In the age of the internet, there can be plenty of misinformation on nutrition and diets at your fingertips, and it becomes confusing to determine what’s best for you. In celebration of Nutrition Month, we’ve broken down the top 7 nutritional facts all seniors should know to make it easy and accessible to live a happy and healthy lifestyle.
1. Variety is Key
When dietitians and nutritionists recommend eating a meal that is as colorful as the rainbow, it’s not just because it looks beautiful. A diet that includes a wide variety of vegetables, grains, and proteins ensures you are getting a variety of vitamins and nutrients that those foods provide. A nutrient-dense meal helps to keep up your energy, encourage brain activity, and promote a healthy heart.
2. Appetite Often Declines with Age
As we age, there are many factors that contribute to a loss of appetite. Along with specific health concerns, seniors may experience a loss in activity and taste buds that affect their hunger levels, and reduced mobility may make cooking difficult. To keep the body fueled and energized, it’s important for seniors to eat consistently. If you’re having a difficult time keeping up an appetite, here are some tips to making mealtime easier and more enjoyable:
- Enjoy dinner with friends and family! Eating with others is a great mood booster that may encourage you to eat more during mealtime.
- Keep a daily routine for meals! Eating around the same time every day can help the body feel ready to eat at those times.
- Be more active! Increasing your regular exercise and activity helps to build up an appetite (be sure to consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen).
- Try ready-made meals delivered right to your door from Heart to Home Meals! Our delicious and nutritious meals make it easy for seniors to enjoy exciting new foods and whip up their own meal in minutes. Browse our meals here.
3. Drink Plenty of Water
Water has long been promoted as an essential part of a healthy diet, but for seniors, it’s even more important to drink enough water throughout the day. As we age, our thirst levels decline. If we don’t maintain our water intake, it can lead to dehydration, which causes weakness, unclear thoughts, constipation, and kidney stones. Drinking water also helps to regulate your body temperature (a must in hot climates!), lubricate and cushion joints, protect sensitive tissues, and cleanse the body of wastes and bacteria.
Although 6-8 cups of water per day is a good rule of thumb, there’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation when it comes to how much water you should drink per day. It's also important not to drink too much water with certain medications. Consult with your doctor to determine what works best for you and drink gradually throughout the day to ensure balanced hydration.
4. Stick to The Good Fats
“Fat” has become a scary word that people try to avoid at all costs, but not all fats are bad! Monounsaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil and avocados, boost heart health to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Found in eggs and fatty fish like salmon, Omega-3 fats are another essential fat for proper brain function, heart health, and anti-inflammation, lowering your risk of diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.
Artificial trans fats on the other hand are best to be avoided. Often used in processed foods, these fats can lower good HDL cholesterol and raise bad LDL cholesterol, dramatically increasing a person’s risk for heart disease.
Looking for a quick and easy option that’s low in artificial fats? Heart To Home Meals offers Low Saturated Fat meals as a convenient way to keep a healthy lifestyle.
5. Avoid a Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D is a unique vitamin that also functions as a hormone, so experiencing a deficiency can take a major toll on your body. Lack of vitamin D is also associated with serious diseases such as diabetes, osteoporosis, and others. As few foods have high amounts of Vitamin D in them, many get their daily dose when the skin is exposed to the sun. But if you live in a colder climate or have limited accessibility to the outdoors, it may be difficult to maintain this crucial nutrient. To help prevent or reverse a deficiency, consider taking a supplement or a tablespoon of cod liver oil each day to keep up your Vitamin D levels. Before starting a supplement, always consult with your doctor.
6. Don’t Rely Only on Supplements
If you don’t like vegetables or you eat a lot of junk food, you may look to supplements to keep a balanced diet. Although supplements are great alternatives when vitamins are not available through food (like Vitamin D), they can’t match the variety of nutrients you can get from real foods.
Vegetables, fruits, and other whole foods contain special nutrients that supplements only have a small part in, to help fight disease and live longer. In addition, these foods are loaded with fiber, protein, and other essentials to serve you with a nutrient dense meal which feeds the body in multiple ways.
7. Sleep Affects Your Eating Habits
A poor night's sleep doesn’t just make you feel groggy in the morning. It can also lead to unsatisfied hunger and inconsistent eating habits that affect your overall health. Poor quality sleep disrupts hormones in your body that tell you when you’re hungry and when you’re full, creating irregular eating times and a craving for low-nutrient, high trans-fat foods. On the other hand, a good night's sleep regulates your body and encourages you to choose a well-balanced diet that keeps you satisfied and energized throughout the day. Read our tips for getting better sleep here.