Ten tips for eating well for seniors

As we get older, our energy levels may drop and it’s easy to skip meals, or just eat ready-to-eat meals from the freezer. However it’s important to eat well, so here are our top tips to help you maintain a healthy diet.

  • Don’t skip meals

One of the most important rules is to eat regularly, so don’t skip meals and remember breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So, after a night of fasting, make sure you start the day off with a healthy breakfast, in order to get your metabolism firing.

Try to space meals evenly throughout the day. If there is a possibility that you may miss a meal, take a small meal with you as back up like a salad or a sandwich.

  • Stay hydrated

We all need to stay hydrated, ideally by drinking between eight and ten glasses of fluid per day. Water is by far the best, but milk, tea and coffee and herbal teas all work, as well as eating juicy fruits like oranges.

Always carry a small bottle of water with you when you are out and about, especially in the summer when dehydration tends to be more of an issue.

Sugary drinks should be largely avoided, but you don’t have to be cut them out altogether. Hot drinks should ideally be drunk without sugar.

  • Eat your five portions of fruit and veg a day

Eating five portions of fruit or veg a day is really crucial for a good diet, in order to get the range of vitamins, minerals and fibre needed.

For an older person, sometimes the best way to eat their five a day can be by drinking it! There are many types of machines available which can liquidise fruit and veg into tasty drinks for an older person and these can even made in batches and frozen. Soups are good for your vegetable intake too.  Just be careful about how much salt and sugar is contained in readymade juices or soups. And of course choosing seasonal produce will help to keep down costs.

  • Watch your portion sizes

It is very easy to eat too much and many older people are of a generation that always makes sure they leave a clean plate no matter how much food is on it. Portion size is a very important issue in supporting healthy eating, and this helps with weight control too.

Tips to help with portion sizes….

  • Drink plenty of water with your meal to fill you up, so you will be less tempted to take second helpings
  • Use smaller plates, so it is difficult to put too much food on them
  • Put healthy vegetables on the plate first when you have a main meal, as this will fill the plate up and leave less room for the fattier stuff. It will fill you up more efficiently as well.
  • Eat fish

Try to include fish in your diet as much as possible as it is an excellent form of protein. It doesn’t matter if it is fresh, frozen or canned…. it still is good for you as long as there is no added salt.

Fish fried in batter is best avoided, but you can always just pick out the fish inside and leave the batter.

Oily fish, such as mackerel, trout and salmon are rich in Omega 3 which protects the heart and helps improve brain power, so keep the pantry stocked with cans of oily fish like sardines and mackerel, as they are an easy, healthy meal any time, especially for older people with diabetes.

  • Know your fats: the good and bad and the ones to avoid completely

Fats are essential to a healthy diet and everybody needs them, but there are good and bad fats. Avoid or eat only small amounts of saturated fats. Many food manufacturers have cut down on saturated fats in their foods, but they are still found in lots of everyday foods like cakes, processed meats, butter, and cheese. Check the ingredients when shopping for your food and avoid trans fats which are highly processed.

  • Be careful with carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are an important part of any diet. Healthier wholegrain starchy foods, fruits and vegetables, pulses and some dairy foods are all good sources of carbs.  Don’t cut out the carbs, just make sure you are eating the healthy ones.

  • Eat less salt

Too much salt contributes to high blood pressure so should be avoided. As people age, their sense of taste diminishes and so they will often add more salt to their meals when cooking and at the table. Removing the salt cellar from your table can be a very simple way to help reduce salt intake, as will adding herbs and spices instead.

Processed foods are often laced with salt to add flavour, so check the labels before you buy to see how much salt they contain. Adults should not have more than 1 teaspoon (6g) of salt per day,

  • Sugar

Some sugar can be eaten, especially natural sugar found in fruits and honey but really only in moderation. It is best to consider something sugary as an occasional indulgent treat. Natural sugar-alternative sweeteners such as Stevia should be used when sweetening food and drinks.

  • A word of warning about ‘diet’ foods

Foods labelled as ‘diet’ sound healthy, but they really don’t offer any real benefit to diabetics and are often expensive. Once again, fresh unprocessed foods (fruit and vegetables, natural proteins, nuts and pulses) are always going to be healthier. If in any doubt, see a dietician.

_____________________________________________________________________Sue Buckle is a Registered Nurse and owns and operates Just Better Care Hills District

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