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Eat the Rainbow – 6 Tips from a Geriatric Nutrition Expert

Diana Berkland (and our Web expert Eric’s Mom!)spent most of her 44 year career in private practice as a Consultant Dietitian to small hospitals and long term care facilities. She also taught nutrition and home health aide classes for a community college, as well as speaking at various civic groups, helping with 4H nutrition projects, teaching cooking classes, etc. Diana has a degree in Dietetics from Iowa State University with continuing education throughout her career to stay up to date. Diana specialized in Geriatric Nutrition, and she has experience in nutrition for all ages. Diana shared her advice with us: 

Everyone wants to age gracefully.  When we are younger we are more concerned with outward appearance.  As we age it becomes more apparent that we need to take care of what is inside to prevent chronic diseases, stay active as long as possible, and as an added benefit, look healthier. Basic nutrition concepts are the same at any age, but over age 60 metabolism slows down, some nutrients are not as well absorbed, and thirst sensation decreases.

In a nutshell here are some good nutrition tips for seniors:

1. Eat a variety of foods – 

  • Lean protein helps maintain muscle mass. Sources include meat, poultry and fish, beans, eggs and nuts.
  • Fruits and vegetables are a good source of many essential vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. Eat the Rainbow. All the colors represent different nutrients.
  • Whole grains that are rich in B vitamins are essential for good brain and nerve function as well as providing many other benefits. They also are a good source of fiber.
  • Low-Fat dairy is a good source of protein and calcium for teeth and bones.

2. Limit salt and sugar – this reduces the risk of hypertension and diabetes.

3. Drink plenty of fluids – remember liquid calories do count. Choose, water, coffee, tea for zero calories or low-fat milk and 100% juice. Avoid high sugar drinks and drink alcohol in moderation.

4. Mind the serving sizes – it’s possible to eat all the foods you love if you just watch the portion sizes. Calorie needs decrease as we age, so watching portions is even more important. Fill half your plate with vegetables. No seconds. myplate.gov is a good source for information on portion sizes. Also, check labels on packaged foods for portions.

5. Nutrients and vitamins – if you feel that you can’t get all the nutrients you need from food it is OK to take a multivitamin and mineral supplement. Avoid taking supplements of individual vitamins and minerals unless recommended by your physician. They are needed in very small amounts and some may be toxic at higher levels.

6.  Exercise is important – I’m not talking running marathons, just some kind of daily exercise.

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