Aging and limited food shopping options can impact nutrition

Aging and limited food shopping options can impact nutrition

Raymond, Miss. (WJTV) – Unique nutritional needs require older Americans to pay close attention to how they stock their pantry to ensure they are getting enough of the right foods.

“A healthy diet is essential throughout life, but in old age its importance changes some,” said Mississippi State University Extension Service health specialist David Buys. “Many older people don’t get enough calcium, fiber, potassium, and vitamins D and B12. It is therefore important to pay attention to these nutrients as they can impact our likelihood of getting osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

Often life stage changes, including decreased physical ability to eat, difficulty cooking and living on a fixed income, contribute to undernutrition.

“Sometimes as we get older, we start to lose our sense of smell or taste, and our ability to chew and swallow can fade,” Buys said. “There are a variety of factors that can affect what people eat and how they eat as they age, including living alone after the death of a loved one and medications that can alter the taste of food, dry out the mouth or reduce a person’s appetite. ”

When these challenges are combined with limited food shopping options, nutrition can take a hit. And it’s not just the loss of access to a wide variety of fresh foods that can cause nutritional problems.

“When a community loses its grocery store, we sometimes think it’s detrimental because of the loss of fresh fruits and vegetables, a meat aisle and a hearty dairy selection. But for seniors, the loss of deli meats with hot, prepared meals can also be a challenge,” Buys said.

According to “The State of Senior Hunger in America 2019,” the most recent report from Feeding America, 5.2 million seniors age 60 and older were food insecure in 2019. This number equates to approximately one in every 14.

A separate Feeding America report shows that food-insecure seniors consume fewer essential nutrients, including iron, calcium and protein, than food-secure seniors. Older people with food insecurity are also more likely to have health problems, such as asthma, diabetes, depression and congestive heart failure.

Qula Madkin, Registered Dietitian and Extension Certified Nutrition Educator, said access and cost are the two biggest issues facing food insecure people.

“There are ways to be creative with your shopping list to buy nutritious, inexpensive foods that will last and are stable,” Madkin said. “I encourage people to divide their shopping lists into categories, such as grains, dairy, protein, and fruits and vegetables, so they can be sure they’re getting foods that meet their nutritional needs when ‘they’re shopping.’

She recommends both extension publication 3430, “14-Day Shopping and Meal Plan” and Feeding America’s “Cheap and Healthy Shopping List” as useful references for making a grocery list. Both include tips for shopping and planning meals on a budget, and the Extension post has several recipes, as well as a list of non-meat protein sources.

In addition to calcium, fiber, potassium, and vitamins D and B12, Madkin also recommends older adults include more protein, potassium, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and iron in their diets.

While meat is a great source of protein, there are several non-meat protein sources that can help stretch budgets. These include cooked eggs, beans, tofu, cottage cheese, cornmeal, oatmeal, and whole-wheat pasta.

“Eggs can be used as a meat substitute in most dishes,” Madkin said. “For example, if a recipe calls for chicken, you can use hard-boiled eggs instead. Or you can use half-cooked half-chicken eggs. Cottage cheese works well in casseroles. If you want or need meat, canned chicken may be cheaper than fresh chicken.

Many vegetables are a good source of protein, including spinach, asparagus, artichokes, mushrooms, broccoli, lima beans, bean sprouts, green peas, sweet corn, Brussels sprouts, and others .

When shopping on a budget, focus on items that are affordable and can be stored in the available space.

“If you have a small freezer, focus on buying more canned goods,” Madkin said. “You can also save money by using grocery coupons and grocery apps.”

Buys encourages community members to take care of each other.

“Pay attention to those around you,” he said. “Ask yourself if there’s an elderly person in my own family, neighborhood, or church who could use a meal? You don’t have to make a whole spread. Just pack some of what you make for your own family and drop them in. Or better yet, invite them to join you.

“Think about the organizations you’re involved in, the kinds of opportunities you provide for seniors to come together and share a meal together,” Buys said. “Do you consider the elderly housebound when you have functions and deliver food to them?”

Supplementary feeding programs are available in some areas through the local Aging Agency. Meal delivery programs and group meal programs are sometimes available for free or at low cost.