Senior and adult cooking in the kitchen

Diet & Nutrition Tips for Seniors and their Caregivers

CDHF

Written by: CDHF

Updated: November 30th, 2022

“Have a complete, balanced, healthy diet or paint your plate with the colours of the rainbow.” We hear and see these messages, often in articles, at the grocery store, among friends and family, and from health care professionals. If you are a parent, we know you lead very busy lives. While juggling a job and family life, you may also be caring for the needs of a senior loved one. While ensuring your loved ones get what they need to stay strong and healthy over time, we often sacrifice our own health needs.  While focusing on purchasing the right foods for your elders, it’s equally important that you’re meeting your own nutritional needs. In this article, we will walk you through diet and nutrition tips for seniors such as your parents, and you as their caregivers. 

First things first, what does nutritional balance mean?

Simply put, nutritional balance is having the right amount of protein, energy, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals each and every day to help you meet your dietary needs.

To achieve this, Canada’s Food Guide recommends eating vegetables and fruits, whole-grain foods, and protein foods to maintain your health.

They suggest eating the following on a regular basis:

Canadas food guide plate

Caring for Seniors

A balanced and healthy diet is very important for elders as they age. You may or may not already know, but healthy eating can help your loved ones:

You may have noticed your parents, on occasion or with growing regularity, eat less, or are becoming uninterested in food. As we age, our nutritional needs change, and so do our appetites. With aging, the body may need fewer calories, but it does require just as high or higher levels of certain nutrients such as vitamins or minerals.

Essential vitamins and minerals that Dietitians of Canada recommends as you age include:

Canada’s Food Guide recommends seniors eat a wide range of healthy foods to get enough of those nutrients. Nutrient-dense foods include:

TIP: Your loved ones will receive the same health benefits from frozen and canned options, which can be just as healthy and easier to prepare (also generally less expensive!). Just keep in mind, you should choose canned fruit packed in water or juice rather than syrup, and canned vegetables with little or no salt (sodium).

Let’s jump into some diet and nutrition tips for seniors that would also apply to you as their caregivers. 

Protein

Protein is important for balanced and complete nutrition, as it helps build, maintain and repair our bodies. It keeps our muscles strong and our hair, nails and skin healthy. Protein intake is especially important as we age, when faced with a medical condition or when physically active. To meet these increased needs and help prevent muscle loss, adults (19 years and older) should be getting 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of their body weight. For example, if you weigh 150lbs (69kg), then you would need about 55g of protein per day.

If your elderly loved one can reach their protein goal, try to incorporate one good source of protein at every meal.  Purchase products such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes such as beans, peas and lentils, tofu, nuts and seeds which are all excellent sources of protein, iron, and B vitamins.

TIP: For healthy protein snacks, purchase some peanut or almond butter for them to add to toast, crackers or apple slices, or nuts and seeds that can be put on top of yogurt and salads!

If you notice your loved one struggling with a loss of appetite, show difficulty chewing, or have trouble preparing balanced meals – they may benefit from having nutritional drinks on hand such as Ensure®. These drinks are formulated to help meet general nutrition goals such as increased calories and protein, and getting essential vitamins and minerals in their diet that we talked about previously.

If they still can’t get enough protein, talk to a dietitian for more tips about what’s right for them.  

Fibre

We’ve talked about the many benefits of fibre before. Not only does it keep us regular, but can also help lower blood cholesterol levels, manage blood sugar levels and help prevent high blood pressure. Eating fibre-full meals can help your loved ones stay fuller for longer and feel more satisfied!  According to Dietitians of Canada, women ages 51 and over should be consuming 21 grams of fibre each day, and men 51 and over should be consuming 30 grams.

Vegetables and fruit, beans, lentils and chickpeas, whole grains such as oats, barley, quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat and even popcorn are all great fibre foods. Choose grain products that are high in fibre, including breads, pasta, and tortillas.

TIP: Look for “whole” grains to be the first ingredient on the ingredient label. “Enriched wheat flour” “all-purpose flour” “unbleached flour” are all refined white flours and have much less fibre than whole grains.

Fats

Fats give us energy and help with nutrient absorption, mood and brain function.

Rather than cutting out fats for those who are aging, focus on healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids. They can help lower triglycerides, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Some foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include oily or fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, nuts and seeds such as walnuts, chia seeds, and ground flaxseeds, avocados, and foods fortified with omega 3, such as eggs, yogurt and soy beverages.

TIP: Research shows that margarine may be worse for your heart than butter because some brands contain large amounts of trans fats. The best choice is healthy liquid oil for cooking and baking, such as olive and canola. If you do buy soft-tubs of margarine for your elders, ensure that it is labelled “non-hydrogenated.” 1

Make sure you take good care of yourself

Being a caregiver for your elderly loved ones can be stressful. You may find yourself grabbing food on the go or skipping meals. YOU may not be getting the nutrients you need on a daily basis. While grabbing food on the go may make your life a little easier, it likely isn’t giving you all the benefits you need. So while we have just highlighted diet and nutrition tips for seniors, to achieve a balanced diet as their caregivers, the same rules apply to you. 

As we previously stated, Canada’s Food Guide recommends eating vegetables and fruits, whole-grain foods, and protein foods to maintain your health. See here for more healthy eating tips from Canada’s Food Guide.

