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Dietary Needs for Older Kiwis

Senior adult dietary needs change with age. Let’s take a look at the best ways to meet your nutritional needs. A nutritious diet tailoured to your needs at this age will increase your vitality. If you’re feeling low on energy, a few changes to your diet could help put a spring in your step and help you stay more active and well for years to come.

Nutritional Needs Of Mature Adults

Protein

Protein is important for maintaining muscle strength, fighting infections, and for renewing the body’s cells. The recommended daily intake is about one gram of protein for each kilogram you weigh.

Here are some high protein foods and the amount of protein in a serve of each.

  • 100g grilled chicken breast = 28g protein
  • 100g cooked rump steak = 28g protein
  • 120g canned salmon = 26g protein
  • 1/2 cup of lean beef mince = 22g protein
  • 2 scrambled eggs = 13g protein
  • 1/3 cup peanuts = 12g protein
  • 1 cup of reduced fat milk or 1 tub of yoghurt or 2 pieces of cheese = 10g protein
  • 1/2 cup of baked beans = 7g protein

Fibre

Fibre is an important nutrient for older adults because digestive systems tend to become more sluggish with age. Including fibre-rich foods in your diet, combined with regular activity and drinking plenty of water will help to keep your bowel habits regular. The suggested fibre intake for adults is 30g a day.

These are some great sources of dietary fibre:

  • Breads and cereals, especially wholegrain varieties
  • Fruit and vegetables, keep the skin on where possible
  • Nuts, legumes, dried beans, peas and lentils such as baked beans or pea soup

Energy

The amount of energy (calories/kilojoules) your body needs:

  • Decreases with age due to changes in metabolism
  • Often decreases due to a reduction in physical activity
  • Varies enormously from person to person
  • Depends on your age, height, weight and activity levels

Although energy requirements decrease, a reduction in appetite often leads to a reduced intake.

The time when we require less energy than when you were younger, comes to us all. Even though your requirements for energy are lower as a senior, you still need adequate amounts of protein, vitamins and minerals.

So, try to choose foods that are packed with nutrients like meat, dairy foods, legumes, wholemeal breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables.

Calcium

Calcium is important for strong healthy bones.

The recommended amount of calcium for mature adults is 1300mg per day.

Women need more calcium because hormonal changes that occur at menopause increase calcium needs.

The best sources of calcium are dairy products which include milk, cheese, yoghurt, custard and ice cream. Other calcium-rich foods include calcium-fortified soy products and fish with edible bones (e.g. salmon).

To keep your bones strong and help reduce the risk of fractures, it’s a good idea to eat at least three serves of dairy foods every day.

Fluids

Water makes up about half of your total body weight and you need to drink about 2 litres of fluid a day for good health.

Drinking plenty of fluid will help to ease the burden on your kidneys and keeps your bowels regular. People also feel less thirsty as they age so you should try and keep track of your daily fluid intake. Don’t wait until you are thirsty before your drink - you may already dehydrated.

Tips for keeping well hydrated:

  • Drink regularly throughout the day. Try to include a drink with every meal and snack.
  • The best sources of fluid are water, juice, milk, mineral water and cordial.
  • Keep an eye on the amount of alcohol you drink – you’ll become dehydrated if you drink too much.
  • Try to limit the amount of cola, tea and coffee you drink.
  • Eat foods that are high in fluid such as fruit, vegetables, soup, yoghurt, custard and ice cream.

Meeting Your Senior Dietary Needs

Eating a wide variety of foods from the core food groups will help give you the energy and nutrients you need every day.

Here are the recommended amounts of food you should aim for each day:

Bread, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles
At least 6 serves

E.g. of a serve:

  • 2 slices of wholemeal bread
  • 1 1/3 cups of bran flakes
  • 1 cup of cooked rice
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • 1 fruit muffin
  • 1 cup of 2 minute noodles
  • 4 crispbread biscuits

Vegetables and legumes
At least 3 serves

E.g. of a serve:

  • 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables (e.g. sliced beans, diced pumpkin, shredded cabbage)
  • 1 cup of salad (e.g. sliced cucumber, sliced beetroot, diced tomatoes)
  • 1 small potato
  • 1/2 cup of red kidney beans

Fruit
2 serves

E.g. of serve:

  • 1 medium piece of fruit (e.g. peach, banana, pear, orange)
  • 1 cup of canned/diced fruit (e.g. apricot slices, fruit salad, diced rockmelon)
  • 6 prunes
  • 1/2 cup (125mL) of apple juice

Dairy & dairy substitutes
At least 3 serves

E.g. of a serve:

  • 1 cup of reduced fat milk with MILO
  • 1 cup of calcium enriched soy drink
  • 2 slices (40g) of reduced fat cheese
  • 200g tub of natural low fat yoghurt
  • 1 cup of custard

Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts
At least 1 serve

E.g. of serve:

  • 1/2 cup of cooked lean beef mince
  • 100g of lean roast lamb or beef
  • 100g of grilled chicken breast
  • 120g of baked fish fillets/canned salmon
  • 2 scrambled eggs
  • 1/2 cup of baked beans

Extra foods
0 – 2.5 serves

E.g. of a serve:

  • 4 plain sweet biscuits
  • 1 glass (200mL) of wine
  • 1 1/2 scoops of ice cream
  • 2 tablespoons of cream
  • 1 tablespoon of butter/margarine

Practical Mature Adult Diet Advice

Here are a few tips to help you make good dietary choices for your health and pleasure.

  • Variety is the spice of life! Include different foods from each of the core food groups every day. A varied, balanced diet is the key to good health and vitality.
  • Eat six small meals and snacks a day. If you eat regular meals of high nutritional quality it will help to keep your energy levels right up! This is also beneficial if your appetite is a little low.
  • Make eating more social. You are more likely to enjoy your food with good company. Eat as often as possible with family and friends.
  • Weigh yourself regularly (once or twice a month). Changes in weight can indicate changes in your health.
  • Experiment with cooking. If you are bored with the same old meals, then consider joining a cooking class. It is a great way to meet new people while opening up your dietary choices to different
    foods and flavours.
  • Drink to keep well hydrated. Inadequate fluid intake can make you feel tired, slow your bowels down and put unwanted strain on your kidneys.
  • Spice up your food. Your sense of taste and smell diminishes with age, which means that food may not taste the same anymore. Add herbs, spices and sauces to your meals to enhance their flavour.
  • Get physical! Make sure you consult your doctor before beginning an exercise regime, especially if you have been inactive for a long time or are overweight.

FAQs

I am a vegetarian. How can I make sure I get enough protein and energy?

Including a variety of dairy foods, eggs, legumes, nuts and beans in your diet will ensure you get the protein your body needs.

How can I tell if I’m drinking enough fluid?

One way to tell is by the colour of your urine. It should be almost clear except for first thing in the morning. If it is dark yellow, you need to drink more fluid. Try to keep track of your fluid intake by noting how many glasses of water and cups of tea you have each day.

I find it difficult to shop regularly. How can I reduce my shopping trips yet still maintain a balanced diet?

Plan ahead with a grocery list. That way you won’t need to repeat your steps through the store.

  • Stock up on products that have a long shelf life or are frozen including items such as long life milk, dried fruit, canned foods
    (fruit, vegetables, tuna, soup) and cereal.
  • Buy sliced bread and freeze in lots of 4-6 slices.
  • Ask about special services from your supermarket: home delivery, telephone ordering or shopping via the internet.

For more information, see the MoH Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Older People

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