Nutrition for Older Adults
Older adults have unique nutritional needs. Calorie needs decrease as we age, yet we require more nutrients to stay healthy. Choosing healthy foods and fluids becomes especially important at this stage of life, and more challenging. Often disease, disability, dentition, depression, death of loved ones and other conditions and situations make it harder to know how to nourish ourselves.
LWWW Employee Wellness Registered Dietician and Certified Health Coach Heather Wolfe, MPH, RDN, LD, CHC, offers these suggestions for eating healthy as we age:
- Refined grain
- Saturated fat
- Added sugar
- Whole grains
- Nuts, beans
- Low-fat dairy
Pay attention to these nutrients:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
Try these healthy shifts:
- Trade high-calorie snacks like chips and dip, for nutrient-dense snacks like raw vegetables or whole-grain crackers and hummus.
- Switch a refined-grain like white bread with a whole grain like 100 percent whole-wheat bread.
- Swap a snack with added sugars like a candy bar with nuts with a sugar-free and unsalted snack like an apple with some peanut butter or unsalted nuts.
- Substitute the solid animal-based fats like butter with plant-based oils like olive oil.
- Exchange fruit products with added sugars like a fruit-based cookie with a natural-based sugar like a piece of fruit.
Fill your plate based on the United States Department of Agriculture’s ChooseMyPlate for Older Adults: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/older-adults
- Half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables
- The other half grains—preferably whole grain—and protein
- Make sure that you choose fiber-rich foods as much as possible.
- Drink water and other beverages that are low in added sugars. Dehydration is one of the leading causes of hospitalization for older adults.
- Use fortified foods or supplements to meet vitamin D and Vitamin B12 needs. It’s difficult to get these nutrients from food alone.
Here are some additional resources on nutrition and aging:
- The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 United States Department of Agriculture’s ChooseMyPlate for Older Adults
- National Institute on Aging
- Find more nutrient-dense recipes in the Cooking Up Health section of Imagine Better.
- Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Aging Resource Center