The senior population is one of the groups at highest risk of severe disease from COVID-19, so they are particularly advised to adopt measures of isolation and social distancing. However, isolation can be a risk factor for the worsening of their nutritional status, especially in the elderly who are at home due to some difficulties such as mobility, organization of their meals and hydration, vital to maintain their well-being.
Thus, it is essential to promote healthy eating in the elderly population. In this sense, the National Program for the Promotion of Healthy Eating (PNPAS) and the Directorate General of Health recommend the following guidelines:
– consume 2 servings of milk or dairy products daily (1 serving = 240ml of milk OR 1 liquid yogurt OR 1 and ½ solid yogurts OR 2 slices of flamengo type cheese);
– eat 2 to 3 servings of fruit a day (1 serving = 1 medium piece of fruit);
– add legumes (e.g. beans, chickpeas, peas, lentils…) to meals at least 3 times a week. Legumes can be added to soup and mashed to facilitate chewing and digestion, if necessary;
– consume vegetable soup at lunch and dinner. Soup is very important as it provides vitamins and minerals and is a good way to maintain hydration;
– vary meat, fish, and eggs at the two main meals to ensure adequate protein intake. Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna should be eaten twice a week. To facilitate their intake, if necessary, meat and fish can be minced or shredded and cleaned of bones, bones, skin, and visible fat.
– encourage the consumption of oleaginous fruits (e.g. almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and cashews), for those who have no chewing difficulties (1 portion of 30g, equivalent to a full coffee cup, 1 to 3 times a week).
Considering the decreased appetite that is common in this age group and the change in taste, more smaller meals should be promoted throughout the day (about 5 to 6 meals/day).
Hydration is also essential and is often compromised due to the decreased feeling of thirst in the elderly. Intake of 8 glasses of water per day is very important!
Reference: National Program for the Promotion of Healthy Eating and Directorate General of Health, March 2020.