It can be hard to muster much enthusiasm for cooking when you’re making meals for one. Why go to the trouble and expense of a three-course meal when a can of soup will do? It’s 6 p.m. and nothing sounds good, so you might settle for a cheese sandwich and a cookie – the same thing you had the night before.
Eating that way isn’t fun for anyone, but when seniors limit their food choices, they put their health at risk, which is a common fear for the elderly. For one thing, when a person limits his or her food choices, it’s harder to consume the variety of nutrients needed for optimal health. Equally bad, eating the same foods day after day can make those foods less appealing, which means people eat less and start to lose their appetites. This can be harmful for seniors, as confirmed by researchers who have found a connection between decreased appetite and poor health.
But there is a solution: variety. Consuming a variety of foods and nutrients keeps appetite going strong. It turns out, the best way to stay healthy is to eat awesome food. Who knew?
A Study About Varied Diet and Appetite
Appetite, or lack thereof, is a direct result of a person’s diet, according to a study from Monash University.
"Appetite is generally regarded as one of the most important indicators of health," Dr. Wahlqvist said.
Dr. Wahlqvist used data from more than 1,800 Taiwanese people over the age of 65 and found that those who had poor appetites consumed a less diverse diet than others, with a consequently lower intake of energy, protein, vitamins and other nutrients.
Appetite is a reliable predictor of mortality, Wahlqvist said, but paying attention to appetite opens the potential for helpful intervention.
We have compiled two lists of nutrition tips for seniors that fight the effects of aging and keep seniors healthy. One list tells you what you shouldn’t eat, and the other tells you what you should.
What Not to Eat: Foods Seniors Should Avoid
There is a big buzz around anti-aging diets for seniors nowadays. The truth is, there is no such thing as a diet that prevents you from aging. But you can eat foods that will make the aging process more graceful, healthier and happier.
An easy way to understand so-called “anti-aging diets” is not so much thinking about what every senior should eat, but what they shouldn’t. Here’s the short list of foods seniors should avoid:
- Fried foods: When fried, many foods produce a compound called acrylamide, which is known to damage nerve tissue. But there is another reason to avoid fried foods: they are full of saturated fats.
- Saturated fats: These are fats that your body has trouble breaking down and that contribute to potentially serious cholesterol issues. For the most part, saturated fats hide in animal-based foods like meat and dairy.
- Refined sugar: There is an ongoing debate on good sugar vs. bad sugar, and it is generally agreed that the good sugar is the “natural sugar” and the bad sugar is the “added sugar.” Natural sugars occur naturally in the food you are eating – for example, the sugar in an apple. Added sugar, on the other hand, is what you find in a donut or cake.
- Enriched and fortified foods: Contrary to what the names imply, enriched and fortified foods are worth avoiding. When something is “enriched” or “fortified” with vitamins, it means the vitamins were added unnaturally.
- Alcohol: It’s nothing new that alcohol has adverse effects on health, including risk of liver damage, cancer, stroke, and many other things. These risks increase with age, according to the National Institute on Aging.
- Carbs: Carbs don’t have to be avoided entirely, but if you are on a weight loss diet, there are some carbs to avoid after 50. This includes bread, beer, pasta, and most baked goods.
What to Eat: Best Vitamins for Seniors
Now that you know what not to eat, here comes the fun part: what you should eat. There are some vitamins seniors need more than others, and it is common for doctors to recommend supplements. But you can get the vitamins you need straight from the source too, by eating good foods.
Here is a list of the best vitamins for people over 50, as well as the foods they naturally occur in. A good, varied diet full of all these vitamins is sure to keep both a senior’s appetite and body healthy and strong.
- B6 keeps your metabolism and immune system going strong and is found in soy, whole grains, and organ meats.
- Calcium strengthens the bones and is common in dairy products, seeds, and many nuts.
- Folate prevents anemia and is naturally in spinach, beans, and oranges.
- Magnesium regulates blood sugar and pressure and even helps bones. The best sources of magnesium are spinach and nuts.
- Probiotics are living organisms that promote digestive health. They are best consumed from fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt.
- Vitamin B12 keeps blood and nerve cells healthy and is found in animal products like meat, eggs, and dairy.
- Vitamin C prevents cataracts, heals wounds more quickly, and even helps prevent some cancers. Citrus and peppers are the two highest sources of vitamin C. Contrary to popular belief, vitamin C doesn’t prevent the flu, only it’s symptoms. But we have a list of foods that do fight the flu.
- Vitamin D is key for healthy bones and reducing risk of dementia and is found in egg yolk, seafood, and sunshine.
Best Diet for Seniors: A Varied Diet at Village Green
At Village Green Retirement Campus, we take pride in the food we serve every day because we know it makes a difference in the health and well-being of our residents. A typical breakfast menu might include eggs to order, a two-egg omelet, buttermilk pancakes, hot cereal, bacon, fruit and toast. Researchers say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and we want to make sure our residents get off to a good start.
Choices at lunch and dinner are even more varied, with a sample lunch menu offering diners a choice between spaghetti with meat sauce, grilled cheese sandwiches and Chinese chicken salad. The dinner menu might include prime rib, roast chicken and a soup of the day. The menu always includes a variety of fresh vegetables and other healthy side dishes and a full selection of desserts, including sugar-free and low-calorie options.
Visit us today and see how delicious dining at Village Green Retirement Campus can be. Bring your appetite when you schedule a Dine and Discover tour!