Nutrition tips to support healthy aging
Did you know that more than half of adults over 60 years old are not getting the right amount of nutrients from their diet? Poor nutrition can affect bone health, muscle strength, immunity, and memory. Dehydration, lack of nutrients, improper food safety, chewing difficulty, and medication side effects all pose potential health challenges. We all want to age well – here are some tips on how your diet can help.
Men and women need at least 8 cups of fluids every day! Your body reaps many benefits from proper hydration—improved energy, cognitive function, immunity, and digestive health. Here are some tips to help you stay hydrated:
- Keep track of your water intake by filling two one-liter bottles, then pour from the bottles throughout the day.
- Give water a flavor by adding fruit (berries or citrus slices), herbs (basil, mint), or zero-calorie flavor mixes
- Make hydrating more enjoyable by drinking from a cup or water bottle with an uplifting message or design.
- Keep filled water containers in convenient places: end table, kitchen table, office, nightstand, car, or gym bag.
- When taking medications, go for a full glass of water.
- Look to clear soups, tea, seltzer, milk, 100% fruit juice and other liquids to help you hit your fluid goal.
Getting Adequate Nutrients
To ensure your body is receiving proper nutrients, focus on eating a variety of foods. This list highlights nutrients that are especially important for aging!
Vitamin B12 plays important roles in brain function and creation of new blood cells. Older adults are at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency due to decreased absorption that commonly occurs with age.
Sources: Fortified breakfast cereals like Multigrain Cheerios, Smart Start Original Antioxidants, Wheaties, meats, seafood, eggs, dairy products
Protein is vital for building and maintaining muscle mass and strength, fighting infections, and healing wounds.
Sources: Meat, seafood, dairy products, beans, nuts, seeds
Fiber is needed for digestive health (promotes regularity), and it lowers risk for diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
Sources: Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, whole grains
Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, promotes calcium absorption, strong bones, and immune function.
Sources: Salmon, tuna, eggs, fortified orange juice, dairy products
Calcium is a mineral needed for strong bones, muscle movement, and normal heart rhythm.
Sources: Milk, fortified nut milks, cheese, yogurt, tofu, spinach, broccoli, almonds
Handle Food Safely
Foodborne illnesses pose a higher risk to older adults, but following recommended food safety practices can help reduce that risk. When preparing your food, start with clean hands, food prep surfaces, utensils and equipment.
- Rinse all fresh produce under running water and use a vegetable brush to scrub fruits and vegetables that have a hard rind or outer skin (cucumbers, potatoes, avocados, melons). Focus on cleaning areas where produce might have traces of soil, and remove damaged or bruised areas before eating.
- When cooking, be sure to reference a safe temperature guide to ensure that food reaches the recommended internal cooking temperature.
- Handle raw meat and poultry carefully, keeping it separated from ready-to-eat foods while storing and preparing, using a separate cutting board and knife, and washing hands thoroughly after handling.
Your body could be missing out on some key nutrients if you avoid certain foods because of chewing difficulties. Try eating softer foods such as ripe, canned and well-cooked produce, ground meats, eggs, and cottage cheese. Cook your favorite foods in a crockpot or steam them in the microwave. Mash, puree, blend or chop your food into finer pieces so you don’t have to chew as much. Adding your favorite low-sodium sauce or gravy makes chewing easier while adding flavor.
Managing Your Medication’s Side Effects
Many medications have side effects that impact appetite, taste, weight, and energy. An easy way to overcome this is to stimulate your other senses! Include a variety of colors in your meal like reds, greens and yellows while layering in foods with textures for visual appeal. Rotate among different foods on your plate while you eat. Add flavorful herbs, spices, citrus zest, cheese, or toasted nuts to enhance taste. Set an attractive place setting like your favorite tablecloth, placemat, or flower arrangement.
For an individualized nutrition care plan, the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center is currently open for nutrition counseling appointments via Telehealth, a secure virtual meeting platform. Visit their website for recipes, blogs and to learn about their services and various programs.
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Written by the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center at Colorado State University