In the early stages of life, a baby or small infant has relatively simple nutritional requirements. They will typically be fed with specific baby formulas in the first months, which contain the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that they need in an easy-to-swallow paste. This is vital as babies, and small infants will have not yet developed a fully functioning swallowing reflex.
As babies grow into children and then young adults, it is likely that they will eat similar meals to adults, albeit in smaller portions when they are younger. This article focuses on the diets that people typically require when they enter the senior stages of life and how they may differ from eating habits that are present earlier on in adulthood.
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Less calories, more nutrition
It is widely recognized that many elderly people will have a more sedentary lifestyle as they enter the advanced stages of aging. Whilst this may be a generalization and some senior citizens remain highly active, in many cases, this is the experience and daily reality of older people. Senior citizens may spend more time in their homes as they no longer need to be in full-time employment. General physical activity levels are often considerably lower than in younger adults.
Because of this, senior citizens typically require a lower calorific intake (i.e., they need to get less energy from their food to sustain themselves and therefore require smaller portions at mealtimes). However, it is paramount that senior citizens continue to benefit from high-quality nutrition that contains essential vitamins and minerals that help keep them healthy. Read more about lower-calorie, nutrient-rich meal options that are suitable for the elderly here.
Dealing with dysphagia
It is an unfortunate fact that millions of older adults experience difficulties in swallowing their food and beverages. In some cases, this can make eating tricky and can increase the risk of choking on food. In severe cases, the difficulty in swallowing is known as dysphagia and may occur in the aftermath of experiencing a stroke or TIA. If an older adult suffers from dysphagia, they may need to change their diet in terms of the consistency of the food they eat.
There are many products available for older people that seek to rectify this problem and allow swallowing to be made easier. For instance, SimplyThick EasyMix for beverages can help make swallowing easier – there are also similar thickeners available for food. Products like these illustrate how food and drink thickening agents can help elderly people enjoy a balanced diet whilst minimizing the difficulties in swallowing food when consuming meals.
As a final key point, it is recognized that older people will benefit from a diet that is rich in protein-based foods such as meat and fish. Evidence suggests that enjoying a protein-rich diet in later life can help senior citizens retain more of their muscle mass and reduce the likelihood of experiencing muscle wastage.
Ideally, an elderly person will partake in regular gentle exercise that complements a protein-rich diet and helps to ensure that their muscles stay strong and healthy well into later life.