healthy weight.
During meals, ideally, half of our plates should be fruits and vegetables followed by healthy grains and lean sources of protein such as poultry, fish, beans or peas. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) lists general recommendations on intake from five food categories. Below are recommended daily amounts for older adult age groups.
|Food Group||Men age 31-59||Men age 60+||Women age 31-59||Women age 60+|
|Fruits||2 to 2½ cups||2 cups||1½ to 2 cups||1½ to 2 cups|
|Vegetables||3 to 4 cups||2½ to 3½ cups||2 to 3 cups||2 to 3 cups|
|7 to 10 oz /|
3½ to 5 oz
|6 to 9 oz /|
3 to 4½ oz
|5 to 7 oz /|
3 to 3½ oz
|5 to 7 oz /|
3 to 3½ oz
|Protein||6 to 7 oz||5½ to 6½ oz||5 to 6 oz||5 to 6 oz|
|Dairy||3 cups||3 cups||3 cups||3 cups|
Age-related eating challenges
Aging brings many changes that can alter how a person eats and make it difficult for seniors to get the proper food intake. This can eventually lead to life-threatening nutrition problems. Getting older can diminish sensory systems and dull taste, smell, vision and hearing. Less than sharp senses can reduce the appetite and make eating unappealing. If an older person has dental or swallowing problems, eating properly can be even more difficult.
Fatigue and/or cognitive problems can even take away the desire for food or make the physical act of eating a challenge. A decreased appetite and/or compromised ability to eat can put older people in danger of undernutrition. This condition can lead to serious problems for older people and could lead to hospitalization and even death.
Common symptoms of undernutrition
- Body composition changes
- Muscle mass loss
- Poor nutritional intake
- Weight loss
Liquid nutrition can help
Although food is best, supplemental nutrition shakes and drinks can be helpful for people who struggle with loss of appetite and eating problems. These beverages provide a healthy balance of vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and fat. Available in a wide range of flavors, they can be used to replace snacks and meals or used in conjunction with meals, if a person needs to gain weight. Older people need more of certain nutrients such as calcium, Vitamin D, potassium and fiber. These nutrients are important for preventing bone loss, maintaining nerve function, promoting healthy digestion and managing cholesterol.
Many popular brands of supplemental nutrition tailor their formulas to the needs of the older population. Several supplemental nutrition beverages also are formulated for specific health conditions such as diabetes, gluten intolerance and the use of a feeding tube. Easy to store and drink, supplemental nutrition formulas come in ready-to-drink liquids or easily prepared powders that can also be added to foods or other liquids such as milk.
Let us help
Supply360 has a wide variety of nutrition and enteral feeding products and related medical supplies for adults and children. For more information, call 866-710-7626.