Aging adults will have a natural decline in metabolism, reducing the amount of calories they burn each day. This means that they will need to eat less total calories in order to maintain their weight. On the flip side, total body water goes down as we age, making consistent hydration patterns increasingly important to promote optimal heart function, regular digestion, desired medication outcomes and overall health.
The total amount of protein found in an aging adult is less than their younger counterpart, making the intake of adequate protein extremely important to reduce risks for muscle loss, skin fragility, compromised immune function, delayed healing and osteoporosis. Aging adults can expect to see progressive risk for potential deficiencies in calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, iron and magnesium. Proactively meeting this risk head-on with adequate nutrition can help combat the aging process. The risk for heart disease increases as we age as well, which makes choosing low-sodium and low-fat foods more and more important.
To meet increasing protein needs and combat the potential for Vitamin B-12 deficiencies, aging adults should focus on including healthy animal sources of protein in their diet such as chicken breasts, lean beef, salmon, and eggs. Low-fat dairy will also compliment the function of these foods while addressing calcium and Vitamin D needs to reduce the risk for osteoporosis. Throwing in nuts, seeds, and dried fruit will further prepare aging adults to proactively fight the aging process by enhancing iron and magnesium intake while promoting optimal digestion due to high fiber content. Here are two easy snack recipes for aging adults that address their unique nutritional needs while attending to a sweet tooth!
Cran-Pineapple Peanut Butter Protein Balls
Ingredients: 3 c whole oats, 2/3 c dried cranberries, 2/3 c dried pineapple, 2/3 c ground flaxseed, 1 c omega-3 peanut butter, 2/3 c honey, ¼ c honey-roasted peanuts, 2 Tbsp vanilla extract, 2 Tbsp almond extract
Directions: Combine all ingredients and roll into 30 balls using an ice cream scoop as a size guide. Cover & store in the fridge.
Nutrition Info: This protein ball packs a powerful punch with just 150 kcal and 5 grams of protein!
Nutty Beef Jerky Trail Mix
Ingredients: ½ c honey-roasted peanuts, ¼ c beef jerky, ¼ c chocolate peanut candies, ¼ c dried pineapple, ¼ dried craisins
Directions: Combine all ingredients and divide evenly into four separate containers.
Nutrition Info: This snack packs in 8 grams of protein and only 212 kcal!
If you're concerned about your diet as you age, consult with your dietitian on the following questions:
Does my daily fluid intake meet recommendations?
Am I eating enough protein to support healthy aging?
Do my current calcium and Vitamin D intake patterns meet my needs?
Do I need to make any changes to my diet to promote heart health based on your physical assessment?
Does my recent blood work indicate any unique nutritional needs?
What vitamins or supplements make the most sense for me at this age?
Changes in Nutritional Needs With Aging - ScienceDirect
Protein and older adults - PubMed (nih.gov)
Dietary Supplements for Older Adults | National Institute on Aging (nih.gov)