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Senior Diet Plan Should Begin with Doctor's Visit

There are many important factors to consider when developing food plans for older adults.

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Diet plans for older adults can be tricky business. That's because experts say that caloric intake should decrease even though nutritional needs remain the same as we age. That's why any diet for older adults should begin with a doctor's visit.

Q.Q. My 80-year-old mother would like to lose weight. What are the best diets for seniors and do the ones popular on the market now fit into the needs of seniors?

It's important for anyone, regardless of age, to be at a healthy weight. But because many seniors are on medications and have some physical ailments to contend with, it's vital that your mother consult with her doctor before starting any diet plan. Her doctor might even put her in touch with a geriatrician or dietician who can customize a plan just for her.

There are many important factors to consider when developing food plans for older adults. What makes diets for seniors a little trickier is this: Most nutritional experts agree that as we age, caloric intake should decrease, but our nutritional needs remain the same.

What's more, gastrointestinal changes as we grow older can trigger problems such as constipation, which may lead to the need for a diet higher in fiber. Seniors also shouldn't minimize the importance of fluids, even though they may have a decreased level of thirst.

Here are some general tips, from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases ( A doctor's recommendations, however, should take priority:

  • Start every day with breakfast. Try oatmeal, a whole-grain cereal with nonfat or low-fat milk, whole-wheat toast with jam, or low-fat yogurt with fruit.
  • Whole-grain foods, such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal and brown rice, are a good source of dietary fiber.
  • Don't let sweets like cookies, candy or soda crowd out healthy food.
  • Baking, roasting, broiling, grilling or oven-frying chicken or fish, seasoned with herbs, spices, lemon, lime or vinegar, add flavor not fat.
  • Making salads and casseroles with low-fat or nonfat salad dressing or mayonnaise, flavored vinegar like balsamic, or a small amount of mustard also are good low-fat alternatives.

If your mom needs assistance shopping or preparing nutritious foods or would just like a companion for dinner to help her follow a diet, consider hiring a professional CAREGiverSM. Home Instead CAREGivers complete a comprehensive training program that features interesting recipes and food preparation techniques.

Last revised: February 7, 2011

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