Healthy Eating for older adults
You should eat plenty of foods rich in starch and fibre. Starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta are a good source of energy, fibre and B vitamins and should be used as the basis for meals.
Choose higher-fibre, wholegrain varieties such as whole wheat pasta, brown rice, or simply leaving the skins on potatoes. As well as being low in fat and high in fibre, they are good sources of other essential nutrients – protein, vitamins and minerals.
The fibre from these helps to prevent constipation which reduces the risk of some common disorders in the intestine. Remember to increase fibre slowly as bowel discomfort, flatulence and distension may occur if consumed in large quantities, or if the amount of fibre eaten is increased very rapidly.
Fluid plays a vital role in allowing fibre to pass through our body – we should aim for six to eight glasses of fluid every day. Water, lower fat milk and sugar-free drinks including tea and coffee all count. Don’t buy raw bran and sprinkle it on your food to increase fibre as this may prevent you from absorbing some important minerals.
Beans, peas and lentils are good alternatives to meat because they’re naturally very low in fat, and they’re high in fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals. Other vegetable-based sources of protein include tofu, bean curd and mycoprotein all of which are widely available in most major supermarkets.
Eggs are a convenient alternative to meat and are extremely versatile. They can be scrambled, boiled, poached or made into an omelette.
Adults are recommended to eat two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily. Tinned fish, such as salmon, mackerel and pilchards contain lots of omega 3 fatty acids and are good for heart health.
Meat is a good source of protein, vitamin B12 and iron. A diet rich in iron will help prevent iron deficiency anaemia.
Processed meats and chicken products should be limited as they tend to be high in fat and salt and lower in iron. If using processed meat products such as chicken nuggets or burgers, grill or bake on a rack rather than frying.
Many of us need more vitamin D than we can expect to get from food and sunlight, especially during the autumn and winter months. Therefore, we should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D.
During the summer months most people will usually get enough vitamin D from sunlight, so you may choose not to take a supplement over the summer months (late March/April to the end of September).
If a person is confined indoors for long periods then they will need a daily supplement of ten micrograms of vitamin D because their skin is not exposed to sunlight to make vitamin D. For older adults, vitamin D with added calcium may be recommended by healthcare staff to protect bone health and guard against osteoporosis.