Healthy Eating: Restaurant Dining for Seniors

Eating healthy is important for seniors, so awareness and planning are necessary when dining in restaurants. 

When seniors pursue healthy eating, their lives are enriched.  As bodies age, nutritional needs change. With a few smart adjustments, proper meals at favourite restaurants can help fulfill these needs.

Why Nutrition Matters for Seniors

Healthy people lead less stressful lives and recuperate faster following surgery, injuries or illnesses. Inadequate nutrition ages the body and interferes with brain functions. Examples of the negative effects of poor nutrition include:

  • sluggish immune systems which increase occurrences of illnesses, flus and colds
  • sensory malfunctions which can cause macular degeneration among other problems
  • more intense symptoms from chronic diseases, especially diabetes, osteoporosis, cardiovascular problems and cancers

Furthermore, insufficient B vitamins affects memory while skipping meals can cause dizziness and weakness. When seniors fall, they often have injuries or broken bones which can have long-term effects.

Nutritional Requirements for Seniors to Eat Healthy

A quick rule of thumb for healthy eating is fewer calories and more nutrients. Ideally, a proper meal would include:

  • 300 to 500 calories per serving
  • less than 30% fat
  • less than 10% saturated fat
  • 30 to 45 g of carbohydrates

There are two related reasons why these numbers are specific to seniors: they get less exercise while their metabolism slows down.

Including five or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day is a great start to healthy eating. Senior citizens need 1200 mg of calcium which can be obtained from foods like yogurt, milk, cheese, kale, almonds, tofu and broccoli. Ideally, 6 to 7 ounces of grains helps the body function better. Doctors believe individuals should have half a gram of protein per pound of body weight. This is easy to calculate by dividing an individual’s weight in half.

A Changing Body Requires a Changing Diet

Aging, medications and smoking interfere with proper digestion and nutrient absorption. These issues make healthy eating necessary. Natural body changes include dehydration and vitamin B and vitamin D deficiencies.

As the body loses some of its ability to regulate water, individuals become dehydrated. As people age, their sense of thirst diminishes and seniors often don’t realize they need more liquids.  Vitamin B becomes more difficult to absorb; 2.4 mcg is the recommended dosage.  Finally, the skin does not absorb sunrays as easily, resulting in increased vitamin D requirements.

Restaurant Dining Can Provide Healthy Eating for Seniors

Eating out with friends is life extending. When good food and companionship are combined, stress is released.  Individuals relax and enjoy the occasion. Choosing meals is easy with the following process:

  • read the menu, and ask wait staff any questions
  • ask for senior portions
  • inquire about sodium content
  • select grilled, baked or broiled options whenever possible
  • order smaller portions or take home half the meal
  • avoid breadsticks and rolls
  • choose clear broth soups for fewer calories
  • substitute salads for potatoes or pasta

Many restaurants provide nutritional information for healthy eating.  Below are some examples of restaurants that provide healthy eating options.

  • Baton Rouge has a 16 ounce serving of barbecued pork back ribs containing 1480 mg of sodium and 122 g of fat. A 14 ounce serving of pork chops has 220 mg of sodium and 44 g of fat.
  • Earls offers prawn dynamite rolls at only 445 cal with 500 mg of fat.
  • Milestones Bar and Grill makes tomato basil brown rice spaghetti with 690 mg of sodium and 26 g of fat.
  • Boston Pizza, or BP as it is known in Edmonton, Alberta, has a Deluxe Pizza with 2690 mg of sodium or a Szechuan Pizza with only 210 mg salt and 2 g of fat.

Getting the right nutrients keeps bodies and minds active.  Healthy eating is easy to do with awareness and planning. Making wise choices when dining out doubles the pleasure. People feel great while they are eating and afterwards, as well.

For More Information

Here are some lists of Canadian restaurants that offer some healthy dining options:

And here are 85 Tips & Strategies for Dining Out for healthy eating.