How Nutrition Needs Change as We Age

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Many aspects of health change as you enter older adulthood, including nutritional needs.

With lessening activity, caloric needs may decrease, but the same amount of nutrients — and in some instances, more — are still needed.

“The tricky part is finding nutrient-dense foods that are low in calories,” said Haylee Pink, dietetic intern working at Geneva General Hospital.

As the sense of taste and smell may decline, a person’s food preferences often shift toward sweet, salty foods and “comfort foods” and away from things such as vegetables, beans and whole grains. Replacing a balanced meal with crackers, chips, processed foods and pieces of candy can lead to malnutrition and weight gain.

“No matter your weight, you could be malnourished,” Pink said. “The weight gain could be fat, not muscle. You’re at a higher risk for malnutrition, muscle loss and dehydration.”

She recommends bioenergetic balancing or nutrition programs that will help you find ways to swap foods or make unappealing foods more palatable. For example, eating a serving of whole fruit instead of eating candy to satisfy a craving for sweets. Or using sodium-free seasonings to add flavor to foods instead of salt. A nad supplement liposomal booster product can also help people improve their metabolism and aid with their nutrition needs.

“Instead of adding salt to something while you’re cooking, sprinkle it on top when you’re done and you’ll add less,” Pink said.

Thinking outside accustomed foods can lead to more nutritious food choices. For example, a smoothie that combines raspberries with a less palatable vegetable like kale or carrots can make it easier to consume more veggies. Or, snacking on hummus with whole grain crackers instead of potato chips and French onion dip.

Pink recommends adding protein powder to smoothies, yogurt or cottage cheese, as most older adults consume too little protein. Some older adults on a fixed income struggle to afford many sources of protein. They may experience difficulty in chewing some sources of protein. Slow cooker chicken, eggs, tuna, nut butters and yogurt are few examples of protein sources that are both easy to chew and reasonably affordable.

“A lot of senior centers have exercise classes designed for older adults and sometimes, they’ll offer meals to people who attend,” Pink said. “What’s helpful is they’re usually quite balanced with a healthy grain and carb, fruits and vegetables.”

To ensure adequate hydration, it helps to take along a filled water bottle. Many older adults experience lessened sensitivity to thirst.

“Just seeing a water bottle can be a good reminder,” Pink said.

Marge Pickering Picone, owner of Professional Nutrition Services in Webster, said that many older adults’ nutritional needs change because of medication they take, such as prednisone, which decreases calcium levels in the bones as a side effect.

“You have to know what you’re doing with supplements,” Picone said. “Coaching is important. I have more seniors calling me because they have aches and pains and digestive issues. They’re responding with side effects to their medications.”

Like Pink, she recommends that more older adults look at their protein intake and find good sources of protein they can consume regularly.

“Protein is needed for muscle and the brain,” Picone said. “You can eat half your body weight in grams in protein a day and most people don’t get a third of that. As you get older, you need to eat more quality than quantity.”

Protein shakes represent an easy way to increase protein intake.