Nutrition for Older Adults

Expert Advice from Keelin Hankin, RD, Registered Dietitian at Island Nutrition

Good nutrition is important at any age but as we get older there may be some nutrients that we need to focus on more than before. We covered this topic to a wonderful audience at a recent Age Concern event and thought we would share our advice, tips, and tricks to the rest of Bermuda on maintaining good nutrition as we age. So, let’s recap on what a healthy balanced diet is!

Protein

Between the ages of 40-80 years old we lose around 30-50% of our muscle mass! Shocking, I know… but by ensuring an adequate daily protein intake you can build and/or maintain muscle mass, which can improve our mobility and balance. This will help to protect us more from those unexpected falls. We should be aiming to include protein in each meal. But what is a portion? A good way to remember this is the size of the palm of your hand for red meat (pork, beef, lamb) and the full size of your hand (or 4-6oz) for chicken, fish, and turkey. If you eat more plant-based proteins like chickpeas and lentils, then aim for ½ cup per meal or one third of a tin.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are usually given a bad reputation, but they are essential in providing us with energy, however they are commonly overeaten. It is best to include whole grains where possible like oats, quinoa and brown rice for extra fiber and aim for approximately ½ cup measure at each meal.

Fruits and Vegetables

It is always very cliché as a Dietitian to be encouraging people to include more fruits and vegetables in their diet. But the facts on their health properties speak for themselves. Evidence shows that eating at least “5 a day” (which means a combination of 5 different portions of fruits and vegetables daily) can help to maintain a healthy weight and reduce health complications. With island life becoming more expensive, focusing on seasonal, frozen, or tinned options can certainly work out cheaper. Just remember if buying tinned fruit to buy them in juice rather than in syrup.

Bone Health

After the age of 50, bone breakdown outpaces bone formation and can ultimately lead to the loss of bone density. Vitamin D and calcium are great at looking after our skeletons! We should be aiming for 2 sources of calcium rich foods per day like low fat milk or yoghurts and certain fish like sardines and pilchards. Supplementing Calcium would need to be discussed with your GP beforehand.

Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” and has a very important role in helping increase the absorption of calcium. Supplementation is advised for those who spend a lot of time inside or covered up. The daily supplement dose we would aim for is 10micrograms per day. We can also get Vitamin D from some foods like oily fish, egg yolks and fortified breakfast cereals. Your GP will normally check your Vitamin D levels at your physical checkup.

Reduced Appetite

If we notice that we are becoming underweight with a reduced appetite, we can make some slight changes to our eating habits that can help to build us back up again. Adding extra oil or cheese to pasta dishes can increase the calorie content of the meal without increasing the portion size. Having some milky drinks in between meals to help provide us with extra protein and calories can also help to stimulate your appetite and promote some weight gain.

This article is mainly aimed at those with no pre-existing health conditions. If you have any questions about your nutritional health and feel you would benefit from support from a Registered Dietitian, please contact us at Island Nutrition on 295-4082 or at reception@islandnutrition.bm.

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