Nutrition Advice for the older person

Your body changes as you get older, but a balanced diet will help contribute towards your good health. A good diet is vital to help you to maintain a healthy weight, and will provide you with the nutrients your body needs to keep working well.
Your body requires a diet full of nutritious foods, including:
• Meals containing starchy carbohydrates such as wholewheat pasta, brown rice, potatoes, couscous or other cereals.
• Protein, from lean meats, fish, eggs and pulses.
• Five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. This can include fruit juice and dried or tinned fruit.
• Less of the saturated fat found in processed meats, cakes, pies and biscuits.
• Alcohol intake that does not exceed the government’s daily recommended allowance (RDA).
• Salt in moderation.
It’s important to get an adequate amount of fibre to keep your digestive system healthy. These are all good sources:
• A wholegrain cereal for breakfast or porridge.
• Wholegrain bread.
• Brown pasta and brown rice.
• Pulses such as beans and lentils. Tinned baked beans count.
• Fresh fruit and vegetables.
• Fluids (six to eight cups a day) are also needed for the digestive system and the fibre to work correctly.
But don’t fill up on fibre without eating other foods, as too much fibre can make it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients.
Important nutrients
There are a few nutrients that become especially important as we get older. Make sure you’re getting enough of them.
• Vitamin D helps us to absorb calcium. We mainly get it through exposure to sunlight, but dietary sources are also important. Good sources include eggs, oily fish, some fortified breakfast cereals and fortified margarines. Supplements may be necessary for older people who rarely go outside or who eat no meat or fish.
• Calcium is important to maintain good bone health. Osteoporosis becomes more likely as we get older, especially for women. Good sources of calcium include milk and dairy foods such as yoghurt and cheese. Lower fat varieties, for example skimmed milk, still contain calcium. Eat green leafy vegetables and breakfast cereals fortified with calcium.
• Iron is important for our general health, and a lack of iron can make us feel as though we have no energy and lower our resistance to infection. The best source of iron is red meat, but it is also found in oily fish, pulses (beans and lentils) and fortified cereals. Caffeine can make absorption of iron less efficient, so don’t drink tea and coffee during meals, or immediately before or after.
• Food and drink rich in vitamin C can help the body absorb iron, so have some fruit or vegetables or a glass of fruit juice with an iron-rich meal. Fruit, especially citrus fruit, green vegetables, peppers, tomatoes and potatoes are all good sources of vitamin C.
• Folic acid is important for good health as we get older and become at risk from nutrient deficiency. Good sources include brown rice, green vegetables and fortified breakfast cereals.
Changing appetite
As we get older, our bodies change and that can mean a change in our attitude and approach to food.
People are affected in different ways and at different times. An 80 year old may have an appetite that hasn’t changed a bit. A 65 year old may not feel as interested in food as they used to.
It’s not unusual for someone’s appetite to diminish as they get older. That’s because we’re often not as active as we used to be. Also, lean muscle mass has declined, meaning that our bodies burn fewer calories.
If you’re finding that you don’t eat as much as you used to, it’s important to get all the energy and nutrients that your body needs. Switch to smaller meals and frequent snacks, so that you’re not struggling to eat three large meals a day.
Snack on good quality food such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrain toast. Don’t fill up on biscuits and cakes.
Good meal and snack ideas include:
• Porridge with fruit (fresh or dried) on top.
• Sardines on toast.
• Pate with toast.
• Soup with pulses, pasta or meat.
• Shepherd’s pie.
• Beans on toast with cheese sprinkled on top.
Frozen vegetables and tinned or dried fruit are healthy alternatives to fresh fruit and vegetables. They make food preparation easier and you can keep them for those times when you can’t make it out to the shops.

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