Healthy eating when you’re older is essential for helping to fight off illness and feel your best.
Your appetite is likely to decrease due to reduced levels of activity as you advance in years and yet it’s important to nourish yourself with regular meals that are prepared and stored safely.
Reduced mobility can make food shopping difficult, while single adults may also feel uninspired or not able to cook for one.
Here Cashlady looks more closely at elderly nutrition, including staying hydrated, reducing your salt intake, upping the fibre, and keeping a stock of easy to prepare meals for when you don’t feel like cooking.
Elderly Nutrition: Drink plenty of water
As you get older feelings of thirst tend to abate but it’s just as important to drink fluids, regularly to stay well hydrated.
Water is best, but cups of tea, coffee and squash will all help you stay quenched and feeling refreshed.
You’ll know that you are drinking enough if your urine is a pale-straw colour – any darker and you need to increase your intake, especially if the weather is hot.
Reduce your salt
Reducing your salt intake is great advice that should be followed by everyone, regardless of age.
Salt has many detrimental effects on health by causing a rise in blood pressure, which can result in Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), including strokes, heart attacks and heart failure.
Instead of pouring salt onto your food add spices or herbs during cooking or use a dash of lemon juice or vinegar to add more flavour.
Many products have information about the salt content on the front of the packet so try to choose products that contain less salt and be wary of readymade meals and flavour sachets, which can have high levels of salt.
Think fibre for elderly nutrition
As we get older, bowel problems can, unfortunately, become an issue, with constipation a common complaint.
Boosting your diet with lots of fibre can help keep bowel problems and irritations at bay, ensuring your digestive system runs smoothly.
Great sources of fibre include wholegrain cereal, porridge, wholegrain bread, brown pasta and rice, fresh fruit and vegetables and pulses.
Drinking plenty of fluids will also help the gut to function properly.
Keeping a stock of easy to prepare food
There are lots of things that can make getting to the shops a little harder when you’re older, including lack of transport, illness and reduced mobility.
It’s helpful to keep a stock of easy to prepare food items so that you can eat healthily even when you can’t make it to the supermarket.
Tinned and long-life foods are useful as they can be stored in the cupboard and don’t require much preparation, meaning you can reach for them if you’re feeling unwell or don’t want to cook.
If getting to the shops becomes a problem, then consider organising a supermarket delivery or asking family and friends to take you to pick up some of your favourite foods.
Try not to skip meals
An important part of elderly nutrition is trying not to skip meals.
Being a healthy weight, as in not overweight or underweight, is key to staying well, so if you don’t feel like eating a proper meal try to avoid snacking on sugary foods, such as biscuits.
Instead reach for small portions of nutritious food, such as tinned fruit, custard, egg and toast or a small portion of plain rice or pasta, with a few beans or tomatoes and herbs to add flavour and make it a little more interesting.
Supplementing your diet
Supplements can improve your diet, particularly if your appetite is low and you aren’t eating enough of certain food groups.
A vitamin D supplement is important for elderly people to help with vital bone health, with current NHS recommendations saying that people aged over 65 should take a daily supplement of 10mcg.
Fish oil supplements are also a useful additional source of omega 3 fatty acids especially if you aren’t eating oily fish regularly.
Vitamin C is sourced from fresh fruit and vegetables, or alternatively, a supplement will help keep levels topped up.
Finally, a general one-a-day multivitamin product gives some reassurance of adequate intakes of many nutrients if you are worried that you are not eating enough variety of foods.