If you are experiencing caregiver stress, here are some ways to help while keeping up with your nutritional needs.

Last but not least, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Make a list of things you may need help with, and let your helper choose what they would like to do. Have them pick up groceries one day or occasionally cook to give you a break. Home delivered meal services or grocery pick up is also a great option to order the foods you need, while saving you time. We hope these diet and nutrition tips for seniors and you as their caregivers can ensure you both stay healthy and energized! 


References:

  1. Seniors BC. Healthy Eating Seniors Book. Retrieved From: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/people/seniors/health-safety/pdf/healthy-eating-seniorsbook.pdf

Related Articles:

View all News & Articles

man on grey background with puzzle pieces surrounding head

The Link Between the Gut and Mental Health 

low fodmap diet on a phone

Understanding the low FODMAP Diet

Women speaking online on computer with a registered dietitian

Online Nutrition Courses from Registered Dietitians

Family eating healthy meal

Family Friendly Snack Ideas

Yoga for Digestion

Senior and Women man cooking in kitchen

Microbiota in Seniors

5 Strategies for Living Gluten-Free

salad with apple beets and chickpeas

Increase Your Fibre Intake

Types of Berries

The Power of Berries- Colourful and Kick-Ass Nutrition

Porrdge

Creamy, High Protein Breakfast Porridge

Bowl of Slaw

Crack Slaw Stir-fry

Grocery shopping with list

Make your Weekly Grocery Shop a Breeze: Amanda’s Top 5 Tips

Peppermint

Peppermint Fixes More Than Just Bad Breath

Spoons full of different prebiotics

Gut Health and Prebiotics

Family smiling into camera

5 Nutrition Tips for You and Your Family this Summer

Does Hot Weather Affect Digestion?

Women looking at labels in the grocer store

Understanding Fibre Nutrition Claims

Beginning frame of Understanding Fibre Animation

Understanding Fibre Animation

Fibre Benefits

Fibre & Its Benefits

Hand squeezing a grapefruit

Diets Used for IBS

friends smiling in kitchen

7 Day Gluten-Free Diet Plan

Women and male bathroom stall

Managing your Digestive Health in the Workplace Webinar

Taking a photo of food

Diet & Lifestyle Changes for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Cutting up meat and vegetables in the kitchen

Eating for 1 Trillion

Women laughing in yoga pose

Wait… My Gut Affects My Mental Health?

heart shaped bowls filled with fruits

10 Ways to Strengthen Your Microbiome

Kefir

What is Kefir and is it Good for You?

Women holding a salad

Busting Gut Health Buzz Words

Exercising and drinking water

Trying to Eat Healthier? Make it a Habit!

Bowl of healthy salad and tofu

Mental Health and Nutrition

Turkey pesto meatballs

Turkey Pesto Meatballs

Person on computer at home working

Staying Healthy at Home!

Man drinking water

Pre and Post Surgery Nutrition and Lifestyle Strategies to Optimize your Recovery

Brown bag of groceries spilling out of bag

How to Manage Stress Eating and Snack Smart at Home

Drinking water side eye pink background

The Importance of Staying Hydrated: General Hydration and Virus Recovery

Egg and leeks

How to Stay Fuller Longer

Pregnant women in pink shirt smiling down at stonach

Prenatal Health and Your Baby

woman comforting elderly man

Preventing GI Disorders in Adults and the Elderly

Candy

Trick or Treating Safely with Digestive Conditions

CDHF Talks: The Role of Nutrition/Diet in a Healthy Gut Microbiota

Bone broth

Is Bone Broth Healthy?

Leafy greens on purple background

Gut Bacteria and Leafy Greens

CDHF Partners with Metro and their Wellness Program Catered to Digestive Health Issues

World Digestive Health Day: Obesity

Person grocery cart shopping

Help with Choosing Healthy Grocery Products

Senior and adult cooking in the kitchen

Diet & Nutrition Tips for Seniors and their Caregivers

Dietary Fibre vs Prebiotics: Animation

CDHF Talks: Protein and Fibre

peaches

Tips for Eating Well with Rising Food Costs

man holding takeout box and clutching stomach

What is a Food Intolerance?

meal planning sheet

Two Day Meal Plan with Lactose Intolerance

Gatepkeeper of your health

How Nutrition Can Support Gut Health and the Immune System

Common food allergies o blue background

What is a Food Allergy?

The Power of Oats: Can They Play a Role in the Gluten Free Diet?

Senior and nurse speaking

How to Improve Appetite in Seniors

Feeding your Microbiota Fibre, Prebiotics, and Probiotics

Women drinking wine with pink microbe background

Alcohol and IBS

Digestive Health 101 Webinar

healthy foods

Diet & Lifestyle Changes for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Clipboard that says diet plan surrounded by healthy smoothies and vegetables

Diet Plan for Gastroparesis

healthy food at dinner table

Nutrition Tips for Aging Well

Astro yogurt on a kitchen counter

Lactalis Canada Introduces Astro® PROTEIN & FIBRE Yogourt

The Cultured Coconut bottle on a kitchen counter

The Cultured Coconut – CDHF Certified Product

apples and a bottle of apple cider vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar for Digestion. What’s the Deal?