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Community Life Series – Healthy Eating for Older Adults


Eating healthy is important at any age, but as we grow older it can make a significant difference in preventing, delaying or helping manage health issues such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

Seniors have unique nutritional needs. Check with your PCP about your personal needs. You may have restrictions (such as low sodium, or reduced saturated fat) because of a medical condition or medications. Your food requirements depend upon your height and weight, activity level, and general health. If you have access to a consult with a nutritionist, it can be very helpful.

The most important nutrients for older adults, in general, are calcium and Vitamin D for bone health, fiber for GI health, and potassium for blood pressure maintenance.

Fish with omega-3s, the healthy fat, is an excellent food choice for seniors. This means tuna, salmon and mackerel. Aim for two servings per week. Canned versions of these fish are fine and are more economical.

Choose nutrient-dense foods and get the most bang for your buck. Usually, this means choosing brightly colored fruits and vegetables, such as spinach and kale; blueberries; oranges; carrot and cherries. Frozen fruits and vegetables are fine and are less work to prepare. Dairy and whole grains are also nutritious.

Make sure you are adequately hydrated. Sometimes, as we age, we avoid drinking fluids because of urinary bladder problems, but this can lead to problems such as kidney stones and blood clots. The best way to know that you are well-hydrated is by the color of your urine: it should be pale yellow like lemonade, not dark like tea or beer.

Social issues can be a factor in healthy eating. If you become depressed, or you always eat in solitude, you may not feel like making the effort, for example. If you have limited mobility, or a limited income, you may find yourself unable to buy the food you want and need. Assistance may be available to you through the SNAP program or a local food pantry. The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is a great resource that can help: call (412) 460-3663 or go to the web site, www.pittsburghfoodbank.org.

Medications, dental problems, swallowing difficulties and fatigue can interfere with healthy eating and can lead to weight loss or malnutrition. If you are experiencing these things, tell a family member or your PCP and get the help you need to resolve the problem.



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