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Johns Hopkins Bayview News - Aging Brings Different Nutritional Needs

Summer 2013

Aging Brings Different Nutritional Needs

By: Karen Tong
Date: June 3, 2013

Lorraine Giangrandi, MS, RD, LDN, clinical dietitian specialist
Lorraine Giangrandi, MS, RD, LDN, clinical dietitian specialist

Like many things in life, nutritional needs change over time. Generally, older adults need fewer calories than young adults. And it is important that those calories are made up of nutrient-rich foods.

Clinical dietitian specialist Lorraine Giangrandi, MS, RD, LDN, says, “Older adults are not burning as many calories as they did earlier in their lives. They should adjust their caloric intake and try to make their diet full of nutrients, not empty calories. As you age, it is important to focus on the quality of your food choices.” In addition, older adults need to pay attention to their weight and report any changes to their health care provider.

Eating a variety of food helps ensure that you get essential vitamins, minerals and fiber. Giangrandi adds, “Consuming enough food to get these essentials is tough for some people.” It is sometimes necessary to supplement your diet with a multivitamin. Adults 51 years or older may have to supplement for calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12.

Other common challenges that people face as they get older are sensory changes, decreased appetite and chewing problems. For some people, food may not taste or smell as good as it used to, and food is often less appealing. Chewing hard or crunchy food can be difficult for others.

Giangrandi offers some general nutrition tips for older adults:

  • Strive for a healthy weight, and pay attention to weight changes.
  • Eat more fresh foods and less processed foods.
  • Limit your daily sodium intake to less than 2300 mg. Further reduce your daily intake to 1500 mg if you are 51 or older, are African American, or have hypertension, diabetes or kidney disease.
  • Limit saturated fat intake. Focus instead on healthy fats, such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Read food labels, and choose options with lower total fat, saturated fat and sodium levels.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables.
  • Stay away from foods with empty calories, such as candy, soda, chips and cookies. These foods contain a lot of calories but offer little nutrition.

For more information or to make an appointment with a dietitian, call 410-550-7728.

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