The diet of the elderly, but also of each of us, is a fundamental aspect of everyday life. Both in terms of health and pleasure and enjoyment of life.
As for everyone it is advisable to consume fruits and vegetables, cereals, low fat and plenty of water.
As we age, however, it is necessary to pay even more attention to what we eat because the body begins to send signals of physiological change.
The main problem of the feeding of the elderly is linked to malnutrition , that is a monotonous and deficient nutrition in its essential components.
The latter is often due to a reduction in ingested food that can have psychological and / or economic causes.
The right nutrition
During the third age, when the body by nature weakens, it is important that they do not miss:
- calories : in the right quantity to avoid excessive overweight or thinness;
- proteins : they serve to maintain the muscle mass that protects the bones from fractures;
- fibers : promote intestinal transit and avoid overweight and diabetes;
- water: hydration must be constant throughout the day;
- antioxidants and vitamin E : such as blueberries or cabbage. They help the mind, the cardiovascular system and prevent tumors;
- calcium : strengthens the bones and prevents osteoporosis, the weakening of the bones in fact;
- vitamins in general.
What to eat
The nutrients must therefore be varied and well balanced.
Those who look after the elderly, whether they are family members or carers, must pay close attention to what they cook, because health also passes from the table.
A healthy diet consists of many small meals throughout the day.
First, it is important to start the morning with a breakfast simple, lightweight but energy ; partially skimmed milk and yoghurt are recommended to add calcium
The lunch is the main meal of the day when you have to consume foods with more calories and carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, potatoes or cereals that may be accompanied by a serving of protein and vegetables. A higher consumption of white meat (for example chicken and turkey) and fish is preferable, while red meat should be eaten at most twice a week.
A care that would surely be appreciated by the elderly is the use of spices as a condiment, which give taste and encourage eating.
A good habit could be to finish the meal with a fruit; in particular in the diet of the elderly fruit and vegetables help to keep the heart and brain in good health .
Don’t forget about water!
One of the main problems of older people is that they begin to feel less need to drink by risking dehydration ; a good family carer must always stimulate the person to drink,even if not thirsty .
What to avoid
In old age, where mobility problems may also arise, it is necessary to maintain a constant weight and avoid overweight.
Experts advise against large and elaborate meals. Invite to reduce the intake of salt and simple sugars (such as sweets, candies and soft drinks) … but do not totally eliminate them. A whim sometimes supports the mood.
How to deal with feeding problems
Dysphagia , the difficulty in swallowing, is common among the elderly population . In this case it is necessary to prepare soft foods cut into small pieces.
Vegetables, for example, could be steam cooked or homogenized or passed, even in the case of teeth and chewing problems.
Depending on the severity of the problem, liquid, semi-liquid, semi-solid and solid diets can be envisaged.
The liquid diet consists of drinks (water, tea, coffee, etc.) and naturally liquid substances such as yogurt and broths.
The semi-liquid diet is one in which fluid and smoothies are present, such as ice cream, pastries and sauces, which are more consistent than liquids, but do not require chewing anyway.
Finally we can distinguish the semi-solid food from the soft solid one : if the first consists of fluid foods or smoothies that however should not be chewed because they can be easily crushed with tongue and palate, the second involves chewing (for example meatballs, boiled eggs, vegetables) .
Nutrition as a psychological dimension
Eating is not simply a physiological necessity, but also has a strong psychological value.
In the elderly, there are many aspects that can influence and make the relationship with food complex.
For example, the diminishing of taste and smell can also reduce the pleasure of eating, because all the dishes take on the same taste.
There are also social factors to consider. If the elderly person lives alone, he can adopt a depressive attitude that weakens enthusiasm for food and leads to eating monotonous meals, in a disorderly way, and poorly balanced.
The presence, therefore, of a qualified family assistant who knows how to manage the most appropriate diet goes to reduce the risks of malnutrition and malnutrition.
However, there are positive links between emotions and food.
Knowing, for example, that your favorite dish will be on the table at dinner can be an incentive for the elderly to positively face the day.
So it is right to keep an eye on what you eat, but sometimes let us give ourselves a healthy break with the rule!