Myths about senior nutrition and food

Posted by

The role of a registered dietitian is to assist individuals in meeting their nutritional goals. In a senior living community, the dietitian will complete a full nutrition assessment on every resident and determine if there is a need for nutritional intervention.

When it comes to senior nutrition there are common misconceptions. Learn what the facts are when it comes to three of the most common myths.

Myth 1: Seniors don’t need to eat very much

This is perhaps the most common myth about senior nutrition. “The reality is that seniors still need to maintain eating a healthful diet with enough protein and calories, vitamins and minerals to sustain their health,” said Director of Nutritional Services at Elderwood Amy Julicher, RD, CDN. 

While it is true that seniors often experience decreased appetite and lower intake of fluids, it is still important that they maintain good nutrition by consuming adequate amounts of food.

Myth 2: Supplements can substitute for food

While supplements can be a good source of calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals, it is preferable to obtain those nutrients from actual food sources. Our bodies are already accustomed to digesting real food and using it properly. Supplements often contain additional ingredients such as artificial flavoring and sweeteners to mask the taste that a nutrient-condensed product contains.

“There is also a lot to be said for the experience of eating. Drinking a supplement often leaves a person feeling unsatiated or, over time, can lead to flavor fatigue,” said Julicher. Eating a complete meal allows for variety and may encourage better consumption. For residents with a decrease in appetite, offering snacks or fortified foods will help them get the nutrition they need.

Myth 3: The food in a nursing home is not good  

This is a common belief of people who remember the institutionalized and less desirable meals that nursing homes and hospitals were known for in past decades. “We have made great strides in improving the taste and quality of meals since those days and offer a greater variety of food choices now, said Julicher. “We also choose products that are palatable and visually pleasing to encourage eating.”

It’s important to consult with your physician and a registered dietitian before starting a new meal regimen to make sure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs from food. Maintaining a nutritious diet customized to your own health and medical needs can help to improve quality of life.