A customized diet is a cornerstone of any healthcare management plan. Healthy diets, focused on the latest research findings for particular conditions, help aging adults achieve or maintain healthy weight goals, minimize symptoms, and may reduce or eliminate the need for prescription medications.
Customized Diet Plans for Medical Conditions
The right combination of nutrition therapy, exercise, and support with daily tasks often results in remarkable improvements in an adult’s physical and emotional wellbeing.
Some steps you should take before starting a new diet plan:
1. Get approval from a physician
You should always speak to your loved one’s physician/specialists before making changes in diet or supplementation.
2. Keep a food journal for at least 30 days
There is no magic diet that works for all bodies because individuals respond differently to certain foods and ingredients.
As you explore different diet plans for medical conditions, keep a food journal of everything your loved one ingests for at least 30 days. Also track moods, energy levels, tummy upset, headaches, etc. Odds are, you’ll find correlations between certain foods/ingredients and negative/positive side effects, so customize the diet accordingly.
3. Schedule extra checkups
If your loved one takes prescription medication or insulin, and this is their first time adhering to condition-specific diets, schedule more frequent checkups and bloodwork. Sometimes, clients find they can lower their prescription doses or eliminate certain medications because their bodies respond so well to nutrition and lifestyle therapy.
4. Incorporate daily exercise
Lifestyle changes affect the whole body. Nutrition is a foundation and routine and exercise catalyzes the diet’s effects. Daily exercise supports weight and health management, regulates blood sugar levels, and reduces inflammations. Also, daily physical activity benefits sleep habits, further improving overall health and wellbeing.
Nutrition Therapy for Common Medical Conditions
Here is a list of some of the most common medical diagnoses or health conditions affecting adults 65+, followed by customized diet suggestions.
Anti-inflammatory foods are good for everyone
Regardless of age or health status, focus on foods that fight inflammation while eliminating foods known to cause inflammation.
Inflammation exacerbates symptoms and side effects of any latent health condition. Minimizing inflammation goes a long way toward natural medical condition management reduces pain and discomfort from arthritis and supports healthy immune function.
As you read, you’ll notice all condition-specific diet plans, like the Mediterranean diet, prioritize inflammation-fighting foods and weed out foods known to spike inflammation.
Type 2 Diabetes
The goal of a type 2 diabetes diet is to decrease the intake of high-glycemic foods (food requiring insulin to digest them).
- Use the diabetes plate method. The diabetes plate method is designed for portion control and nutritional balance. Meal plates should be no larger than 9-inches across. Half of the plate is for non-starchy vegetables, one-fourth of the plate is for lean proteins, and the remaining one-fourth is for carbohydrates.
- Focus on complex carbohydrates. For the carbohydrate portion, focus on complex carbohydrates that optimize nutrient and fiber content while minimizing sugar. Examples include whole-grains and whole-grain products, starchy vegetables such as potatoes, winter squashes, peas and parsnips, and beans and legumes.
- Drink water. While 0-calorie flavored beverages may seem fine, many are made with artificial sweeteners, dyes, and preservatives that aren’t healthy. Keep flavored drinks as occasional treats and prioritize water for hydration. Make water more interesting by infusing it with slices of citrus fruit, cucumber, mint sprigs, etc.
Click here to access delicious and easy-to-make meals from the American Diabetes Association.
High Blood Pressure
If an aging spouse or family member has high blood pressure (HBP), consider adopting the DASH diet. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (high blood pressure), and the diet is based on research from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
- Minimizes sodium intake to between 1500 to 2300 mg per day, depending on the severity of the client’s blood pressure readings.
- Focuses on low-fat meat and dairy options
- Includes lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole-grains
- Limits refined sugar and high-glycemic sweetened foods and beverages
DASH diets can be customized to support weight loss if that is a simultaneous goal.
IBS or Crohn’s
IBS and Crohn’s diets are debated in the medical community because they don’t work for every case and can be restrictive, which may lead to malnutrition or unhealthy weight loss. Work carefully with a physician to determine which diet plan is right for your loved one.
Some of the most common include:
- Specific carbohydrate diet
- Mediterranean diet
- Low FODMAP diet (reduces fermentable sugars known to cause gut distress)
- Gluten-free diet
Aging adults with IBS should request a medical referral to a licensed nutritionist to dial in on the best diet to suppress IBS symptoms while optimizing nutrition and healthy weight management.
Many studies suggest that what we eat affects the aging brain’s ability to think and remember. Changes in the brain leading to dementia begin years before the first symptoms are noticed. For this reason, all adults 50+ benefit from making healthy dietary changes.
Once again, the Mediterranean diet trumps all as a nutrient-packed, antioxidant-rich, well-rounded, and delicious place to start.
The Mediterranean diet may limit or cut out some favorite treats or snacks, but ultimately those who adopt this diet are delighted with the wide range of options and the boost in seasoning-rich flavors.
If high blood pressure is a factor or if dementia/Alzheimer’s runs in the family, experts recommend the MIND diet (Mediterranean-Dash Intervention For Neurodegenerative Delay). This version combines the tenets of the Mediterranean diet with an adherence to the DASH diet.
Seek Support in Managing Diet Plans for Medical Conditions
If your elderly loved one lives alone or is unable to prepare healthy foods for themselves, it’s time to enlist help from professionals. The experienced team of North River Home Care caregivers shops for groceries and prepares meals and snacks that support specific health conditions and needs.
In addition to optimizing our clients’ health and wellbeing, meal preparation services ensure the foods in our clients’ refrigerators and pantries are fresh and well within expiration dates, eliminating the risk of food-related health issues. Click below for more on safe food handling and preparation practices.