Importance of Nutrition for Seniors

Pizza is healthier than cereal

Now that we’ve gotten your attention—March is National Nutrition Month, and here we’ll explore the importance of nutrition for older adults. But not to leave you hanging, a recent article for WebMD cites New York-based nutritionist Chelsey Amer who explains that the pizza/cereal issue is actually a protein versus sugar concern. Pizza really packs the protein while the high sugar content of most cereals is responsible for its poor reputation—and the sugar “crash” that hits you about 11 AM! Make sense? Now, let’s talk nutrition.

National Nutrition Month

Established by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and celebrated each year during March, National Nutrition Month helps us focus on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating habits. This year’s theme is Eat Right, Bite by Bite. It’s a topic that the residents and staff of Heron’s Key will fully explore throughout March in the activity and event programming, within all their dining venues and in their Heron’s Flight community newsletter. See how the community brings residents together—thematically—every month.

Know your food groups

As we age, healthy eating can make a difference in how we feel and can even encourage a sense of well-being. The benefits are far-reaching and begin with knowing nutrition basics like eating a variety of foods from all food groups to help supply the nutrients you need. Of course, this pertains to all ages, but especially older adults. A healthy eating plan emphasizes fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy; includes lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts; and is low in saturated fats, trans fats, salt (sodium) and added sugars. So, a good place to start is to make sure you know your food groups.

Good nutrition based on proper attention to these food groups is not complicated. But daily eating habits do change as our bodies get older. Making small adjustments to help you enjoy the foods and beverages you eat and drink will work to your benefit. Here are some recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans:

  • Fruits and vegetables can be fresh, frozen or canned. As you age, eat more dark green vegetables, such as leafy greens or broccoli, and orange vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes. Add sliced fruits and vegetables to your meals and snacks. Look for pre-sliced fruits and vegetables if slicing and chopping is a challenge.
  • Vary your protein choices with more fish, beans and peas.
  • Choose whole grains whenever possible. Eat at least three ounces of whole-grains every day, found in whole-grain cereals (fortified with vitamin B12), breads, crackers, rice or pasta.
  • Three daily servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy fortified with vitamin D are recommended to help keep your bones healthy. If you cannot tolerate milk, try small amounts of yogurt, buttermilk, hard cheese or lactose-free foods.
  • Switch from solid fats to oils when preparing food and make sure the fats you eat are polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats.
  • Add flavor to foods with spices and herbs instead of salt and look for low-sodium packaged foods.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

What you can expect

By paying attention to your food groups and eating healthfully with the slight modifications above, you can expect to:

  • Obtain nutrients needed by the body such as potassium, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, minerals, and dietary fiber.
  • Lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. (However, good nutrition should not be confused with being on a diet!)
  • Reduce your risk for developing chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. If you have a chronic disease, eating well can help manage the disease.
  • Meet individual caloric and nutritional needs.
  • Help to maintain energy levels.

A few general tips for improving nutrition

Aside from focusing on food groups, the following three tips are just as important to your overall nutrition plan:

  1. Planning – Before going to the grocery store, take time to think ahead when planning your meals. Once you get there, investigate and LEARN where your healthy foods are located. Be smart as you navigate the grocery store aisles.
  2. Vitamins and Supplements—Learn about the types of vitamins, nutrients and minerals you may need as supplements. Your family doctor can help you out here.
  3. Resources—Become a student of nutrition and learn what you can through magazines featuring articles on the importance of nutrition and healthy eating habits. Download nutrition tips as you browse the Internet.

For more information on healthy eating—coupled with the importance of maintaining healthy body weight through your physical activity of choice, visit the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for more great information on healthy eating and exercise as you age.

A word about the impact of nutrition on memory

Within the normal course of aging, most older adults will admit to a concern about their memory, learning and cognition abilities. Recent research has proven that there’s a connection between nutrition and memory, especially where sugars and fats are concerned. And just as sugars and fats present a challenge to cognitive function, other nutrients such as foods rich in vitamin C and vitamin B6 have been identified with a high protective capacity against mild cognitive impairment (MCI) mainly due to their antioxidant properties. The National Institute of Health stays on top of these studies and makes them regularly available to the public. You may enjoy reading further details on this recent study on nutrition and memory.

Heron’s Key supports good nutrition for its residents

If you’re looking for that special place for retirement, make sure you consider Heron’s Key where Chef Jason Voce and his dining services staff take healthy eating and the importance of nutrition seriously. The Heron’s Key farm/sea to table model supports a healthy and delicious dining experience founded on locally grown vegetables, fruits, meats and seafood.

And the experience itself is far from boring. You’ll enjoy variety and choice in dining venues and menus; food events and experiences—like parties and specials for the Super Bowl, Fat Tuesday, Easter, Mothers’ Day and more—Captain’s Tables, Resident Recipes, Boxed Lunches for our always-active residents; and even wrapping up your pizza so you can have it for breakfast!

Call 877.892.7129 to arrange a tour and save a seat to enjoy a meal with us.