Healthy Eating Important for Seniors

Straying from home cooked meals could mean you're serving up more than you bargained for.

Sabrina Bublitz, registered dietician with Topeka's Cotton-O'Neil Heart Center, says fast foods and processed, convenience foods contain higher levels of sodium, fat and cholesterol, saturated fat. She says that's especially bad for senior citizens since, as we age, our risk for conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease increases.

Sodium is especially troublesome because high levels made the heart work harder to pump blood through the body. As we get older, our hearts already naturally have to work harder to do so. In addition, we become more at risk for gaining weight as we age, since our metabolism slows down, and we may not be as active as we once were.

Not eating isn't the answer. Bublitz says eat three meals, with snacks in between, but plan them - keeping in mind the specific nutritional needs of older people.

Bublitz says calcium and vitamin D needs will increase as we get older so that we can maintain bone integrity and bone strength to prevent osteoporosis. In addition, we'll need more B-12 because the body won't absorb it as well. B-12 is found in beef, poultry, turkey and fish. Bublitz says it's also a good idea to add more protein to help maintain lean muscle mass.

While the advice is specific to senior citizens, Bublitz says healthy eating is important at any age. She says it's easier to start eating healthy when you're younger, rather than having to change your habits years later.

Senior citizens needing help to get a healthy meal might want to check out their local Meals on Wheels program. In Shawnee and Jefferson counties, that number is 785-354-5420. Also, HealthWise 55 offers free, one-on-one nutrition clinics the fourth Thursday of each month. Call 785-354-6787 for an appointment.


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