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What Should and Shouldn't Be on Your Plate

  • Category: General Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Matt Gougler
What Should and Shouldn't Be on Your Plate

What we eat is important at every stage of life, but particularly so during our senior years when a smorgasbord of factors – from chronic medical conditions to a general weakening of bones – impact what should and shouldn't be on your plate.

March is National Nutrition Month, and ATRIO Health Plans is sharing dietary tips specifically designed for older adults.

More Protein and Iron

Nutritionists caution that many seniors aren't consuming enough protein, and a lack of protein puts older adults at risk of weakening their immune system and developing osteoporosis.

Every meal, however, doesn't have to include an animal protein (meat), but every meal should include some type of protein and it should be in the lean-protein category – lean meats, seafood, and eggs. Other good sources of protein are lentils, beans, and chickpeas.

Another dietary concern is that older adults often have an iron deficiency. Good sources of iron include: lean meats; lentils; dark chocolate; spinach; sardines; black beans; pistachios; and raisins.

Needed Nutrients

The diets of older adults should feature a host of important nutrients:

  • Vitamin D – can be found in low-fat or fat-free milk, as well as in yogurt.
  • Calcium – options include unsweetened fruit juices, dark green leafy vegetables, and canned fish with soft bones.
  • Vitamin B12 – good sources are eggs, milk, cheese, meat, fish, shellfish, and poultry.
  • Fiber – choose whole-grain breads and cereals, beans, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Potassium – among the most potassium-rich foods are avocados, acorn squash, spinach, sweet potatoes, salmon, dried apricots, pomegranates, coconut water, white beans, and bananas.

Health and Hydration

As we age, our sense of thirst can decline, thus increasing the risk of dehydration. Sugary sodas and fruit juices aren't a healthy choice as they're high in calories, which is particularly dangerous for those with diabetes. Nutritionists suggest opting for flavored water or water with a lemon slice or two. Coffee and tea actually aren't dehydrating, so they can be included on older adults' beverage lists.

Large Lunch or Several Small Meals

Nutritionists who specialize in working with older adults suggest a couple of approaches to the meals that will be consumed on any given day.

For seniors who feel too tired at dinner to finish their meal, the recommendation is to make lunch the largest meal of the day. The same recommendation applies to those who have digestive issues that could interfere with getting a good night's sleep.

In the case of older adults who don't have early evening drowsiness or digestive problems, nutritionists recommend eating five to six small meals daily, particularly for those who:

  • must manage their insulin levels;
  • have difficulty eating larger meals due to chest congestion or breathing issues;
  • have diminished appetites.

Whenever possible, seniors also are encouraged to eat with others; this is a prime opportunity to socialize, and socializing is good medicine.