Eating well is an important factor in maintaining good health, wellbeing and independence as we age, particularly when you’re over 65. But currently, many older Australians are struggling to meet their changing nutritional needs and it’s putting them at risk.
Around 1.2 million older Australians in communities right across the country are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition – and it’s costing the Government around $9 billion a year to address.
For 70 years, Meals on Wheels™ has been working with its dedicated volunteers to not only provide a delicious meal, but a nutritious one, to every one of its customers.
How does Meals on Wheels™ support nutritional wellbeing?
Meals on Wheels™ is internationally recognised and proven to reduce the risk of falls and malnutrition. This enables older Australians to live independently in their own home, for longer.
Meals on Wheels™ services strive to prepare and deliver nourishing meals that meet the National Meal Guidelines. These Guidelines are specifically designed to meet the daily nutritional needs of those aged over 65, working to reduce the risk of malnutrition faced by more than a million older Australians.
Additionally, Meals on Wheels™ supports special diets, such as gluten-free and texture-modified for people with swallowing difficulties ensuring every older Australian is supported to have good nutritional wellbeing.
What are the key nutritional changes for those aged over 65 years?
As we age, our bodies need different nutrients compared to our younger adult years. Some of the common changes include:
- Increased need for protein – including protein-rich foods at each mealtime (e.g. beef, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, milk, legumes or nuts) will help maintain muscle mass and strength
- Increased need for calcium – including at least 4 serves of calcium-rich foods every day such as full-cream milk, cheese, yoghurt and other dairy alternatives will help maintain good bone health.
- Increased need for vitamin D – getting some sunlight and consuming oily fish, eggs, fortified margarine and milk will help our body absorb calcium to maintain bone health, immune function and muscle function.
Other important considerations include:
- Consuming a wide variety of foods from every food group to ensure we are getting all the nutrients we need and to minimise boredom
- Eating at least 3 main meals each day with nourishing snacks in-between such as cheese and biscuits, fruit, yoghurt, or fruit cake.
- Including high fibre foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, wholemeal bread and cereals will help prevent constipation and assist with blood glucose control and cholesterol levels.
- Drinking adequate amounts of fluids such as water, cordial, tea, coffee, milk and juices is important to reduce the risk of dehydration as our thirst sensation reduces as we age.
- Adding different flavours to our foods such as lemon juice, herbs and spices help to limit the need for salt and sugar and can add interest and enjoyment to the foods we eat.
To find out more about Meals on Wheels™ meals or the National Meal Guidelines we work to, click here or get in touch with your state or territory Meals on Wheels™ service by filling out this enquiry form.
Contributions by Sharon Lawrence, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Meals on Wheels NSW Board Member