The myths surrounding senior nutrition are plentiful. While some aren’t harmful, others may keep an older adult from getting the protein, vitamins, and minerals needed to stay healthy. We’ll bust some of the common myths surrounding senior nutrition and share resources for planning healthy meals during retirement.
Senior Nutrition Mythbusters
Myth #1: Weight gain or loss during retirement years doesn’t matter.
Significant, unintentional weight gain or loss matters greatly at every age. In some instances, weight loss might indicate an underlying health issue, such as cancer, a thyroid disorder, dementia, or Parkinson’s disease. For seniors with a chronic health condition like heart disease or diabetes, unintended weight gain can exacerbate symptoms.
Weight change may also be linked to poor nutrition. Seniors may find cooking for one or two more work than it’s worth. They might turn to frozen or fast foods. Some skip meals altogether. Finding easy ways to eat well-balanced meals is important for older adults.
Myth #2: Loss of appetite is a natural part of aging.
While it’s true that many older adults lose their appetite, there is more behind it than aging. It’s important to get to the root of appetite loss before a senior loses an unhealthy amount of weight.
Encourage the older adult to talk with their physician. Loss of appetite can be caused by a variety of issues ranging from poorly fitting dentures to a medication side effect or an underlying infection.
Myth #3: Older adults need less food and can safely skip meals.
This is another dangerous myth. Skipping meals is rarely a good idea. It can cause fluctuations in blood sugar that may lead to falls and other concerns, especially for older adults with diabetes.
A less active senior, however, may need fewer calories than they did in younger days. Adapting menus to accommodate this change can prevent unhealthy weight gain.
Myth #4: A healthy diet is the same at every age.
Eating healthy is important through the years. What changes, however, is how much of each nutrient you need. As we age, our bodies don’t process or absorb vitamins and minerals as efficiently as they once did. This is especially true for vitamins D and B, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. It’s a topic you should discuss with your primary care physician.
Making Menu Planning Easier for Seniors
To make meal planning easier, we’ve assembled a list of resources. From sample menus to tips for grocery shopping, these will help you and the older adults in your family stay on a healthy track:
- Sample Menus: Healthy Eating for Older Adults from the National Institute on Aging
- Healthy Eating Tips for Seniors from the National Council on Aging
- MyPlate created by Tufts University and the US Department of Agriculture