Healthy meal plans are vital at any age, but for older adults and care home residents there are different needs to meet. So, here's a guide by Renray Healthcare on making the most nutritious meals for the elderly.
Consider the essentials
First of all, however, there are some basics that we should cover such as:
What is nutrition?
Nutritious foods can cover a broad range of food and dietary lifestyles. But nutrition itself is in effect concerned with eating a healthy, balanced diet that provides your body with everything it needs. This includes all the necessary carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins and water, the levels of which can vary depending on age and health conditions.
Why is it important?
The above are all vital at any age. After all, good nutrition is what provides us with energy, allows us to control our weight, and can prevent issues like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. For the elderly and care home residents, it is especially important as what we require to keep healthy may change quite a bit.
Why can it be harder for older adults to get nutrition right?
Changes that can make healthy eating and meal planning more difficult as we age or enter care homes can include some of the following:
Less activity – most of us stay home more as we age, performing more Light Exercises, meaning we require fewer calories.
Health and medicines – this can impact dietary requirements and make it harder for elderly people to cook and feed themselves.
Physical or sensory trouble – older adults can lose senses of taste and smell, and can also have problems with chewing and swallowing.
What nutrients do older adults need?
All older adults and care home residents require a balance of all of the main food and nutrient groups in their meal plans, as well as plenty of water throughout the day. But, taking challenges for the elderly into account, nutrients that are easy to miss include:
Vitamin B12 – many adults over 50 don’t absorb enough of this, but it can be found easily in fish, seafood, fortified cereals, and supplements prescribed by a doctor.
Calcium/Vitamin D – those aged 70+ need more of this to maintain bone health. It’s often recommended that older adults have three servings of low-fat dairy products, plant-based options, or other calcium-rich foods per day.
Fibre – important for maintaining energy in care home residents, it can be found in whole fruits and as well as whole-grain bread, cereals, and beans such as peas and lentils.
Potassium – this can lower the risk of high blood pressure as we age, so it’s vital that elderly people consume fruits, vegetables, and reduce salt intake with substitutes like herbs or spices.
Healthy meals: ingredients and portions
Of course, care home food and nutritious meal plans for the elderly don’t have to exclude things people enjoy. To that end, here are some ideas for core ingredients and snack portions that are appropriate for older adults:
Fruits – this is a healthy snack idea at any age, and a portion of fruit usually entails enough to pit the palm of your hand (E.g. 3 apricots or 1 banana).
Beans, Lentils, Fish, Meat, Tofu, Quorn – all of these can be incorporated as a core ingredient in meals for the elderly, as these, all contain protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Vegetables – many vegetable-rich meals like mild chilis and curries also provide a great range of nutrients.
Potatoes, Rice, Pasta – these make for great sides to care home meals, as they provide a lot of energy as starchy carbohydrates.
In essence, as long as you’re providing a great range of the above food groups and nutrients, meals for the elderly can be expansive and include just as much variety as in the diets of any other age group.
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