Canadians are living longer than ever before: by 2021, an estimated 6.9 million Canadians will be over 65. Nutrition is very important for this age group, as it promotes good health and an active and independent lifestyle.
This article describes how older adults have different nutritional needs than younger people. Their calorie needs go down but they still need the same number of nutrients. Therefore, older adults need to:
- Choose smaller portions of foods from the four food groups of Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide.
- Limit foods that contain few nutrients and provide unnecessary calories.
- Drink adequate amounts of water.
- Take a daily vitamin D supplement.
Pay Attention to Portion Size
Losing muscle mass is part of the aging process. Since muscle burns a significant number of calories, your calorie needs may decrease by 15 to 20 per cent between the ages of 40 and 70. The bottom line? Unless older adults eat smaller amounts than they did in their younger years, they risk gaining excess weight.
Paying attention to portion size is the key to trimming calories without sacrificing good nutrition. In general, larger portions equal more calories. Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide provides straightforward information on healthy portion sizes and is a useful tool that you can use to keep the amount you eat in check.
Although your calorie needs are probably decreasing with age, your need for most nutrients stays the same or even increases. So, older adults need to focus on quality rather than quantity when choosing what to eat. Look for foods that are rich in nutrients but low in calories. In other words, you should limit your consumption of:
- desserts or sweets
- added fats such as butter, margarine, salad dressing and oils
- added sugar in coffee or tea
- high-fat snack foods like chips
Quench Your Thirst Wisely
Water and other fluids are important for general health and help to prevent constipation.
Health Canada recommends that women over the age of 50 drink 2.7 litres of water and other fluids each day (3.7 litres for older men).
Drinking water is the best way to meet your needs. Other fluids that are sources of water include milk, herbal teas or decaffeinated coffee, and vegetable or fruit juices.
Take a Daily Vitamin D Supplement
Along with calcium, vitamin D is important for bone health and to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures in older adults. For much of the year in Canada the sun is too low in the sky to allow us to make adequate amounts of vitamin D in our skin. In addition, many people use sunscreens, which can block vitamin D production.
Vitamin D is found in foods such as fluid milk and fortified soy beverages, but Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide recommends that all adults over the age of 50 also take a 10-microgram (400 IU) vitamin D supplement.
Eating well can help you make the most of your later years.
See how your calcium intake “stacks up” against the recommended daily amount.
Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide
The home page for all the information on the new food guide.
Healthy Eating for Seniors, Saskatchewan Health
Practical tips about healthy eating tips for people over 50.
Senior Friendly Ideas for Healthy Eating, Dietitians of Canada
Comprehensive and very practical information on healthy eating for seniors.