As we go through different stages of our lives, our nutritional needs change. A healthy diet has many benefits physically, mentally and socially. Unhealthy food and drink choices place us at a higher risk of chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, anxiety and depression. As you get older you may find it more difficult to get out to buy groceries, struggle to cook meals or have a reduced appetite. It is important to see every meal as an opportunity to fuel your body and eat for a purpose.
The Australian Dietary guidelines recommend every Australian eat a wide variety of foods, drink plenty of water, limit foods high in saturated fat, salt, and alcohol, avoid sugars and be physically active.
Extra advice for older people includes ensuring you get the following in your diet:
CALCIUM – Osteoporosis is characterised by a decrease in bone density which increases the risk of fractures and is common amongst the elderly.
Once calcium is lost from the bones it is difficult to replace, but there are ways to protect yourself against the progression of the disease, including getting enough calcium, vitamin D and by exercising.
Milk and milk products such as yoghurt and cheese are high in calcium. Other good sources include fish with soft, edible bones, such as canned salmon or sardines. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that women over 51 should consume four serves of dairy per day, while men aged 50–70 should consume two and a half serves. One serve = 30g cheese, 250ml milk or 200ml yoghurt.
If you cannot tolerate dairy, please see your GP or a dietitian/Nutritionist to advise you on how to get enough Calcium in your diet.
VITAMIN D is also essential in helping to build and maintain healthy bones. The best source of vitamin D is the sun, but you only need to spend a short period of time in the sunshine each day, to help your body get the vitamin D that it needs. Aim for 10 to 30 minutes if you live in Australia but check on healthy amounts for you in your area. And don’t forget to put on sunscreen!
Food sources of vitamin D includes egg yolk, butter, whole milk, yoghurt, cheese, liver, tuna, sardines or a supplement. Talk to your healthcare professional to discuss your personal needs.
EXERCISE – Weight-bearing exercise such as walking or light weight supports bone health and reduce muscle wastage. Aim for 30 minutes per day.
PROTEIN – To avoid muscle loss, which can increase your risk of falls and broken bones it is essential to include protein in your diet. Protein builds, repairs and maintains healthy bones and muscles.
Great sources of protein include meat, fish, eggs, seafood. Good sources include beans, quinoa, lentils, baked beans, nuts and seeds, dairy products. Spread your protein throughout the day and include in every meal. If you are not very hungry, try to eat the protein part of your meal first.
FISH OIL – If you suffer from arthritis, fish oil may help. Eat fish at least twice a week or talk to your doctor about a supplement. Fish is your friend. Regularly consuming fish may reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia, and macular degeneration (a type of vision loss). It is also great for the brain and memory!
FIBRE – To keep your bowels active, include plenty of fibre in your diet. Wholegrain cereals, wholemeal bread, fruit, dried fruit, dried peas, beans and lentils are all excellent sources. Make sure you drink enough water to prevent constipation. Remember, most older people need 6–8 cups of fluid each day.
A few extra tips:
• Ask for help with shopping or meal preparation from family and friends, community groups or carers.
• Discuss supplementation with your doctor if you feel you are not getting adequate vitamin and nutrition intake.
• If you’re on a budget, simply do your best with your food choices. Eggs are a cheap, easy and high protein meal that you could incorporate daily. Plan well, use what’s available, and buy only what you need. Look out for quick and easy healthy recipes one or two people and try to eat regularly with family and friends if possible.
• Limit your intake of foods containing saturated fats and trans fats. Keep those extra foods to a minimum. Foods like pies, pastries, fried and battered foods, chips, and chocolate are generally high in saturated fat, and may contain dangerous trans fats. Eat these foods very occasionally. Fresh fruit and natural yoghurt are a good dessert option.
• Have your teeth or dentures checked regularly so you can continue to enjoy a wide variety of foods. See your dentist whenever you are having difficulty with your teeth, gums or dentures. If nuts, grains and hard fruits and vegetables are difficult to chew, try milled wholegrains, soft cooked and canned fruits and vegetables, and nut pastes and butters.
Most importantly ensure you enjoy what you are eating and try to incorporate a wide variety of foods each day. Try to make your plate colourful and fill with foods that make you feel good.
For more information book an appointment to see our Nutritionist, Kasey (Bachelor of Health Science, Nutrition)