Myth Busters: Six Common Misconceptions About Nutrition as We Age

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Home Instead provides tips for older adults to maintain a healthy diet

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Many seniors don’t receive the proper nourishment they need to fuel their aging bodies — and it’s partially because they aren’t fully aware of what they need, said Lakelyn Hogan, Ph.D., gerontologist and caregiver advocate at Home Instead.

Maintaining a nutritious diet is no easy task, but for many, eating well becomes even trickier as we get older. Add in medications that require dietary changes or chronic health conditions, and it’s no wonder some lose track of a healthy eating routine or experience fluctuations in weight. By prioritizing nutrient-rich foods, we can strengthen our minds and immune systems, while also preventing illness down the road.

According to the CDC, only 1 in 10 adults meet the federal recommendations for fruit or vegetable intake. In addition, research from Home Instead found that seniors who eat alone tend to consume 157 fewer servings of fruit and vegetables per year, when compared with seniors who regularly share a mealtime with others. The trend is expected to continue, as many remain socially distant from family and friends during the pandemic.

“Many seniors don’t receive the proper nourishment they need to fuel their aging bodies — and it’s partially because they aren’t fully aware of what they need,” said Lakelyn Hogan, Ph.D., gerontologist and caregiver advocate at Home Instead. “While the challenges associated with senior nutrition are widely understood, there are still several myths out there that add to the confusion.”

As we kick off National Nutrition Month, it’s time to provide clarity around how older adults can achieve their nutrition goals. Below, Hogan addresses some common myths on healthy eating habits for individuals 65 and older.

1. Myth: Older adults must eat three “proper meals” a day.

  • Fact: Caloric needs vary from person to person. Eating three full meals a day can sometimes be a struggle for seniors who experience a loss of appetite or find cooking time consuming. Pre-packaged meals or convenience dishes such as frozen vegetables can often do the trick. If three meals are too many, consider swapping them for five or six healthy snacks throughout the day.

2. Myth: All hydration needs to come from fluids.

  • Fact: Staying hydrated is vital for health, but some seniors can struggle to get the appropriate amount of water. While water is the best source of hydration, consuming water-rich foods like watermelon, lettuce, peaches, tomatoes or strawberries can be a great supplement.

3. Myth: Supplements are sufficient on their own.

  • Fact: Dietary supplements are often seen as a quick way to get your daily vitamins and minerals in, but the best way to receive nutrients is through the food we eat. If you have difficulty eating a variety of food, talk with your doctor about the best approach for you.

4. Myth: Low-sodium or low-fat diets are better for everyone.

  • Fact: Despite popular beliefs, a low-fat diet or low-sodium diet isn’t always the best. Unless you have certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure, eliminating salt can make food unappetizing and lead to missed meals. Meanwhile, fat is an important source of calories and something that’s especially important for older adults who struggle to keep weight on. It’s all about moderation. Before making any extreme changes to your diet, consult your physician.

5. Myth: Older adults don’t need as much protein as younger generations.

  • Fact: Older adults need more protein than adults under the age of 65. Proteins — lean meats, poultry, fish and eggs — should form the center of a meal. The food group is vital to keeping your bones and organs healthy, as well as your immune system functioning well.

6. Myth: We don’t need to worry about nutrition in our later years.

  • Fact: A healthy lifestyle should be pursued at every stage of your life. The National Council on Aging recommends older adults eat a variety of foods, including lean proteins, fruits and vegetable, whole grains and low-fat dairy. It’s alright to occasionally enjoy guilty pleasures, so long as your diet is balanced with healthy options as well.

It’s never too late to re-imagine mealtime or explore new ways to change your diet for the better. Even the smallest changes can make an immediate and lasting difference.

The earlier you establish healthy eating habits, the easier it will be to continue those behaviors as you age. For more information and suggestions to eat well, visit http://www.homeinstead.com/care-resources/#SeniorHealthWellbeing.

ABOUT HOME INSTEAD
Founded in 1994 in Omaha, Nebraska, the Home Instead® franchise network provides personalized care, support and education to enhance the lives of aging adults and their families. Today, the network is the world's leading provider of in-home care services for older adults, with more than 1,200 independently owned and operated franchises that provide more than 80 million hours of care annually throughout the United States and 13 other countries. Local Home Instead offices employ approximately 90,000 CAREGivers℠ worldwide who provide basic support services that enable older adults to live safely and comfortably in their own homes for as long as possible. Home Instead franchise owners partner with clients and their family members to help meet varied individual needs. Services span the care continuum – from providing personal care to specialized Alzheimer’s care and hospice support. Also available are family caregiver education and support resources. Visit HomeInstead.com. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Dan Wieberg
Home Instead Senior Care
+1 (402) 575-5970
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