What Food Should a 97-year-old Eat?

“What should 97-year-old people eat to stay healthy?”

Who better to ask this question of than 97-year-old Sr. Advisor, R, whose broken hip recovery has been followed in my blog this year. While the following has worked for R, it may not work for everyone. Nevertheless, R. shared the following in a quick phone call.

First, she eats “very simply.” Breakfast consists of oat meal or cheerios, with fat-free milk, fresh fruit, and sometimes toast–raisin bread, whole wheat or milti-grain (“never white bread”). She has 2-3 helpings of fresh fruit daily–sometimes berries or banana with her cereal and/or orange juice with pulp. (Note: frozen fruits and vegetables are frozen at their peak of perfection and are said to have the same nutritional value as fresh–and even more than fresh, if the fresh have been sitting around for a while.)

Living in her own home and cooking for herself, she buys frozen dinners–“Eating Right” (a Safeway product), and “Healthy Choice,” (available at most grocery stores).  She especially likes the large variety of dinners “Eating Right” offers. Since the dinners can be expensive, she looks for the sales; sometimes it’s less expensive to buy 3 at a time, she says. She finds it comforting to know she has a supply in her freezer.

R makes a green salad nightly to accompany dinner and ends with dessert. “Eating Right” makes 100 calorie ice cream in new flavors–an alternative to yogurt with fruit. She especially likes Trader Joe’s Lite Greek Yogurt, to which she often adds a bit of Smucker’s “no artificial sweetener,” Sweet Orange reduced-sugar marmalade or some jam. She likes the fact that yogurt supplies additional calcium. 

We know R reads labels for calorie count. She also checks grams (g. and mg.) of fat, cholesterol, sugar, sodium and fiber. While she has no problems that necessitate reduced sugar or salt, she “never overdoes.” That said, she loves candy, “always has some in the house, but eats it in moderation– 1-2 pieces, depending on size”.

The frozen dinners, she says, may have too much sodium for people on sodium-restricted diets.  She has always watched her salt intake because she knows salt isn’t good for you, not because a doctor has said she should. So, for example, she prefers low-fat cheese because it’s less rich (also has less sodium and “you get used to the taste”) and lite mayonnaise.

She eats a lot of fish; avoids rich and fatty food. (The frozen dinners she selects are no problem in this regard.) Even if she initially loves the taste, she has learned to avoid food that “gives her discomfort” after a meal, and that’s the rich and fatty food…although she loves a good hamburger now and then.  But that’s the point, she says, “once or twice–now and then”–not as a regular diet.

R never drank coffee, likes hot tea in cold weather, and drinks a lot of water.  We know older people don’t get as thirsty as young people, but still need to drink a lot of water daily to remain healthy (and give medications the best chance to do their job). Check with doctor for daily recommended number of 8 oz. glasses.

We should know our parents’ dietary restrictions. Making it easy for aging parents to get the nutrition they need is another way to help parents age well.

Do we want to schedule a time to take them to the grocery store on a regular basis and help carry in the groceries? And when we do our own grocery shopping and see a food item they like on sale, is it helpful to buy it for them?  Of course, and let them reimburse you if they wish.  Affirms independence–and dignity. 
Bon Appetite.

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Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical information–to help parents age well.

 





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