A nutritious diet increases your vitality. If you’re feeling low on energy, a few changes to your diet could help you put a spring in your step and help you stay active and well for years to come.
Nutritional needs for seniors
Your nutritional needs change with age. Read on to find out how to meet your nutritional needs.
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. The following is a list of 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 milk or 1 tub of yogurt or 2 pieces of cheese = 10g protein.
- 1/2 cup of baked beans = 7g protein.
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.
Foods that are good sources of dietary fibre include:
- Breads and cereals, especially wholegrain varieties.
- Fruit and vegetables.
- Nuts, legumes, dried beans, peas and lentils such as baked beans or pea soup.
The amount of energy (calories/kilojoules) your body needs decreases with age due to changes in metabolism and often a reduction in physical activity. Energy (calories/kilojoules) requirements vary enormously from person to person and depend on your age, height, weight and activity levels. Once you reach your senior years, you need less energy than when you were younger. Although your requirements for energy are lower, you still need adequate amounts of protein, vitamins and minerals.
Therefore, try to choose foods that are packed with nutrients like meat, dairy foods, legumes, wholemeal breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables.
Calcium is important for strong healthy bones. The recommended amount of calcium for men is 800mg a day and for women over 55 years is 1000mg a 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, yogurt, 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, you need to eat at least three serves of dairy foods every day.
Water makes up about half of your total body weight and you need to drink about 1½ – 2 litres of fluid a day to meet your body’s needs. 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 – that is a sign that you are already dehydrated.
Tips for keeping well hydrated:
- Drink regularly throughout the day. Include a drink with every meal and snack.
- The best sources of fluid are water, juice, milk, mineral water and cordial.
- Watch the amount of alcohol you drink as you will become dehydrated if you drink too much.
- Limit the amount of cola, tea and coffee you drink.
- Eat foods that are high in fluid such as fruit, vegetables, soup, yogurt, custard and ice cream.
Meeting Your 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. The table below shows the recommended daily amount of food to give you the nutrients and energy you need.
||Recommended number of serves
||Examples of "one serve"
|Bread, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles
||4 - 6
||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
||4 - 7
||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
||2 - 3
||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)
1/2 cup (125mL) of apple juice
|Dairy & dairy substitutes
||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 yogurt
1 cup of custard
|Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts
||1 - 1 ½
||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
||0 - 2 ½
||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
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 a day - to keep your energy levels up. It is important to eat regular meals of high nutritional quality. If you find it hard to eat three large main meals, try to eat three smaller meals and three nutritious snacks throughout the day.
- Make eating a social occasion. 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). Monitoring your weight helps you keep check on any changes which 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.
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.