Seniors must watch what they eat to avoid malnutrition. photo
Seniors must watch what they eat to avoid malnutrition.
Seniors are at greater risk of malnutrition than other adults. 
Melanie Stafford, a dietician at Providence ElderPlace in Gresham, said this is because seniors may have more difficulty preparing or acquiring healthy foods, limited funds, loss of appetite or interest in food, suboptimal dental condition, increased likelihood of isolation at meal times, or illnesses. 

“Appetite can also be affected by medications, illnesses, dementia, depression and other mood disorders,” Stafford said. “This decrease in hunger sensations and early satiety put seniors at risk for inadequate consumption of energy, protein, and other important nutrients.”

Here are some tips Stafford gives her senior patients to ensure they’re eating a healthy diet:

• High energy and nutrient dense foods are important for seniors experiencing a decrease in appetite that leads to weight loss. Seniors should focus on eating a variety of foods, including protein at each meal.

• Fiber is important. Women should eat at least 21 grams per day and men should eat at least 30 grams. Fiber maintains normal bowel functions. Good sources of fiber include whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. 

• To figure out how much water or other fluids to consume each day, take your weight and divide that number in half, Stafford said. That number in ounces indicates how much to drink at a minimum.

• The recommended daily amount of sodium for people over 51 is 1500 mg per day.  To reduce dietary sodium, stop adding salt when preparing foods and taste food before adding salt at the table.  Stafford recommends reading labels when shopping for processed foods: look for those labels “low sodium” or “no added salt.”

• Avoid solid fats, like those found in animal products (marbled meats, bacon, sausage, butter and whole milk products) or the trans-fats from cookies, pastries, donuts, and crackers.  Plant-based fats are the best: Canola, olive, peanut and soybean oils.  Avocados, nuts and olives also provide good fats.

• All seniors should take vitamin D supplements. Most people living at this latitude are deficient in vitamin D, especially during the winter months, Stafford said. Vitamin D supports bone health, aides in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, boosts the immune systems, and regulates cell growth. All supplements should be discussed with a doctor or registered dietician.