Nutrition Through Our Golden Years

by Kari Hartel, RD, LD
Program Coordinator, Cooking Matters, Operation Food Search

It’s well-known that eating a well-balanced diet that includes a wide variety of foods provides a plethora of health benefits. But as you add more candles to your birthday cakes, your nutritional needs change. There are definitely ways to eat well and stay healthy as you age.

Problems with Food
Seniors often have trouble chewing food. If you have dental issues, see your dentist to have these addressed so that you can still enjoy the foods you love. Perhaps you need better-fitting dentures, or need to have a sore tooth or sore gums looked at. Until your dental issues can be fixed by a dentist, you may need to stick with softer foods.
Another issue affecting seniors is a change in taste. Seniors often experience a reduction in their sense of smell and taste. Foods don’t seem to have as much flavor, or they taste different. Taste buds are lost as you age, and some medications that you take can alter the way food tastes or can affect hunger. Try adding more herbs and spices to your foods.

Some older adults also become lactose intolerant later in life. Consuming products that contain milk can cause abdominal pain, bloating, gas or diarrhea. However, yogurt and hard cheeses are often well-tolerated for those with lactose intolerance. Also, try consuming smaller amounts of lactose-containing foods—these smaller portions often don’t cause symptoms.

Fewer Calories
Getting older sometimes means becoming less physically active. Aging also causes a gradual loss of lean muscle mass, which results in the body burning fewer calories at rest. As a result, your body may need fewer calories than when you were younger. In order to prevent weight-gain, you may have to scale down portion sizes, cut back on snacks and avoid empty calories from liquids (soda, juice, sweet tea).

More Fiber
Older adults often have problems with digestion, especially constipation. Getting more fiber in your diet can help prevent or alleviate these issues. Be sure to include a variety of fiber-rich foods, including fruits and vegetables (don’t forget to eat the skin!), whole grains, nuts, legumes (beans, peas, lentils) and seeds. Increase your fiber intake slowly, and remember that you’ll need to also increase your fluid intake.

Adequate Fluid Intake
As you age, you tend to lose some of your ability to detect thirst. It’s important to stay adequately hydrated to avoid health problems. Rather than waiting until you feel thirsty to get something to drink, try drinking more fluids throughout the day. Water, unsweetened tea, milk and even coffee count towards your daily liquid intake. One easy way to ensure you’re meeting your daily fluid needs is to carry a water bottle with you and take sips from it throughout the day.

Join us for the Taste of U. City May 9 from 5-8 PM at the Heman Community Center, 975 Pennsylvania. Tickets are $20 and benefit the U. City Chamber. Canned goods will be accepted for Operation Food Search. Purchase online at www.universitycitychamber.com.