Nutrition By Age
Mar 8, 2021
This information was given out on a Facebook Live Webinar on March 4. Check out our Facebook to see it Live!
Our nutritional needs change as we age. Our body goes through different processes with different priorities and speeds up and slows down, requiring different nutrition to fuel our day to day life. Our life itself changes too: our levels of activity wax and wane throughout adolescence, adulthood, and into our senior years.
The material presented here assumes you are familiar with basic nutrition, and know what the 3 macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) are, and what they do in our bodies. If not, head over to our Nutrition Basics blog!
A couple disclaimers, before we start:
The meaning of “senior” has changed quite a bit in the last generation. “Seniors” used to refer to 55+, now it usually means 65+ or even 75+. “Assisted Living” Facilities have been replaced by “Active Aging Adult” Communities, showing that we are staying more physically and mentally active later into our lives than ever before.
Due to the above, categorize yourself or loved ones not by your birthdate, but by your activity level and health. Some people, while younger, are more sedentary, and fit into the “senior” qualifications. Some septuagenarians are active and fit, and may not identify with being a “senior” at all. Also, keep in mind, it’s a sliding scale. Your health doesn’t automatically change on your 65th birthday. Keep your health, activity level, and other factors in mind.
This blog will not go into detail about certain diseases, pregnancy, breastfeeding, or infant nutrition. It’s best to talk to your doctor if you or your loved ones fit in one of these categories.
So let’s get started!
First group we’ll go over are children, teens, and adolescents. Childhood obesity is at its highest. While this is a multifaceted issue encompassing socioeconomic and cultural aspects, it’s important for children to get good nutrition and to limit sugars and fats. Overweight children tend to be overweight adults, and will have trouble maintaining healthy weight in the future. It’s important for families and caretakers to set good routines when it comes to eating. These routines, such as eating vegetables or limiting sodium, will carry into adulthood and make it easier for the child to stay healthy as they age.
It’s also important to set a precedent for an active life. Active children are more likely to mean active adults. This can mean a sports team or an activity with family. What’s important is that the child views exercise as a fun part of life, not a chore or a punishment.
Children are growing quickly, especially as they reach their adolescent growth spurt, which can come in 1-2 spurts throughout ages 12-16. Extra healthy, nutrient rich calories, especially in the form of protein, are very important for growth in this stage, especially in active children.
As we enter adulthood, our caloric needs decrease for two reasons. First, we are no longer growing at the rate we were in our teens. Second, most adults are not as active. Instead of doing PE or sports, young adults sit behind desks as they begin their college and/or professional lives. Therefore, our body requires less calories.
While we are just entering the beginning of our adult lives, our body is starting to slow. We lose 3-8% of our muscle mass each decade after age 30, causing weakness and fractures. This is why it’s so important to consume enough protein! Additionally, your 20s are the last years you build new bones. Calcium and iron are crucial throughout adulthood.
As we talk about seniors, remember that some of this may apply to you or the seniors you know, and some may not. But typically, as we age, we tend to move less. Less activity means less food intake is required. It’s important to make sure that the food we eat is nutrient rich, not calorie rich. This means more fruits, vegetables, and lean meats, and less refined sugar and processed foods.
Another reason to stay away from processed foods (for everyone, but most important for seniors) is their high sodium intake, which can increase blood pressure, cause dehydration, and have other negative side effects. Since some seniors have less of an ability to tell thirst and/or reduced kidney function, avoiding dehydration is very important.
As we age, our stomach absorbs less nutrients, making it important to eat a well rounded diet and potentially supplement with additional vitamins or pills. When suggesting vitamins, it’s important to be mindful of prescription medications and any negative contraindications. Always check with your physician before making any changes to your supplements and vitamins. If approved, consider taking additional calcium (supports strong bones), Vitamin D (strengthens skin, improves bone strength), B12 (aids in brain/nervous system function and support of red blood cells), magnesium, and iron.
We hope this information was helpful to you! Always check with your physician for specific information. If you are looking for help with your nutrition and eating plan, please reach out and ask for your free consultation for our Balanced Habits Nutrition program. We’d love to work with you and help you make small changes to your diet that could have big effects!