The Top 10 Myths Regarding Nutrition for Seniors
This National Nutrition Week, in-home care provider Home Instead is launching its newest resource, Nutrition for Seniors. The resource is a guide to healthy habits for eating well in old age and was developed with respected dietitian and author Ngaire Hobbins.
“I was thrilled to be asked by Home Instead to work with them to prepare Nutrition for Seniors. Research has found that up to 30% of older people living in the community are either malnourished, or at risk of malnutrition,” says Ngaire. “This is not their fault; it is often a consequence of our lack of awareness that the nutrition needs of seniors are unique and eating patterns must change with age to support physical and mental capacity. It can also be partly a consequence of social isolation and/or reduced physical/cognitive capacity, which is where the invaluable support of home and community care services such as Home Instead comes to the fore.”
Below Ngaire has shared the top 10 myths when it comes to nutrition for seniors:
1) Your stomach shrinks as you age – “Although your appetite may change, your stomach doesn’t shrink when you get older.”
2) Weight loss is healthy – “Unfortunately this is not the case when we are older. Instead, dieting or unintentional weight loss should be avoided in our later years. A bit of extra padding in later age is beneficial to support your body and brain in the years ahead.”
3) You need to eat less as you get older – “While your metabolism slows and your energy output decreases, food and eating is what protects and fuels you and is your key to ageing well.”
4) You only need to eat what you feel like – “The ageing process can play tricks on our appetite and as a result, older people might eat less than their bodies really need. An outright loss of appetite is not normal, and could be symptomatic of an underlying health problem. Try to eat small meals regularly throughout the day, even if you don’t always feel like it.”
5) You should follow a low-fat diet – “Fat is an important source of calories and some seniors might need to eat a bit extra to maintain weight. Fats found in foods such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, and oily fish are ideal.”
6) You need to eat more vegetables – “Whilst nutrient-rich vegetables continue to be essential in your diet, protein foods need to be at the centre of your plate with the vegetables surrounding it. Protein keeps our muscles, our immune system, our body organs and brains working and renewing minute by minute.”
7) Only drink water when you’re thirsty – “If you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated and that’s a problem as neither your body nor brain can work at peak capacity. Dehydration can bring on confusion and delirium, hampers kidney function and worsens a multitude of other conditions.”
8) Supplements are sufficient – “Most supplements promoted to help you live longer, boost memory and fight off dementia fail to live up to their claim. What’s more, many interact with common medications or just don’t work the way they would if you consumed them from food instead. You could spend a lot of money for no gain when you could do better by simply eating.”
9) You must always eat a ‘proper meal’ – “Eating three full meals a day can be a struggle if you have a loss of appetite or find cooking too difficult. Five or six small meals or well-chosen snacks can be just as beneficial.”
10) Malnutrition is a normal part of the ageing process – “Malnutrition is not normal and it’s important that you don’t dismiss the warning signs as being part of ‘old age’.”
Aloysa Hourigan, Senior Nutritionist and Accredited Practising Dietitian from Nutrition Australia says, “Keeping food choices both nutritious and simple and easy to prepare is the way to go. Getting enough of the protein-rich foods, as well as a range of foods across the other food groups, is very important to maintain your health and wellbeing as you age. If getting to the shops and preparing meals is difficult, then think about either using the prepared meals you can buy in the supermarket, or some of the nutritious home-delivered meal options. If you prefer to prepare your own meals, you can find some additional nutritious food ideas and healthy eating tips on Nutrition Australia’s website: www.nutritionaustralia.org.”
Ngaire says, “This booklet gives seniors and those who care for them insight into the way nutrition needs change with age and offers practical, sensible advice and guidance to help support the physical and cognitive health of older people.”
National Nutrition Week is October 15th-21st. Home Instead will be hosting an event to mark the launch of the resource in Melbourne on the 19th of October, with guest speaker Ngaire to explore nutrition for speakers and share her insights.
For more information, please download our Nutrition for Seniors guide. Nutrition for Seniors forms part of series of senior care resources developed by Home Instead, designed to educate and empower seniors and their families throughout their ageing journey.