Keith said nutrition needs change with age and while most people are aware of the importance of nutrition for children, senior dietary needs can be overlooked.
“They need fewer calories, but they need more of certain nutrients because they are not able to make or absorb them as well,” she said.
Michelle Richart, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital, said as the body ages, metabolism slows.
“Also, the digestive system changes with age,” she said. “The body produces less of the fluids that are needed to process foods. These changes can make it harder for the body to absorb Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12.”
She said appetites can also change from medications or upset stomachs, which means people can eat less and that may affect nutrition.
Emotional well-being can also play a role in nutrition.
“Seniors who are depressed or lonely often lose interest in eating,” Richart said. “On the other hand, emotional issues may cause some people to eat more and gain unwanted weight.”
That is why health experts say that both portions and the types of food being consumed are equally important.
Keith said some foods like spinach, sweet potatoes, strawberries and broccoli are packed with vitamins and nutrition, but there are no super foods that can do it all. The key, she said, is in balance.
Richart also stressed the importance of calcium in the diets of aging Americans.
“Use calcium-rich foods, such as low-fat dairy,” she said. “If selecting a calcium supplement, look for one with vitamin D. Calcium needs vitamin D to enter the bones. Vitamin B12 can be found in fortified cereals.”
Keith said meals should never be skipped and eating a healthy breakfast each morning is essential for proper nutrition.
“Water is a big deal, too,” Keith said. “A lot of people are on different medications that increase dehydration.”