A brief guide to good nutrition for elderly people

Bright Carer and her client preparing a meal together

As we move through the decades of life our nutritional requirements change

The degree of change will be driven by lifestyle, nature, genetics and to some extent, luck. The way in which we have lived throughout our lives will also have an impact. Taking these factors into account allows us to make good choices and provide our bodies with the right balance of energy and nutrients.

As with the general population, older people come in many shapes and sizes, however each decade exerts its influence. Moving into our 70s, 80s and 90s warrants a heightened awareness of what we really need and what nutrients will be beneficial.

The importance of protein in for the elderly

As we age we require less energy in the form of calories, but more protein. It is important to choose lean meats, fish, chicken and dairy (or vegetarian equivalent of tofu, beans or pulses) and ensure that these are part of each meal. These sources of high quality protein will provide valuable B vitamins, iron and folate – all of which are often deficient in older adults. Remember that milk also provides protein. If you are underweight try using the full cream fortified version at the end of this article, adding it to soups, puddings, jelly, sauces, cereals etc.

The importance of Vitamin D for the elderly

Vitamin D is vital for bone health and not naturally found in many foods. Fish, eggs, meat, fortified breads and cereals provide varying amounts of vitamin D. Oily fish in particular, will also provide anti-inflammatory Omega 3 oils and Vitamin D which can help those who are ageing. Vitamin D deficiency is prolific in the UK amongst the ageing population, so it is advisable to speak with your GP and (if necessary) have a 10microgram Vitamin D supplement prescribed.

How to manage a reduced appetite

Reduced appetite in old age can occur naturally or be the result of illness or medication. It is important to reduce the bulky dietary elements that fill you up and focus on the nutrient-rich parts of your meals – proteins (meat, fish, egg, cheese), vegetables and fruits. The starchy potatoes, rice or pasta will just fill you up quickly and not provide many nutrients, vitamins or minerals.

Seven tips to improve elderly nutrition

1. Enjoy small, frequent, nutrient-rich meals

2. Have a varied vegetable and fruit intake

3. Eat both oily and white fish (maximum of two portions oily fish per week)

4. Use fortified bread and cereals to boost Iron and vitamins B and D

5. Ensure you consume more protein and less bulky carbs

6. Get out in the sun and fresh air

7. A little bit of what you fancy does you good – enjoy your food!

Fortified milk recipe for elderly nutrition

Boost the nutrients in your milk intake by adding two to four tablespoons of dried milk powder to one pint of full cream milk. This can then be used in cereals, sauces, drinks, puddings and soups.

About us

Bright Care is a family-founded business providing care and companionship to the elderly in the peaceful comfort of their own home. Get in touch to talk to our dedicated care team and discover what’s possible for elderly loved ones.  

Further reading for good elderly health

About the author: Lorraine McCreary


Lorraine is the Clinical Director for Diet Scotland and is also an Eating Disorders Specialist Dietitian with the multidisciplinary ED Psychological Services and Dietetics team for NHS Lanarkshire. Lorraine is available for private consultations on any dietary concerns that you may have for yourself or a loved one, and can be contacted via the details below:

Tel: 01698 852 181 | Mob: 07791509125

Email: lorrainemccreary@dietscotland.com

Visit: www.dietscotland.com

DISCLAIMER: This article has been produced for guidance only and does not constitute legal advice.