Nutritional Needs for Older Adults

Nutritional Needs for Older Adults

January 2, 2019

There’s no question about it: Our bodies change as we age. In turn, we have very different nutritional needs than teenagers, children, and even middle-aged adults.  Age-related changes can affect how your body processes food, which influences your dietary needs and affects your appetite. These are some of the changes:

  • Your metabolism slows down. This happens naturally, but it becomes more pronounced if you don’t get as much as you should. When your metabolism slows, your body doesn’t burn as many calories, which means you need to eat less to stay at a healthy weight. As a result, the foods you eat should be as nutrient-rich as possible. Most women with average activity levels need about 1,800 calories per day. Men with an average activity level need about 2,300 calories each day. You’ll need fewer calories if you’re sedentary, more if you are very active.
  • Your digestive system changes. Your body produces less of the fluids that it needs to process food in your digestive system when you get older. These changes can make it harder for your body to absorb important nutrients like folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12.
  • Your appetite may change. Many seniors take one or more; these can cause side effects such as a lack of appetite or stomach upset, which can lead to poor nutrition.
  • Your emotional health may be affected. Seniors who feel depressed or lonely often lose interest in eating. On the other hand, emotional issues may cause some people to eat more and gain unwanted pounds.

A healthy diet packed with vital nutrients can help ward off potential health problems that are common in senior citizens, like constipation, heart problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.  Nutritious foods will also help you maintain a healthy weight and can work wonders for your energy level.

The USDA Food Guide My Plate Plan: This plan offers tips for building a healthy, balanced diet, including:

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains.
  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals — and choose the foods with lower numbers.