As a general rule, older people have a calmer and more rested lifestyle, so they have fewer energy needs. It is estimated that from the age of 60 onwards, a person’s energy needs are reduced by 10% every decade, and this must be taken into account when planning a diet.
But there are also other factors that can decisively influence when thinking about a correct diet for the elderly.
Both dental and gum problems can make chewing and, consequently, the intake of the necessary nutrients very difficult. There is also a decrease in saliva production, and the ability to distinguish certain flavors is lost, especially salty flavor, which can increase the lack of appetite.
In older people, the motility of the digestive tract may also be reduced, causing slower digestion, constipation and a greater feeling of fullness when faced with certain foods.
Over the years, people may also have decreased secretion of appetite-regulating hormones.
Presence of diseases
Some diseases of the elderly can also influence both the appetite for food and the assimilation of them, resulting in inadequate or incomplete nutrition.
How should a correct diet for the elderly be?
The above factors do not have to be present in older people and, if they are, they do not all have to be present or affect with the same force. There are older people who are very healthy and whose diet does not require too much care. Even so, we will try to explain what some guidelines can be when thinking about a correct and healthy diet.
Reduce the number of calories
Older people have lower energy needs, so it is convenient to reduce the number of calories ingested each day.
Make four or five intakes each day.
For a correct diet in the elderly, it is advisable to divide the intakes into four or five different ones each day. A good, healthy and complete breakfast is also essential. This division of intake into different parts of the day will help control hunger and, of course, those risky binge eating that can occur when only one or two meals are eaten. These, if already few recommended in young people and adults, can be even more harmful in the elderly.
Reducing salt intake
Excessive salt intake is bad at any age, but it carries greater risks among older people. For this reason, it is advisable to reduce the amount of salt in prescriptions or, in the case of the elderly who require it for medical indications, to eliminate it completely in diets.
A balanced diet
It is advisable to insist on the presence of at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, as well as legumes, vegetables and fish. As far as meat is concerned, it is best to reduce the consumption of red meat, sausages and casquería, and to opt more for white meat, turkey or chicken, as they are healthier and lighter.
Dairy for the bones
Older people are often affected by osteoporosis and, for this, the best allies are dairy foods, such as milk, yoghurts and cheeses, preferably skimmed.
The contribution of cereals
It is also necessary to leave a gap to this type of food in the diet of older people, since the contribution in fiber and prevention in the development of heart disease can also be very interesting.
As last recommendations, although they may seem obvious, should also include the elimination of coffee, especially in excess, as well as alcohol and tobacco. And, of course, in case of any doubt, it is best to go to a doctor or nutritionist to consult the specific cases and recommend the best diet for the elderly. None of these guidelines or recommendations should be taken as a valid rule and it is always better to go to a professional to adapt the diet to each person.