Nutrition for older adults
Nutrition and physical activity continue to be important as we grow older. A healthy combination of good food and exercise can delay or even reverse many of the problems associated with aging, helping older New Zealanders to continue living independently and enjoy a good quality of life.
- Eat a variety of foods. Have at least three meals every day. Include plenty of different vegetables and fruits
- Maintain a healthy weight. If your weight is a little low, have a snack between meals.
- Have at least 6-8 glasses of fluids each day, such as water, tea, coffee, and low fat, calcium enriched milk, unless recommended otherwise by your doctor.
- Try to be active every day
Important nutrients for older adults
Cooking for one or two
- Plan your meals for a week in advance and make a shopping list.
- Go to the butchery counter, so you can buy meat in smaller portions, rather than the pre-packaged sizes in the chiller.
- Cooking extra to freeze and reheat at a later stage can save you time and effort. Many meals, such as stews, casseroles, soups, curries and lasagne, freeze well. Place them in single portions in either small containers or freezer bags, making sure to label and date the food. These meals can be reheated in the microwave, oven or on the stove.
- Dried, canned and frozen foods have a longer storage life, minimising waste. Baked beans, tinned sardines, spaghetti or creamed corn on toast can make a quick, easy and nutritious meal.
- Store bread in the freezer and take out only as much as you need each day.
- Ready meals are convenient and minimise waste. They are available in the fridge and freezer sections at the supermarket and delicatessens. Many companies in New Zealand also offer meal delivery services.
- Keep a bag of frozen vegetables in your freezer. They are convenient and allow you to use only as much as you need.
- 'Cooking for Older People' is a recipe book aimed at those cooking for one or two people. It is available from the Canterbury District Health Board - currently costing only $10. You might also like to read more about the Senior Chef programme - www.seniorchef.co.nz - which runs cooking classes for older adults throughout New Zealand.
Gradually increase your activity as fitness improves. Aim for 30 minutes or more of moderate activity most days.
- Group fitness classes – for example, yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates. Many YMCA’s hold classes for older people
- Dancing - a fun way to burn lots of energy. Try rock ‘n’ roll, salsa, jazz, ballroom or even belly dancing!
- Outdoor activities such as golf, walking and orienteering.
- Swimming, aqua-jogging and aqua-aerobics are great low impact options.
- Chair aerobics is available at some recreation centres - a great option for people who have limited mobility.
Ideas for gaining weight and improving appetite
- Small meals and snacks can be more tempting than being faced with a huge plate of food. Try scrambled eggs, creamed corn or baked beans on toast, creamy soups, a bowl of fruit topped with yoghurt or ice-cream. If you don’t feel like cooking yourself, try some of the ready meals that are available in the fridge and freezer sections at the supermarket and delicatessens. Many companies in New Zealand also offer meal delivery services.
- Include high energy snacks in your diet. Try having a snack from the milk, yoghurt and cheese food group or the other food group.
- Try adding extra milk powder to milk and milky drinks, such as tea, coffee and hot chocolate, porridge and creamy soups. This will give you extra protein and calcium without adding bulk.
- Enjoy a pudding or dessert every day
- Use standard homogenised milk (with the dark blue cap)
- Try having your main meal in the middle of the day as you’ll have more energy to prepare and eat your meals. Save the dessert to have with your lighter evening meal.
The eating environment
- Add a table cloth or flowers to a table, and make sure suitable cutlery is available for the meal being served.
- We eat with our eyes, so always consider adding a garnish to make a meal as appealing as possible. For example, a piece of parsley or slice of tomato can transform the visual appeal of a pale coloured meal, such as fish pie or macaroni cheese.
- Seasoning food is important to stimulate the appetite. Use a little iodised salt in cooking and avoid using salt at the table, and you can use herbs whenever possible to add extra flavour and interest . Make pepper, sauces and chutneys available on the dining table.
- Eating with others helps to make a meal more enjoyable, so try to eat with those living alone from time to time and encourage them to join lunch clubs.
Recipe Book Suggestion
- 'Cooking for Older People' is a recipe book aimed at those cooking for one or two people. Visit the Canterbury District Health Board website to order a recipe book, for a cost of $10.