Eating well when you’re over 70

Older people eating healthilyWaitrose nutritionists have compiled this advice and some simple suggestions and menu ideas for anyone over the age of 70 who is keen to maintain their health and energy.

We need a good diet as we age to support all the changes that occur in the body. Energy requirements and appetite may change too, but nutrient requirements do not! So if we’re eating less it is important to aim for more nutrient-rich foods and drinks.

We hope that older people, their carers and families, find this guide useful.  Print this page to give to someone you know or use the share button on the right of this page.

Food and nutritional advice to stay healthy and strong as you get older

What nutrients should you be looking out for?

In the UK, it is common for older people to have a small appetite and low food intake, which can lead to low energy intakes and weight. If this is the case, a useful source of energy is fat, which provides the most energy, gram for gram, than any other nutrient. Useful and nutritious sources of fat include: oily fish, cheese, avocado, vegetable oils and peanut butter.

Carbohydrate is also a useful source of energy and fibre helps to prevent constipation, which affects the quality of life of many older people. We can get these from wholegrain cereal products like breakfast cereals, brown rice and pasta, wholemeal bread, fruits and vegetables, potatoes and pulses like beans, peas and lentils.

Protein is needed for building and repairing body tissues - an important nutrient as we age where damaged tissue and wounds heal more slowly. We can get protein from dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt, meat and poultry, eggs and pulses.

There are some vitamin and mineral deficiencies that are more common in older people in the UK. These include the B vitamins, which are important for the brain and the nervous system, and potassium, where deficiency is associated with depression, confusion, muscular weakness and loss of appetite in older people. A varied diet of fruits and vegetables, wholegrain cereal products and dairy will provide these nutrients.

Vitamin C and zinc are important in supporting the immune system. Vitamin C is found mainly in fruits and some vegetables. Low intakes are associated with susceptibility to pressure sores and infection. The best sources of zinc are animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs and shellfish, as well as nuts and seeds.

Vitamin D supports the maintenance of healthy bones and muscle strength and deficiency can lead to bone fractures. The body is less able to produce vitamin D from the sun as we age so dietary sources are important.

The best dietary source is oily fish, but there are also small amounts in eggs and fortified margarine.

Calcium supports normal blood clotting, muscle function and healthy bones. Deficiency leads to osteoporosis, a common condition as we age. The best sources of calcium are dairy products including milk, cheese and yoghurt. Other sources of calcium include fish with soft bones such as canned salmon and dark green leafy vegetables.

Iron is an essential part of haemoglobin in red blood cells which carries oxygen around the body. Deficiency causes anaemia. Good sources include red meat, offal such as liver, dark green leafy vegetables, pulses and some dried foods.

Royal Voluntary Service is a member of the Malnutrition Task Force who aim to minimise the risk of malnutrition to make a major difference to the health and quality of life of older people.

Please exercise your common sense when considering this guide and whether to take any of the steps that may be suggested in it. Whilst we have taken reasonable care to ensure that any factual information is accurate and complete, most of the information in this guide is based on our views and opinions (and sometimes the views and opinions of the people or organisations we work with). As a result, we cannot make any promises about the accuracy or the completeness of the information and we don’t accept any responsibility for the results of your reliance on it.

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