How our dietary needs change as we age

As we age, a healthy diet becomes more important than ever. The right foods give our bodies the best chance at maintaining our mobility, mind and overall health. Unfortunately, with age, our appetites decrease, along with our dexterity and our ability to chew, so eating the right food isn’t always straightforward.

At Twilight Aged Care, we aim to provide each individual with quality food that caters to their personal, cultural and dietary needs. In this article, we’ve put together some insights, information and tips on maintaining a healthy diet as we age.

When it comes to caloric intake, older people require less energy. It’s important to note, however, that nutrients remain essential, for example, calcium for strong bones and protein for muscle strength. To ensure we have the appropriate intake of nutrients, eating a wide diversity of food is key. The Australian Dietary Guidelines offer excellent, practical advice on the different food groups and how to obtain the right amounts of each.

Putting this information into practise can be be a challenge because of the disparity between appetite (your dietary ‘wants’) and nutritional intake (your dietary ‘needs’).

This gap often puts older people at risk of malnutrition, as they may unknowingly prefer foods that are energy-dense rather than nutrient-dense, which can in turn, exacerbate chronic illnesses as the World Health Organisation outlines.

The reality is that everyone has different tastes, and transitioning away from an indulgent diet of fatty, sugary foods and few vegetables is often a serious obstacle. Luckily, eating a balanced diet doesn’t have to be restrictive or tasteless. Our website has a list of recipes that are wholesome, nutritionally balanced and excellent for the elderly.

These recipes come directly from our Hospitality Services Manager, a small taste of the cuisine we prepare for our seasonal menus. Designed in consultation with each resident as well as a qualified dietician, each menu rotates over a four week period and is regularly reviewed and tailored to residents’ needs, including food allergies and intolerances, vegetarianism, veganism, and religious dietary requirements.

Here are some key nutritional points to keep in mind as we age:

Limit salt – salt occurs naturally in many foods such as meat, eggs, milk, and vegetables. You don’t need to add salt to meals and should restrict your intake of cured meats and processed snacks and sauces.

Drink more water – your diet includes fluid intake, which is essential to most of the body’s vital functions. However, as you age you may not feel thirsty; even when your body needs fluid. It is recommended that you have a minimum of 6 glasses of water a day to maintain healthy hydration levels.

Limit saturated fats and trans fats – while often tasty, fatty foods have very little nutritional value and increase the risk of health problems. These include, but are not limited to: processed meat, fried or oily food (canola and vegetable oil in particular), and copious amounts of butter etc.

Food is an energy source – You should aim to use up the amount of energy that you consume in any one day. We would recommend that you stay physically active and participate in activities whenever possible.

Share your mealtime – Wherever possible, share your dining experience. This is one of the simple pleasures of eating.

At Twilight Aged Care we are committed to provide quality meals for our residents. We understand the importance of maintaining a healthy diet, one that is rich in flavour and nutrients. If you would like any further information regarding our seasonal menu or how we can cater for your dietary needs, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with our helpful staff.

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