Finding Nutritional Balance
“The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.” – Mark Twain
Twain had a way with words, and while we chuckle, we have to wonder if he would have thought this if he had the variety of foods available to us today. Variety makes meals interesting, and if they are made with quality ingredients, there is no need to think of them as having “to eat what you don’t want”.
“An adult’s body changes during old age in many ways, including a decline in hormone production, muscle mass and strength,” said Marie-Anne Nason, a registered dietitian who works closely with United Active Living’s executive chef, Kevin Stephenson and his team of chefs. “Also in the later years, the heart has to work harder because each pump is not as efficient as it used to be. Kidneys are not as effective in excreting metabolic products such as sodium, acid and potassium, which can alter water balance and increase the risk for over- or under-hydration. In addition, immune function decreases and there is lower efficiency in the absorption of vitamins and minerals.”
Older adults, she said, should continue to consume nutrient-dense foods and remain physically active. However, deficiencies are more common after 60, primarily due to reduced intake or malabsorption.
The latest research shows that meals for older adults should have extra servings of grains, vegetables and fruit, and lower sodium and fats.
Marie-Anne uses the Canada Food Guide to help her and Kevin’s team provide meals that are balanced for older residents. It was revised a few years ago to include recommendations for each age group. To support the Guide’s recommendations, fewer processed foods are used, and local, fresh ingredients take priority.
Calories vs. Nutrition
For all adults, the important consideration is nutritional value. Caloric intake is only one small part of the picture. It becomes important if there are issues with severe weight gain or weight loss, but as a general rule, the focus needs to be on nutrient density.
“Dietitians don’t talk about calories very much any longer, unless there is a concern with weight. Instead, we want to ensure the calories you do get come from quality sources,” said Marie-Anne. “Your body is much better off taking in 140 calories in vegetables and fruit rather than a can of pop.” The key is to ensure that the calories ingested are of high nutritional value.
Many older adults have lost weight as they age, others have gained weight. Both are often caused by poor food choices, and sometimes because appetites have changed.
“Balance is the key as we get older. Menu items should vary, and offer a lot of choice for residents,” said Marie-Anne.
In this respect, she is very pleased with the menu offered by United. The focus is on personalized service where residents can choose what to eat, when they want. Chef Kevin has developed a four-week rotational menu, which changes based on the availability of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
The emphasis is on fresh, variety and nutrition.
“I totally believe that residents are eating far better after moving to a community where a five-star chef and kitchen staff are preparing the meals to ensure variety and nutritional value. I see it often where older adults are healthier after the move, they are enthusiastic about life and their activity levels are higher.
“Food is such an important part of a resident’s day that it’s gratifying to see the positive outcomes from a well-designed, nutritious menu plan,” said Marie-Anne.
Serving Up a Nutritious Advantage
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