Good nutrition is important in order
that people live life to its fullest. Good nutrition is a balance of
proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water in the
foods we eat. A healthy diet helps to (1) provide energy; (2) build,
repair, and maintain body tissues and (s) regulate body processes.
When meals are eaten in the company
of others, people not only benefit from the nutritious foods, but
also enjoy the chance to socialize. This encourages good eating
habits and promotes good mental health.
Nutrients listed on food labels:
The table that follows summarizes
essential nutrients (which you may also finds listed on food labels)
and their functions.
Adapting Meals for People with
If an individual is on a special
diet (low salt, diabetic or low saturated fat), the Basic Four Food
Groups Guide (which follows) can still be used. However, because
diets are prescribed to control a specific medical condition,
certain foods may have to be eliminated, modified in the
preparation, or limited in their intake.
It is important that
caregivers obtain specific instructions from a registered dietitian
or their doctor on which foods are allowed, how much, and how they
should be prepared.
Since some foods or medications may
interact with other medications and/or foods in a harmful way, check
with the pharmacist as to restrictions in any medications' use
before it is applied.
Nutrients on Food Labels
and their Function
- Protein: For preservation and
repair of tissue; formation of antibodies to fight infection.
- Carbohydrates: For energy; fiber
to help prevent constipation.
- Fat: For energy; healthy body
- Vitamin A: For healthy eyes,
skin, hair; resistance to infection.
- Vitamin C: For healthy gums,
skin; healing of wounds, bones; resisting infection.
- Thiamin (B1): For digestion;
healthy nervous system.
- Riboflavin (B2): For healthy
eyes, skin, mouth; use of oxygen from air.
- Niacin: For healthy digestive
tract and nervous system.
- Calcium: For preservation and
repair of bones, teeth; muscle contractions; blood clotting.
- Iron: For building red blood
cells to carry oxygen to all parts of the body.
To simplify daily meal planning,
foods are grouped according to the nutrients they supply. Plan your
diet to include the recommended number of servings from each group.
The Four Basic Food Groups
Meat Group: Provides
protein, niacin, iron, and Thiamin-B1. 2 servings daily. Dry beans
and peas, soy extenders, and nuts combined with animal or grain
protein can be substituted for a serving of meat. 2 ounces of
cooked, lean meat, fish or poultry have the same amount of poultry
as: 2 eggs; 1 cup cooked dry beans, peas, or lentils; 4 tablespoons
peanut butter; 1/2 cup cottage cheese.
Grain Group: Provides
carbohydrates, Thiamin-B1, iron, and niacin. 4 servings daily. Whole
grain, fortified, or enriched grain products are recommended. 1
adult serving is: 1 slice bread; 1 cup ready-to-eat cereal; 1/2 cup
cooked cereal, pasta, cornmeal, rice or grits; 1 small muffin or
biscuit, 5 saltines, 2 graham crackers.
Milk Group: Provides
calcium, riboflavin-B2, and protein. 2 servings daily: Foods made
from milk contribute part of the nutrients supplied by a serving of
milk. 1 cup milk has the same amount of calcium as 1 cup yogurt, 1
and 1/2 slices (ounces) cheddar-type cheese, 1 and 3/4 cups ice
cream, 2 cups cottage cheese.
Provides vitamins A and C. 4 servings daily: Dark green leafy or
orange vegetable and fruit are recommended 3 or 4 times weekly for
vitamin A. Citrus fruit is recommended daily for vitamin C. 1 adult
serving is: 1 cup raw fruit or vegetable, 1/2 cup cooked fruit or
vegetable, 1 medium fruit, such as an apple or banana, 1/2 cup
Common Problems Interfering with
Illness, disability and depression
can affect an older person's desire and ability to eat properly. The
following suggestions deal with common problems that interfere with
When the care-receiver say the food
tastes strange, it might help to:
Cramps, Heartburn, Bloating:
- Check teeth for tooth decay or
- Avoid alcohol,
- Marinate meat, poultry and fish
in sweet fruit juices, Italian dressing, or sweet or sour
- Drink plenty of fluids or suck
on candies to get rid of bad tastes,
- Serve foods at room temperature
or cold (Try milk-shakes or cheese),
- Use stronger seasonings such as
basil, oregano, rosemary, tarragon, lemon juice or mint when
- Try new foods.
- Eat slowly,
- Eat small meals frequently,
- Avoid gas-forming foods, e.g.,
cabbage, onions, nuts, beer, cola drinks,
- Avoid lounging immediately after
eating; stand or sit upright for one hour after eating,
- Avoid fried, greasy and heavily
- Try bland, low-fat, easily
- Chilled antacid may help,
HOWEVER, check with your doctor regarding the brand of antacid
- Take high-fiber foods and plenty
- Add bran when cooking or baking
(1 - 2 tablespoons of bran for each cup of flour),
- Drink hot beverages which act as
- Eat small meals frequently,
- Drink clear liquids,
- Avoid high fiber and greasy
- Replace fluid loss with liquids
Dry or Sore Mouth
- Avoid unpleasant odors,
- Eat small meals frequently,
- Chew slowly and thoroughly,
- Sip cool, clear liquids between
- Rest after meals with head
- Avoid hot, spicy,
strong-smelling foods or fried, greasy foods,
- Try foods which are cold or at
room temperature, and low-fat food,
- Eat dry or salty food,
- Try fresh air and loose
General Tips for Helping the Older
Person to Eat Well
- Drink plenty of liquids,
- Suck on ice chips,
- Suck on popsicles made of milk
or non-acid juices,
- Dunk or soak foods in liquids,
- Use extra gravies, sauces, salad
- Rinse mouth frequently,
- Suck hard candies or chew gum,
- Eat sweet or tart foods if no
sores in mouth,
- Artificial saliva can be used.
In addition to books, recipes and
literature, the organizations listed below are valuable in providing
tips, ideas, counseling, and reminders that you are not alone. They
can help make the gradual transition to improved eating habits:
(Addresses listed were local San Diego. For same or counterparts in
your locality check your telephone directories or contact United
Way: American Heart Association; American Diabetes Association;
American Cancer Society; Arthritis Foundation; Dietetic Association;
United Ostomy Associates.)
- Plan meals and snacks to include
the person's favorite foods.
- Use a variety of foods from each
of the four food groups,
- Prepare foods that provide a
variety of texture, color, and temperature,
- Provide a pleasant setting,
i.e., flowers, place mats, matching dishes, good lighting.