Eight Myths regarding Senior Nutrition
You Are What You Eat
Senior Nutrition needs are different for seniors. Here are eight myths that are commonly accepted as truths for the senior community but have been disproved. How many times growing up did we hear that each time we were reaching for a chocolatey delicious snack? It is well known that “eating right” can improve your life. Exactly what is “eating right”?
#1: It doesn’t matter whether an older person eats alone or with others.
Often, poor senior nutrition comes from elderly people who live alone or are left to prepare their own meals. Physical and cognitive issues often prevent seniors from adequately preparing a nutritious meal. Also, eating in isolation, can put seniors at risk, by causing loneliness, anxiety and stress.
Ideally, seniors should eat, at least some of the time, with others. Visiting senior center often help. They can communicate with people in their own age group as well as have a delicious, nutritious meal prepared for them. You will be surprised how eating with other will generally increase their appetites.
#2: Senior Centers have awful food!
This is a common stereotype. When nursing homes were your only alternative to living independently, they were highly institutionalized and quite frankly, probably did have awful food. These days, with so many alternative ways for seniors to live, Senior Centers have started hiring some extremely talented chefs. When touring senior communities, have a meal for yourself. Not only does this provide nutrition to your loved one, but as stated previously, this is a great way to meet other residents! Focusing on senior nutrition is the key to happy, healthier life!
#3: It’s natural for older people to lose their appetite.
Because of metabolic changes and decreased energy, it is true that seniors need less food. LOSS OF APPETITE IS NOT NORMAL. This could be a sign of more serious health conditions or it could be as simple as needing to go to the dentist. Skipping meals is also NOT an option. This can cause our body to crave food to such an extent that at the next meal time we overindulge. This is not healthy! This can further decrease a seniors appetite. Another major risk of skipping meals is the fluctuation of blood sugar levels – this has numerous negative health implications. Seniors should weigh themselves periodically to look for any changes or reductions. If there is a sudden weight loss, contact a physician. Senior nutrition is a great focus on helping your loved one to feel better.
#4: Seniors can each as much sugar, fat and salt as they like….as long as they aren’t overweight.
Hello!! This can cause heart disease, diabetes and a number other health concerns. Ice Cream, cheeseburgers, candy bars…do not be envious of people who can eat these things and not gain an ounce of weight. They are doing more harm than good. If you are trying to gain weight, do it the healthy way! Seniors have a slower metabolism and have decreased ability to absorb nutrients. Eat a balanced diet and increase your intake of calcium, Vitamins B and D, if so recommended by your physician. Remember, you are what you eat!
#5: Mom or Dad will be fine as long as they follow HEALTHY eating guidelines.
Nutrition experts and the US Department of Agriculture have researched, timelessly, what we need to eat to be balanced. However, most eating guidelines do not provide for the nuances and special needs associated with senior nutrition. Seniors must consider the nutritional implications of both their medications and any other health problems that can be influenced by diet. It is best to consult your physician about creating a personalized guideline to follow.
#6: Being Moderately Overweight is a sign of Robust Health.
It is pretty common to associate being overweight with a decreased life span. Is overindulgence really worth having to medicate oneself for type-2 Diabetes, heart disease or even Alzheimer’s? What’s more, being overweight can limit mobility, decreased self-esteem and risks of falling.
#7: Those who have lived to old age shouldn’t concern themselves with Senior Nutrition. They are in their final phase of life.
This type of attitude about seniors basically says that you think they have nothing else to live for so they can just let themselves go. No matter your age, it’s never to late to improve your health. Diet and exercise can make one’s quality of life more enjoyable. Better tasting meals + better health = happier loved ones.
#8 Malnutrition doesn’t occur in the United States.
In a perfect world, malnutrition would be nonexistent in a prosperous nation like the U.S. Unfortunately, a perfect world does not exist. In 2012, 3.7 million American Senior citizens were diagnosed with malnutrition. Many seniors live on very low income. It is unrealistic to think that paying for housing, medicine, living expenses and food on an average of $600 per month is easy. Unfortunately, the most common “healthy” foods are the most expensive to purchase. Poverty can very easily result in malnutrition.