The Best Diet for Seniors Is the One that Serves Seniors
Several fad diets are getting a lot of buzz lately, and while many people would love to drop a few pounds, it’s hard to know how these drastic changes to your eating habits will affect your overall health. Ultimately, we all want our diet to serve our lifestyle and help us lead active, healthy lives. Older adults’ bodies have unique needs that a 20- or 30-year-old may not consider when they jump on a diet bandwagon. A fad diet may help seniors lose weight, but what is actually the best diet plan for seniors?
First, What Do Older Adults Need from Their Diets?
You should always speak with your doctor about what sorts of nutrients he or she recommends for your lifestyle, your specific health concerns and the medications you’re taking. Generally speaking, though, older adults should create food habits that aim to maintain muscle mass and bone density and provide proper nutrition. As we age, inactivity and hormonal changes cause bones to weaken, and fewer muscle fibers and a slower replacement of muscle tissues lead to muscle loss. Both of these changes leave older adults more susceptible to injury from falls or accidents. In addition to physical activity, your nutrition is one of the key factors in preventing bone and muscle deterioration.
Another popular reason to assess your diet is to optimize weight. Due to biological and medicinal factors, seniors may have difficulty losing or adding pounds, but maintaining a healthy weight is vital. It helps avoid or treat type 2 diabetes, heart disease and respiratory disease. Achieving a healthy weight also enables greater mobility, and therefore, greater independence.
We discuss how to make productive food and exercise choices twice a month during our Healthy Habits Class at The Heritage. If residents would like clear and actionable advice, we discuss available activities at the community, as well as upcoming menu options, that can help residents achieve their health goals. Whether they’re looking to lose weight, control blood sugar or simply eat a balanced and beneficial diet, we can help guide them to the choices that will make it happen.
Will Popular Diet Plans Help?
If you’re looking at fad diets like the Keto Diet or the Paleo Diet, probably not. Some of the ideas in these plans can be applied to design a healthy weight-loss diet for seniors. For example, reducing processed carbohydrates, like white bread and white rice, can be very beneficial for weight loss. But to cut carbs severely means cutting many fruits and vegetables, which are vehicles for many important nutrients, including fiber. Diets low in fiber have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and can lead to daily discomfort. Additionally, fruits and vegetables are helpful for hydration. As the sense of thirst diminishes with age, all potential sources of water become more necessary.
Keto and Paleo diets also eliminate dairy, significantly diminishing calcium and vitamin D intake for followers. Seniors require both calcium and vitamin D to maintain bone density, so cutting this important category may not be a healthy choice.
The two popular diet plans diverge in their approach to protein, but both approaches need to be carefully considered for seniors. Following the Keto Diet means limiting your calories from protein to only 10% – 20% of your daily calories. Protein is a vital nutrient for maintaining muscle mass, and cutting protein intake for seniors could likely result in weakened muscles. The Paleo Diet, on the other hand, encourages high protein intake, specifically animal-based protein. While protein is an important component in most seniors’ diets, too much animal-based protein can also lead to heart disease, so you’ll need to find the right balance.
Our food and beverage director, Patrick Corbett, will work with residents to ensure they’re getting the requisite healthy protein to encourage muscle retention. He takes special care when working with our vegan and vegetarian residents. He designs delicious dishes like his portobello stuffed mushroom with vegetable quinoa to satisfy dietary requirements and taste buds.
In the end, older adults should question any diet that requires extremes — no dairy at all, very little protein, a lot of protein. Finding just the right amount of each food group is an important part of creating a balanced diet for seniors, and it won’t be the same ratio for every person. That’s why it helps to consult an expert.
So, What Is the Best Diet for Seniors?
The short but frustrating answer is the best diet plan for seniors is the one recommended by their doctor and/or a trained nutritionist. Each senior is unique in their nutrient needs and lifestyles, and their diet should reflect their individual circumstances and goals.
Broadly speaking, a high-protein diet for seniors is a smart idea to maintain muscle mass as we age. And reducing calories can help older adults reach or sustain a healthy weight. Often, due to changing metabolisms and reduced feelings of hunger, seniors find it beneficial to eat smaller nutrient-rich meals more often during the day. Speak to your doctor or a medical professional to determine what sort of diet will help you stay healthier and active longer.
At The Heritage of Green Hills, our professional chef designs a variety of dining options to help you achieve your health goals. Our ever-changing menus always offer healthy options, including 450-calorie entrees available twice a week to help with portion control. You’ll also find nutrient-rich ingredients like kale and quinoa. Check out our sample menu to see how delicious your options could be. And you can eat the foods your body needs whenever it needs them because we offer all-day dining.
If you’d like to find out more about our Healthy Habits Class or even join us for a meal at The Heritage of Green Hills, let us know. We’d be happy to hear from you.