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Nutrition for older adults

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Eat well to age well

As you get older, it’s important to continue choosing healthy foods and enjoying eating as a social activity that you can look forward to.

However as we get older our lifestyles and appetite can change and this can affect the types and amounts of foods we eat. A decreasing appetite or reduced ability to buy and prepare healthy foods can mean that many older people don’t get enough essential vitamins, mineral and fiber and this can contribute to general unwellness or exacerbate some chronic illness.

It is important to use every meal and snack as an opportunity for maximum nutrition and find ways to improve your diet to fit with your personal tastes, ability and lifestyle, even if this means asking for help from friends, family or other community services.

The following suggestions can also help you to maintain healthy eating habits as you get older.

 

Use less salt

Everyone requires a certain amount of salt, but too much can increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Salt occurs naturally in many foods such as meat, eggs, milk and vegetables, but much of the salt in the Australian diet comes from the salt added to foods by manufacturers or when adding salt yourself.

Older adults should restrict their intake of high salt foods such as cured meats (including ham, corned beef, bacon and luncheon meats), snack foods (such as potato chips and savory pastries) and sauces (such as soy sauce). Choose reduced salt varieties of foods when shopping, and flavor foods with herbs and spices instead of adding salt.

 

Drink more water

Water supports provides many vital functions in body, including hydration, digestion and blood volume, however as you age you may not feel thirsty as often, even when your body needs fluid.

Aim to drink at least six times a day, and more in warmer weather or if you’re exercising. Tea, coffee, mineral water, soda water and reduced fat milk can all count towards your fluid intake during the day, but water is always best!

 

Limit your intake of foods containing saturated fats and Tran’s fats

Pies, pastries, fried and battered foods and 'discretionary items' such as chips and chocolate are generally high in saturated fat, and may also contain dangerous Tran’s fats. They should only be eaten very occasionally.

If you’re in the habit of having desserts, aim to make it partly nutritious and avoid high sugar and saturated fat foods, or those containing Tran’s fats. Try fresh fruits with reduced fat yoghurt for sweetness and flavor, and choose wholegrain and/or oat-based options for crumbles or cakes.

 

Vitamins and minerals

Vitamin and minerals can play a role for diagnosed deficiencies, which are not uncommon in older people as they may eat less, or have digestion issues due to illness or medication.

But for otherwise healthy people, vitamins and minerals cannot compensate for a poor diet, and can also be expensive.

Fiber: Eating fiber-rich foods helps bowels move regularly, lowering the risk of constipation. A high-fiber diet can also lower the risk for many chronic conditions including heart disease, obesity and some cancers. Good sources of fiber include:

  • 100% whole meal or wholegrain bread
  • Breakfast cereals such as porridge, weetabix, shredded wheat, bran flakes
  • Other cereals such as brown rice, brown pasta
  • Potatoes eaten in their jackets
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Pulse vegetables such as beans, peas and lentils.

 

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