We are What We Eat

March 14, 2013

Our bodies are amazingly efficient machines. They can accommodate all our changing needs as we grow, develop, bear children, and age. We don’t need to think about adjusting hormone levels, healing wounds, increasing energy output or any other automatic processes our bodies perform. But, like any machine, it can only work as well as the maintenance performed and we maintain our bodies through exercise and good nutrition.

As we age our nutritional needs change, we need fewer calories because we exercise less and as a result our metabolism slows. We do need adequate nutrition to maintain good health. Staying alert, maintaining memory and energy levels as well as muscle mass means a balanced, nutrient dense diet is imperative. So, how do you make sure your elder is getting what he or she may need?

The USDA published the Modified MyPlate for Older Adults as a guide to help get the best nutritional balance and exercise depending on age, gender, and exercise habits. MyPlate is a graphic designed to show the different foods and the amounts recommended for a balanced diet. The Modified MyPlate for Older Adults also has graphics depicting the types of exercise that are beneficial. There are graphics showing fresh fruits and vegetables as well as packaged fruits and vegetables. The idea behind this is that packaged foods may be easier to open and can be stored over longer periods of time. This is helpful to an older person whose appetite has diminished and may eat less at a sitting or who may have arthritis or an other condition which makes it difficult to manage daily activities.

So what should an older adult be eating on a regular basis? Food categories included in a daily diet are:

  • Whole and enriched grains and cereal such as brown rice, whole wheat bread and oatmeal.
  • Deeply colored fruits 2 to 3 times a day, blueberries, strawberries and melons are a few.
  • Brightly colored vegetables such as broccoli, kale, winter squash, sweet potatoes.
  • Fish, poultry, and eggs up to two times a day for protein.
  • Nuts and beans up to 2 times a day.
  • Low or non-fat dairy products.
  • Small amounts of vegetable oils, olive oils, or spreads low in saturated and trans fats.

A healthy life includes:

  • FLUIDS = 8 glasses of water per day. Serve at every meal and make available between meals and at the bedside.
  • Alcohol in moderation…1 to 2 drinks per day.
  • Exercise. Regular physical activity such as walking, swimming, and gardening helps prevent obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and helps maintain muscle mass and bone health.

Eating a balanced diet and getting daily exercise go a long way toward improving quality of life for the older adult.

Let us know how you are managing your elder’s nutritional needs.





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