Elderly Parents and Recommended Daily Nutritional Requirements 

Elderly Parents Nutrition - Recommended Daily Nutritional Requirements for Seniors

Most of us don't know the daily-recommended dietary intakes for our gender, height, weight and activity levels, but if you're caring for a senior, now's the time to learn.(Please talk to your doctor or certified nutritionist). Failing to observe the minimum nutrition requirements may result in medical or health risks for your elderly parents, including malnutrition, a weakened immune system, and poor ability to concentrate. That's just the tip of the iceberg.

Elderly parents are at increased health risks because of poor nutrition more than any other age group, which is alarming, considering the wealth of information and resources available on the Internet, from our physicians and package information found on nearly every food or drink product we purchase. Many of the health issues facing the elderly can be prevented through proper and adequate nutrition.

Elderly Nutritional Requirements

Learning the Basics

You don't have to major in chemistry, health or food sciences to understand at least the basics of nutrition as it pertains to an aging parent. A few minutes is all it takes to explore the need for various vitamins and minerals found in the diet and the link between nutrition (or lack thereof) and illness and disease processes.

So, in a nutshell, here are some of the most basic nutrients (vitamins, minerals and electrolytes) that seniors need for optimal health.

Vitamins and Minerals and Electrolytes Dietary Reference Intakes

Vitamin A: Men: 900 micrograms Women: 700 micrograms

Vitamin C: Men: 90 milligrams Women: 75 milligrams

Vitamin D: Men: 10 micrograms Women: 10 micrograms

Vitamin E: Men: 15 milligrams Women: 15 milligrams

Calcium: Men: 1200 milligrams Women: 1200 milligrams

Thiamin: Men: 1.2 milligrams Women: 1.1 milligrams

Riboflavin: Men: 1.3 Women: 1.1

Niacin: Men: 16 milligrams Women: 14 milligrams

Vitamin B6: Men: 1.7 Women: 1.5

Vitamin B12: Men: 2.4 Women: 2.4

Iron: Men: 8 milligrams Women: 8 milligrams

Magnesium: Men: 420 Women: 320

Potassium: Men: 4.7 grams Women: 4.7 grams

Sodium: Men: 1.3 grams Women: 1.3 grams

For additional information, visit the Food And Nutrition Information Center at http://fnic.nal.usda.gov What does all that mean? How does that equate to various servings of foods?

To put it all in perspective, the chart below offers the recommended daily requirements for each food group that will provide an adequate amount of nutrients to keep your body (even an aging body) as healthy as possible. The number of servings goes up as the calorie levels go up, but we will use three common calorie levels that reflect the average daily caloric intake of elderly parents who live by themselves. Unfortunately, many seniors don't get even the basic daily servings listed below.

Food Group Servings Per Day

Calorie Level

1,600

Grains - 5oz. Vegetables - 2 Cups Fruits - 1 1/2 Cups Oils - 5 tsp. Milk - 3 Cups Meat and Beans - 5 oz.

Calorie Level

1,800

Grains - 6 oz. Vegetables - 2 1/2 Cups Fruits - 1 1/2 Cups Oils - 5 tsp. Milk - 3 Cups Meat and Beans - 5 oz.

Calorie level

2,000

Grains - 6 oz. Vegetables - 2 1/2 Cups Fruits - 2 Cups Oils - 6 tsp. Milk - 3 Cups Meat and Beans - 5 1/2 oz.

Elderly Nutritional Requirements

Compiled by the National Policy and Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging, Florida International University, Revised 03/19/04 & Institute of Medicine, Dietary Reference Intakes: Applications in Dietary Assessment, 2000 and Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrates, Fiber, Fat, Protein and Amino Acids 2002

For those providing care for seniors, encourage proper and adequate dietary intake. If your elderly parent has difficulty chewing foods, select those that are easy to chew and digest that also offer adequate nutrition or serve foods finely chopped or even puréed. Sit down and eat with your parent. Create a friendly environment at the table and offer whatever encouragement you can to ensure that your elderly parent is receiving an adequate diet. His or her health depends on it.

Dealing with Preferences

Many elderly parents just don't like the taste of their food. It's not because they don't like the way you prepare it – in many instances it's because the elderly often lose their sense of taste and smell. To your Mom, everything she eats may taste like tin, or for your Dad, might smell like something the dog dragged in.

When in doubt, ask! Never assume that your parent doesn't want to eat healthy food choices. Ask your Mom if she is having difficulty chewing or swallowing. Do her dentures fit properly? Is she suffering from dry mouth, caused by many drugs and medications which may make eating difficult?

Illness often decreases appetite, as does any recent injury or surgery for an elderly parent. Drugs and medications may also cause mal-absorption problems in senior individuals, which may lead to malnutrition. An inability of the body to absorb basic vitamins and minerals may cause multiple side effects, such as poor balance or vision, shakiness or speech related problems.

Bottom Line

Address poor eating habits before they can lead to long-term health issues. Try to prepare tasty, attractive foods. Plan between-meal snacks and ask your doctor about nutritional supplements or possible interactions between certain drugs and foods. It's up to you to know the basics of nutrition for the benefit and health of your elderly parent.

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