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A Healthy Diet for Seniors

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) adapted its famous food pyramid to recognize the unique nutritional needs of older adults. The Sunrise Signature Dining Program uses these guidelines to inform all dietary and menu selections; you can also visit the Senior Eats Blog to find the latest news on senior nutrition.

MyPlate for Older Adults1

MyPlate for Older Adults

MyPlate for Older Adults emphasizes an active lifestyle supported by a well-hydrated diet with whole grains and food choices that are rich in vitamins and minerals.

  • Antioxidants like Vitamin C and E help defend against cell damage linked to cancer and a variety of diseases
  • Vitamin D and calcium keep bones strong
  • Folic acid helps to retain mental acuity and to reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease

In general, richly colored fruits and vegetables contain many valuable nutrients your body needs; researchers recommend incorporating spinach, romaine lettuce, sweet potatoes, squash, strawberries and peaches into meals and snacks.

Consuming high-fiber foods, such as whole, enriched and fortified grains and cereals may help reduce bowel troubles and are associated with lower cholesterol levels and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Bean, lentils, fish and lean meats may fulfill protein requirements.

Everyone, but especially seniors, should aim to limit foods that are high in trans and saturated fats, salt and added sugars. Fresh lemon juice and vinegars may replace many salad dressings, while a variety of spices may be used to add flavor instead of salt.

Create Time for Meals

Too often in today’s busy world we eat while engaging in another activity. Create a special time and place to enjoy meals, away from the remote control, keyboard or phone. By focusing on your meal and engaging with others, you are listening to your body and giving it the attention it deserves.

Think for a moment about how much water you drink during a normal day. You might be surprised to realize that you are drinking less because your body doesn’t feel thirsty. It’s important to understand that your body still requires the same amount of hydration, while your sense of thirst actually decreases with age. Without your body sending these important signals, you are at a higher risk for dehydration, especially during hot, summer months. Juices, milk and, of course, water can all help keep you hydrated throughout the day. Alcohol and drinks with caffeine can actually cause your body to lose fluids and become dehydrated, so drink them sparingly.

Exercise Regularly

And finally, no nutrition program would be complete without a fitness component. MyPlate also provides suggestions for older adults engaging in age-appropriate physical activity. This is a reminder that your body can benefit from a formal exercise routine as well as regular, daily activities performed alone or while socializing with others.

 

Source: 1. Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. (November 1, 2011) MyPlate for Older Adults. Accessed 19 November 2012.