March is Nutrition Month for the Dietitians of Canada, which makes it a perfect time to talk about food! What you might not realize is that seniors have different dietary needs than most adults. This means that as we age, we need to make adjustments to our diets to suit needs.
There are many factors to consider when you address the diet of your loved ones, including why they might not like the same foods anymore and how much they need to eat every day. Let’s take a look at some of the more common issues we face when we talk about the nutritional needs of seniors.
Our taste in food changes
This isn’t simply just changing our minds about certain foods. As we get older, our sense of taste and smell can actually change, which can make food taste differently than we remember it. It’s common to experience a decrease in the number of taste buds as we age. This can actually change the way we taste sweet and salty foods and can sometimes cause food to taste sour or bitter. This is a common reason why many seniors find that they just don’t enjoy meals as much as they used to.
We don’t need to eat as much as we used to
While it’s not the case for everyone, it’s common for seniors to be a bit less physically active than they used to be. When you’re not always on your feet at work or doing high impact exercises, you burn fewer calories throughout the day. On top of that, our metabolism also slows down as we age as well.
This means that our daily caloric intake need also decreases, which means we simply don’t need to (and often don’t want to) eat as much as we used to. I’s often a combination of the two that result in seniors simply not being hungry as often and feeling full on much smaller portions.
Other health issues may impact diet
Many seniors also have dental problems which can make it uncomfortable or difficult to chew certain foods. When this happens, they might find that they’re not getting enough variety in their diet and could be lacking certain nutrients.
Many seniors often experience gastrointestinal problems, which can make eating unpleasant as well. As we age, the body produces less of the fluids that it needs to break food down in the digestive system. This can mean that we have trouble digesting certain foods, and can also impact how you absorb certain vitamins and nutrients.
Depression is also common in seniors, especially after facing loss or physical challenges. When someone is depressed, they often experience a decrease in appetite. Prescription medications may also change your appetite and generally make you less hungry.
How to achieve a balanced diet
When you are aware of the causes of changes in appetite and digestive issues, it can make it easier to create a diet plan that works. The key is to eat a balanced diet and make your meals as nutrient-packed as possible.
Here are a few easy to follow guidelines to keep in mind when you create meal plans:
- Fill up half your plate with fruits and vegetables
- Ensure you eat plenty of whole grains (at least half your servings of grains)
- Eat foods you like, but eat smaller portions
At Bria Communities, we have 16 years of experience working with registered dieticians to ensure our residents are able to enjoy balanced and flavourful meals that address the special dietary needs of seniors. Our regular menu incorporates the principles of a balanced diet for seniors, but there are times when residents have dietary needs that require special attention. We always work closely with them to ensure they get to enjoy meals that work for them.
Our chefs understand how to prepare foods designed to suit changing palates and create delicious meals filled with flavours and textures that everyone can enjoy. We also serve meals in a group setting, which makes mealtime a fun social experience and encourages our residents to eat together with friends.