When living in retirement, it’s easy to lose track of making important dietary choices. Many older adults stick to the same eating patterns they’ve followed for years without considering the way their bodies’ needs are changing or how to meet those needs.
At Phoebe, nutritionists and caregivers work hard with each resident to ensure their dietary needs are being met. Our residents even help build the new menus each season, part of the resident engagement initiative being piloted by Phoebe’s dining services partner, Cura Hospitality.
As we age, our bodies develop new requirements from our diet: the need for specific vitamins and minerals changes, and the risks associated with consuming too much salt, fat, and sugar become more pertinent. Many older adults are at risk for or already have a form of diabetes; according to a 2016 study by the American Heart Association, 43.7 million Americans over 60 suffer from a cardiovascular disease. Paying close attention to what’s eaten and how much of it can make all the difference in living a full, healthy life in retirement.
Pass the veggies
In the height of summer, it’s easier than ever to find ways to incorporate produce into your diet with special attention to your specific needs and tastes. Bright, colorful fruits are an attractive and nutritious way to vary up a meal.
Summer is also a great time to start fortifying your diet with fiber and calcium. Leafy greens like spinach, collard greens, and kale are not only fresh and full of vital nutrients, but easy to find and enjoy in cold salads or steamed as a side dish.
As the weather grows hotter, it’s more important than ever to hydrate, and this is especially true for older adults. As the body ages, thirst becomes less prevalent and more infrequent. Remembering to drink water before and after going outdoors, during meals, and in between activities can make all the difference in the body’s ability to process nutrients and function at its best. A great idea for summer is to infuse your daily water with a few slices of fresh fruit like oranges, lemons, strawberries, or melons. Keeping cold water close at hand will fight off the dangers of dehydration during the summer months.
Ditch the salt
Salt is a concern for everyone, but many adults don’t start paying attention to their intake of salt until late in life, and too often after hypertension or other issues have already begun. According to the National Institute on Aging, adults over the age of 51 need only about 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day—that’s two-thirds of a teaspoon, and that includes the salt already in prepared foods. It’s safe to say: toss the salt out. Most dishes flavored with salt can as easily be flavored with spices, herbs, and lemon as an alternative. Reading the nutritional facts label on packaged foods can help keep your salt intake in check. Remember that these labels report the daily suggested value of salt for age groups under 50, and you should adjust accordingly.
Get those nutrients
Here’s what the National Institute on Aging suggests about nutrients for older adults:
- Vitamin D: Adults 50-70 years old should intake at least 600 IU (international units) of this vitamin every day, and no more than 4,000. Adults 70 years of age or more should intake at least 800 IU. Vitamin D is easy to get from fatty fish, fish liver oil, and fortified milk and cereals.
- Vitamin B6: Men need 1.7 mg a day of this vitamin; women need 1.5 mg a day. Fortified cereals, whole grains, organ meats (like liver), and fortified soy-based meat substitutes are all excellent sources of B6.
- Vitamin B12: It’s recommended to consume 2.4 mcg a day of B12. Some older adults have trouble absorbing this vitamin, so it’s suggested to try it in a supplement form or in fortified foods like cereals, meat, fish, poultry, and milk.
- Folate: Older adults should take in 400 mg daily of folic acid. It can be found in dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, in peas, as well as in oranges, and fortified flour and cereals.
Everything in moderation
When talking about being healthy, whether it be introducing changes to diet or physical activity, or continuing with a practiced routine, it’s easy to get caught up in self-made promises of doing more, eating less, eating better. Remember that moderation is the key to healthy living—starving the body of favorite treats can feel you leaving irritable and unhappy. Retirement is about enjoying your life to the fullest, and that includes ice cream on a sunny day. The most important thing is finding a balance that keeps your mind and body healthy for the golden years to come.