As everyone ages, it’s natural to become more aware of the foods you consume. Whether it’s for ongoing health issues or a slowing metabolism, reading food labels and questioning the meals that are served to you becomes a priority.
Maintaining a balanced diet and exercising in old age is known to have a positive impact on your mental and physical health. But what exactly is a balanced and healthy diet? Talk to your doctor, check out the government-issued nutritional guidelines, for a start, and read on to learn more from our handy over-view-slash-cheat-sheet on what foods or meals are more suitable for health conscious seniors.
The recommendations for the measurements of foods, vitamins, and minerals that seniors should consume on a daily basis is not exactly constant – with nutritional guidelines changing every decade – but here are some key takeaways that remain to be true for seniors.
- Limit: cholesterol-rich foods, sodium, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and saturated fats
- Increase: calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and dietary fiber
When planning out meals for seniors, following the updated nutritional guidelines is a good place to start. However, it can be a lot of information to digest all at once.
This is why we’ve summarized the important foods, vitamins, and minerals that seniors should be consuming on a daily basis. (See a list of the resources referenced to compile this guide at the end of the article.)
Fruit & Vegetables: 7 servings
Whole Grains: 6-7 servings
Dairy: 3 servings; low fat
Meat & Meat Alternatives: 2-3 servings; lean or low-fat
Calcium: 1200 mg
Vitamin D: 600-800 IU**
Vitamin B6: 1.5-1.7 mg
Vitamin B12: 2.4 mcg
Magnesium: 320-420 mg
Potassium: 4,700 mg
Sodium: less than 1,500 mg
Cholesterol: less than 300 mg
Saturated Fats: less than 10% of daily calories
Iron: 8 mg
Protein: 25-30 g per meal
Carbohydrates: 45-65% of daily caloric intake
Dietary Fiber: 21-30 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: 1.1-1.6 g
EPA & DHA: 500 mg
Even with this cheat sheet, it still might be challenging to know what ingredients to buy and use when planning out meals for seniors. What’s even trickier is knowing what ingredients (and how much of those ingredients) are being used in dishes at restaurants.
Luckily, many restaurants in Canada have adjusted their menus under the Informed Dining program to include caloric and nutritional data on their menu items, with some even including icons to notify patrons on whether a dish is low in sodium or fat.
If you’re anticipating visiting a restaurant, research the establishment in advance and determine what menu items are within the nutritional guidelines for seniors.
Here are a few Canadian restaurants and their select dishes that could fall within the qualifications for being a healthy meal for seniors.
Swiss Chalet: Quarter chicken dinner with white meat (no skin), no roll, vegetable medley, garden salad with no dressing and no Chalet dipping sauce – 280 calories, 6 g of fat, 11 g of carbohydrates, and 48 g of protein
Cora’s: Ham and asparagus quiche – 340 calories, 21 g of fat, 26 g of carbohydrates, and 12 g of protein
Tim Horton’s: Chicken salad sandwich, strawberry yogurt with berries, and tea (1 sugar, 1 milk) – 510 calories, 12 g of fat, 80 g of carbs, and 25 g of protein
Kelsey’s: House salad with salmon and fat free Italian vinaigrette and plain baked potato (no butter) – 515 calories, 15.5 g of fat, 68 g of carbohydrates, and 25 g of protein
Milestone’s: Prime rib slider with a side Caprese salad (no bread) – 550 calories, 35 g of fat, 29 g of carbohydrates, and 32 g of protein
Additional tips when dining out with seniors:
- Ask for sauces or dressings on the side
- Limit use of condiments, like ketchup or soy sauce, that contain high levels of sodium
- Request adjustments. Ask for your foods to be baked, broiled, steamed, grilled, or poached, as opposed to fried.
- Be on the hunt for sodium-rich terms, like marinated, pickled, smoked, teriyaki, or breaded.
If you’re unsure about whether you’re adhering to the nutritional guidelines or are curious about the meals you’re serving to seniors, get in touch with one of our nurses who are professionally trained in meal preparation and senior care.
*Dependent on gender and activity levels
**Everyone over the age of 50 should take a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU.