The 5 Common Eating Mistakes of Senior People

Nowadays, food is an activity that gets a lot of media attention and there is a lot of information that can be confusing, misinterpreted or even incorrect, and not based on current science.

If it is true that we all eat, it is also true that we are all individuals with different nutritional needs depending on our weight, height, physical activity, age, among other factors (such as diseases or pre-existing conditions).

Factors that accompany the elderly population, such as loneliness, social isolation, changes in taste and smell, aversion to foods such as meat and/or fish, missing dentition, difficulty in swallowing and gastrointestinal malabsorption may cause serious nutritional deficits.

Also, a decrease in basal metabolism (energy expended even at rest), loss of muscle and bone mass, as well as some diseases that may occur with advancing age may cause a need to consult a Nutritionist and have a nutritional plan tailored to the specific needs of the individual.

I share some of the most common eating errors in seniors:

– Reduced daily intake of proteins of high biological value (meat, fish and eggs)

A healthy senior person needs to ingest 1-1.2 g / kg / day of protein per day, thus, a healthy senior weighing 70 kg needs to ingest on average 84 g of protein per day in order to reach his needs. Very often, an elderly person’s dinner is based on soup, fruit and bread, not including any source of protein, which can result in nutritional deficits. We must combat this protein deficiency!

Choose fish, white and lean meats instead of red and fat meats, but above all, go for variety! (This holds true for almost everything)

 – Reduced fiber consumption (low consumption of fruits and vegetables)

Constipation is a common problem for seniors, so eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day is essential for proper daily fiber intake. Prefer full-grain, fiber-rich foods instead of refined products (e.g. swap white bread for whole grain bread, breakfast cereals for oat flakes), always include soup for lunch and dinner and accompany the main meal with a platter of vegetables.

Note: eat a lot of vegetables, steamed, boiled, baked, sautéed, raw in salads… reinvent!

– Privilege simple carbohydrates instead of complete

There are many foods we consume daily that have a lot of sugars that we do not realize, because we usually associate sugar intake to its most common form, white sugar. Rapid absorption sugars (such as white sugar) are usually added to tea, coffee, milk or yogurt, and are in foods like cookies (even the diet ones), yogurts, cereal bars, breakfast cereals … without noticing, we are ingesting far more rapid absorption sugar than would be recommended!

The intake of rapidly absorbed sugars should not exceed 5% of the total energy intake, which is equivalent to 27.5g in men and 25g in women (equivalent to just under 2 tablespoons). Complete carbohydrates, such as starch present in potato, rice or pasta, since they are absorbed more slowly, do not have such restricted limitation.

– High salt consumption

Decrease the amount of salt in cooking.

To improve the flavor of the cooked food, use aromatic herbs and spices instead of pre-made seasonings that have a

high salt content. Parsley, coriander, garlic powder, thyme, basil, rosemary, saffron, chives, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, and many others. Natural spices are a very unique way of creating variety and flavor: use them!

A good tip: Never put the salt shaker on the table.

– Low water intake

Water is essential to human life, being the main constituent of the organism, influencing the state of health of individuals because it is fundamental for practically all the functions of the organism (especially for the regulation of temperature). Seniors are more at risk of partially dehydrating because they feel less thirst (although they need water in it!) and have kidneys that do not save water as well as would be desirable. For these reasons it is important to pay attention to the symptoms of dehydration (skin with less elasticity, headaches, tiredness and irritability) and, as a precaution, to consume about 6 to 8 glasses of water per day.

Note: if you prefer you can choose tea infusions without adding sugar or add fresh fruit and spices to the water to add flavor (lemon, strawberries, pineapple, raspberries, mint, cinnamon sticks or mint are good choices).


Joana Gouveia.


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