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optimal health

Eating for Optimal Health

Consuming a nutritious diet for optimal health is important at any age but is particularly important for the elderly to maximise independence and quality of life.

As we age our nutritional requirements remain high and it is important to have a balanced diet ideally eating food from each of the five food groups while maintaining a diet high in protein.

The five food groups include:

Breads, cereals, rice, pasta and noodles

4-7 serves for women
4-9 serves for men

Vegetables and legumes

5 serves (2 ½ cups) for women and men

Fruit

2-3 serves for women and men

Dairy (milk, yoghurt, cheese)

2-3 serves for women and men

Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, legumes

1 serve for women
1 – 1 ½ serves for men

Consuming adequate energy (kilojoules) throughout the day is also essential to ensuring older Australians are able to maintain their weight.

Energy requirements can be increased due to underlying medical conditions (eg. cancers) or increased output (eg. wandering in dementia, Parkinson’s disease). Protein in the diet is essential for the body’s growth, repair and muscle maintenance.

If protein requirements are not met, the body breaks down muscle causing muscle wasting which leads to decreased strength. Managing small and frequent high energy, high protein meals and snacks throughout the day is often the best way to meet these requirements, especially if suffering from a poor appetite.

High protein foods include:

  • Meat, fish, chicken, eggs
  • Dairy products (milk, cheese, yoghurt, ice creams
  • Beans, legumes, nuts and seeds

Adequate fibre is essential to ensure good bowel health. Constipation in the elderly is not uncommon due to factors such as reduced intake, decreased activity, medications and illness and can have consequences such as poor appetite, bloating, pain and incontinence.

Try and consume a diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals, nuts and legumes. For optimal bowel health aim for a diet with 30g fibre/day, adequate fluids (approximately 6-8 glasses/d) and regular exercise.

All fluids can be counted toward the daily intake including water, tea, coffee, juice, cordial, milk, custards and ice cream.

In summary good nutrition remains paramount as a person ages. Aim for regular meals and snacks throughout the day with plenty of variety.