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The best mealtime tips to get the nutrition you need

29th September 2020

As you get older it’s important that you are getting the nutrition you need to stay fit and healthy long into retirement.

In your later years, it can be easy to lose interest in cooking dinners for yourself and as people age, it is common for some people’s appetite to lessen. In your later years, nutrition plays a pivotal role in improving your quality of life and you need to be mindful of the vitamins and nutrients that your body needs as you age.

If you suffer from mobility problems meaning you need to use stair lifts, then there are foods which can help with joint pain and there are also foods which you can eat that have been found to boost your brain activity.

Find out what foods can help keep you well-nourished and active in this guide about simple mealtime and nutrition tips.

Healthy eating for older diners

Dietary requirements change throughout your life. While in your earlier years you may have gotten away with a few naughty treats, later in life you need to be more stringent about the fuel you put in your body, but that doesn’t mean that meals should be dull.

Simply follow the advice in this healthy eating overview from Age UK and you’ll see that there are plenty of food groups to inspire tasty and nutritious options for older people.

How much should older diners eat?

There may be a general assumption that older people should eat smaller meals. However, this is not necessarily the case – meals still need to be nutritious and balanced, which means eating regularly and eating enough to get the right amount of nutrition.

Wiltshire Farm Foods is the UK’s leading frozen meal service, offering more than 300 meals and desserts that cater to a range of diets. This includes softer foods for those with swallowing difficulties and free from meals for customers who have food allergies.

They offered their expert opinion: “If older people start to reduce their meal sizes or cut out food groups, it could result in them suffering from issues such as malnutrition due to the changes in their diet.

“As people get older, they are more likely to suffer from a number of health issues that can affect their eating habits. They can also experience digestive changes that can be caused by a number of different factors, for example, as a side effect of medication or increased inactivity.

“As a result of this, it is important for older people to receive enough nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D to maintain normal bones and higher calorie meals to prevent any weight loss. If you do notice any digestive changes, it is important to contact a health professional before making any significant changes to your diet as it may have a greater effect on your health in the long run.”

Food for the Brain is an organisation dedicated to promoting nutrition information that can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline, memory loss and Alzheimer’s.

They talk about why portions for older adults need to be smaller: “As we age we usually need less calories as we are not as active, so portions will need to get smaller to avoid excess weight gain, but our bodies still need lots of nutrients to stay healthy, so the focus needs to be on 'nutrient-dense' food.”

What foods should older people eat?

Eating a range of foods can help supply the nutrients a person needs as they age. This is why a healthy eating plan including foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy is recommended by many experts.

Jenna Hope is a registered nutrition consultant that runs her own business and she talks about some of the foods older adults should include in their diet.

“As we age our eating behaviours adapt and appetites can decrease. Therefore, it’s essential to ensure that the elderly are consuming nutrient-dense foods such as avocados, peanut butter, yoghurts and smoothies. Adequate protein, calcium and omega-3 intakes are also pivotal to supporting long-term health, bone function and brain function in older age.”

Eating right doesn't have to be complicated and Adele from the TartanSpoon blog, who has an 83-year-old mother, talks about some of the foods she’d recommend older people to eat.

“Eat as much fresh produce as you can, eat organic meat if possible, cut down on the carbs and if you fancy some chocolate, have it! I'd limit the fruit and eat as many vegetables as possible especially broccoli, garlic, tomatoes, carrots and kale. Anything where they can get a good dose of vitamins without having to take additional vitamin supplements.

Foods older people should eat

  • Avocados
  • Peanut butter
  • Yoghurts
  • Smoothies
  • Organic meat
  • Vegetables such as broccoli, garlic, tomatoes, carrots, kale
  • Oily fish, nuts and seeds – these are great for essential fats
  • Foods rich in B vitamins such as dairy and whole-grains

Tips for cooking meals full of nutrition

There are some people who feel less enthusiastic about spending time in the kitchen, but eating fresh ingredients that have big nutritional value is still important.

Clare Jeffries, the nutritionist behind Healthy Influence, has helped hundreds of clients grasp wholesome eating and understand how their diet can help with a variety of health issues. She’s also an expert in helping older people to maintain a healthy mind and body through the food they eat.

She shares some tips on how older people can cook nutritious meals: “I work with older clients who may have got ‘stuck in a rut' of relying on convenience packet meals with no preparation required because it is easy and means they don’t have to go to the shops too often.

“I help them get re-enthused about food and start cooking simple meals again. I also recommend cooking extra, so two meals in one go, reducing the time and effort spent on making healthy meals.”

Clare shares her simple mealtime tips for eating fresh and enjoying the kitchen again:

  • Buy a couple of pieces of fish like salmon and ask the fish counter in your supermarket to put it in a cook in the oven bag, ready to heat when you get home. You can then just make a selection of fresh vegetables as a side. The extra salmon can also be eaten cold the next day for lunch, just add a salad or have mashed in a sandwich.
  • Make a large pot of soup which can be an easy go-to lunch or light dinner for several days - one effort for several meals.
  • Likewise, make a meal such as shepherd’s pie large enough for a family, as you often might have in your younger days, and then freeze portions to keep for healthy home-made 'convenience meals’.
  • If you have a friend in a similar situation, take it in turns to cook for each other maybe once per week or as often as you like. Often it’s the boredom of only cooking for one that has led to a loss in interest of cooking.

If you want to try some new meals out in the kitchen, then the Epicurious website has more than 35,000 tasty recipes to try. You can also download their free app on your smartphone or tablet computer device.

For more specialist advice about what meals older people can cook, you can speak to experts such as Nutritionist Resource.

Ellen Hoggard from Nutritionist Resource said: “We are dedicated to giving people access to quality nutritional information and advice and want to promote how beneficial it can be to have the support of a professional nutritionist.

“We understand that as you grow older, it can be difficult to know what your body needs. When it comes to food and nutrition, we have to adjust our habits as our body changes. This isn’t always easy to do alone, so we want you to know that help is available.”

Tips for healthy mealtime routines

Getting into a mealtime routine isn’t just useful for children, but it is a good idea for adults as well with it being beneficial for your mental health and a great way to wind down at the end of the day.

Here are some tips you can follow when you are getting ready to eat your next meal.

  • Pick one day every week which is set aside for sharing a meal with your family or friends.
  • Choose a meal that is tasty but relatively simple and easy to prepare.
  • Plan your meals in advance. You can spend just a short period of time planning your meals for the rest of the week so you don’t have to go food shopping multiple times.

Nutrition advice for later in life

Our dietary needs change as we age in a number of ways. Clare from Healthy Influence points out, a few adjustments that you can make to boost the benefits of healthy nutrition in your later years:

  • Stomach acid often lowers, making it harder to absorb some vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin B12. A supplement that absorbs under the tongue is often helpful to reduce the risk of dementia and unnecessary falls - as this vitamin effects balance.
  • Medication can often cause nutrient deficiencies so these should be considered. You can follow the guidelines on medical packaging or ask your GP for further advice.
  • To reduce the risk of osteoporosis you need to not only have calcium but other bone-related nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K. Find out more about the different health benefits of vitamins.
  • The older generation often spend more time inside. Without adequate time outside in the sunshine, vitamin D deficiency is extremely common and reduces immune strength and can affect healthy bones. On better weather days, put the sun cream on and enjoy your garden.

It is vitally important that older people eat nutritious foods. People that suffer from joint pain and who need a walk in bathtub can help themselves by eating certain foods, whilst other foods can improve a person’s memory.

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.