Nutrition and the Elderly- Eating healthily, combined with regular physical activity, can help a person live a full, active life, preserving independence into older age.Here are 5 tips to help you find the best foods for your body and your budget.

1. Know what a healthy plate looks like

You might remember the food pyramid, but the USDA recently unveiled a simpler way to help people see what they should eat each day. It’s called My Plate. The simple graphic shows exactly how the five food groups should stack up on your plate. These are the building blocks for a healthy diet.

2. Look for important nutrients

Make sure you eat a variety of foods to get all the nutrients you need. Your plate should look like a rainbow—bright, colored foods are always the best choice! A healthy meal should include:• Lean protein (lean meats, seafood, eggs, beans)• Fruits and vegetables (think orange, red, green, and purple)• Whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat pasta)• Low-fat dairy (milk and its alternatives)Remember to choose foods that are high in fiber and low in sodium or salt. Also, look for Vitamin D, an important mineral as we age.

3. Read the Nutrition Facts label

The healthiest foods are whole foods. These are often found on the perimeter of the grocery store in the produce, meat, and dairy sections. When you do eat packaged foods, be a smart shopper! Read the labels to find items that are lower in fat, added sugars, and sodium.

4. Use recommended servings

To maintain your weight, you must eat the right amount of food for your age and body. The American Heart Association provides recommended daily servings for adults aged 60+.

5. Stay hydrated

Water is an important nutrient too! Don’t let yourself get dehydrated—drink small amounts of fluids consistently throughout the day. Tea, coffee, and water are your best choices. Keep fluids with sugar and salt at a minimum, unless your doctor has suggested otherwise.Some Important Diets You may see with your clientsA doctor sometimes places clients who have certain illnesses on special diets. You play an important role in helping clients follow these diets. Listed below are some of the modified or special diets you may encounter as caregivers. Please read the information, take the test and return the completed test to the office.

Here are several common diets that you might adopt as you age:

Low-Sodium Diet: Excess sodium causes the body to retain more water in tissues and in the circulatory system than is necessary. This causes the heart to pump harder which is harmful for clients who have high blood pressure, coronary artery disease or kidney disease. The word “salt” and “sodium” do not mean the same thing. Sodium is one of the chemical elements found in salt. Salt is the main source of sodium, but you can make low-sodium meals more flavorful by adding lemon, herbs, dry mustard, pepper, onion, or salt substitute if approved by the client’s doctor.

Fluid-Restricted Diet: The amount of fluid consumed through food and drinks must equal the amount of fluid that leaves the body through perspiration, stool, urine and expiration. This is fluid balance. When fluid intake is greater than fluid output, body tissues may become swollen. In addition, people with severe heart disease and kidney disease have difficulty processing large volumes of fluid and to prevent further damage, doctors may restrict a client’s fluid intake.High-Potassium Diet: Some client’s take diuretics (medications such as Lasix, which reduces fluid volume) or blood pressure medications. These may cause the client to excrete so much fluid that their bodies could be depleted of potassium. Foods high in potassium can lower blood pressure by reducing adverse effects of sodium. These foods include bananas, oranges, orange juice, prune juice, figs, dried apricots, prunes, raisins, cantaloupe, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, potatoes with skins, winter squash and legumes. “K+” is the common abbreviation for this diet.

Low-Fat/Low-Cholesterol Diet: Clients placed on this diet may have high cholesterol and are at risk for heart attacks and heart disease or clients with gallbladder or liver disease. These foods include low-fat cottage cheese, fish, and white meat, vegetable fats such as olive or canola oils. Limit egg yolks to 3-4 per week. Avoid organ meats, shellfish, fatty meats, cream, butter, lard, coconut and palm oils, desserts, soups made with whole milk, fried foods and sweets.

Bland Diet: This diet may be used for a client with gastric and duodenal ulcers or intestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Avoid alcohol, coffee, tea, soft drinks, citrus juices, spicy foods and spicy seasonings such as pepper, cayenne and chili pepper.

Diabetic Diet:  Clients with diabetes must be very careful about what they eat. Calories and carbohydrates are carefully regulated along with proteins and fats. The types of foods and amounts are determined by the client’s nutritional and energy requirements. To keep their blood glucose levels near normal, diabetic clients must eat the right amount of the right type of food at the right time. They must eat their entire meal and encourage them to do so. They should avoid foods high in sugar, such as candy, ice cream, cakes, cookies, jellies, and jams, canned fruits in heavy syrup, soda and alcohol. Always read labels to check sugar content in foods and look for key words such as sucrose, glucose, maltose, dextrose, lactose, fructose and syrup.

Low-Fiber Diet: This diet is used for clients with bowl disturbances. It decreases the amount of fiber, whole grains, raw fruits and vegetables, seeds, dairy foods and coffee.

High-Fiber Diet: This diet helps clients with problems such as constipation and bowl disorders. It increases the intake of fiber and whole grains, such as whole grain cereals, bread, raw fruits and vegetables.Soft Diet: A diet soft in texture that consists of soft or chopped foods that are easy to chew and swallow. Physicians order this for clients who have trouble swallowing due to dental problems or other medical conditions or someone making a transition from a liquid to regular diet.

Pureed Diet: To puree food means to chop, blend or grind it into a thick paste of baby food consistency. The food should be thick enough to hold its form in the mouth but does not require the client to chew it. This is used for someone who has trouble chewing and/or swallowing.

Liquid Diet: This diet will usually be ordered for a short time due to a medical condition or before or after a test or surgery. It is ordered when a client needs to keep the intestinal tract free of food and consists of foods that are in a liquid state at body temperature. They are usually ordered “clear” or “full”. Clear liquid includes clear juices, broth, gelatin and popsicle. Full liquid includes the addition of cream soups, milk and ice cream.

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