Part Two of our series on healthy eating for the elderly is going to focus on what foods you should focus on. Having a healthy, balanced diet is vital to helping maintain the quality of life for your loved ones. A balanced diet helps boost the immune system and self-esteem and reduces risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and bone loss. A proper diet also improves focus and helps decrease the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. If you’re trying to manage your parents’ diet on your own, be sure to have a physician go over the plan. To get you started, here are some general guidelines.
Their diet should be rich in various vegetables. In fact, vegetables should make up most of their diet. Pick dark leafy greens such as spinach and broccoli which are rich in antioxidants and orange and yellow vegetables such as carrots, squash, and peppers. If your loved ones aren’t a fan of those vegetables, try using healthy shakes to easily incorporate spinach, collard greens, and kale into their diet. Shakes can be a great way to work towards the goal of 2 to 2.5 cups of vegetables per day.
Fruits are also an important part to a balanced diet. Don’t be fooled by promises on juice labels, whole fruits have more fiber and vitamins than fruit juice. Try for a variety of fruits with lots of different colors and aim for 1.5 – 2 servings per day.
Calcium is vital for bone health and subsequently is increasingly important as your loved ones age. Getting sufficient calcium can help prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures. In case your parents aren’t fans of dairy products, you can find calcium in tofu, almonds, Cheerios, beans, and kale. Of course, your dairy options include milk, yogurt, and cheese. In general, you should aim for about 1200 mg of calcium per day.
Your loved ones only need about 6-7 ounces of grains per day. But with grains, it’s important to pay attention to what kind of grains are making up their diet. You should choose whole grains over processed white flour since whole grains are more nutritious and they have more fiber – helping them stay fuller longer and helping to regulate their bowel movements.
We have a tendency to pack most of our protein in late at night, but especially with your parents, try to divide their protein intake evenly throughout the day and limit red meat intake. Focus instead of hitting protein goals through chicken, pork, fish, beans, peas, nuts, eggs, and seeds and aim for 1 – 1.5 g per kg of body weight.
The elderly are prone to dehydration partially because the body loses some of its ability to regulate fluid levels and partially because their sense of thirst may not be as sharp. It’s really important that you monitor their water intake and do your best to ensure that they’re getting the 64 -ounces of water they need per day.
www.choosemyplate.gov is a great resource where you can put in your parents’ age and activity level and get more specific suggested daily servings of the main food groups. For more tips on taking care of your aging parents, check back next week for our blog on tips for wholesome eating.