Healthy Eating – Adults to Elderly


Throughout the month of June we are chatting to Tracy Sparrow about healthy family eating. We know that it can be quite complicated and daunting when you try to cater to every individuals eating needs in your family, but it is so important for us to create this culture. Many diseases and conditions can develop from unhealthy eating habits, so throughout this series we been sharing some practical advice on all the different stages in life and their eating needs. Today, for the last part in this series, we’ll be taking a look at adults and older South African’s needs with regards to nutrition. Follow these links if you’d like to see more about Toddler Eating and Children – Student Eating.

We all know that men and women are completely different, therefore it comes as no surprise that our eating needs are not the same. We need to be aware of this, so that in every stage of our lives we can eat what our bodies are craving for development and so that we can take care of our individual needs.

Women’s Health:

Some health problems are more likely to occur in women. Eating a wide variety of healthy foods each day can help you to stay healthy.

Special concerns for women include:

  • Iron deficiency (anaemia)
  • Osteoporosis

You may also have changing nutritional needs at different times in your life, particularly during:

  • Pregnancy 
  • Breastfeeding 
  • Menopause 

A healthy diet and regular physical activity can help to reduce your risk of health problems and disease.

Try to eat:

  • Lots of fruit, vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals
  • Reduced-fat dairy foods, lean meats and meat alternatives such as eggs, dried beans, lentils and nuts.
  • Moderate amounts of healthy fats such as olive and canola oils, nuts and avocado
  • And remember to drink plenty of water each day.

And include only small amounts of:

  • Foods high in saturated fat, sugar and salt.

Men’s Health

Men have a higher risk of some lifestyle-related diseases than women. Eating a wide variety of healthy foods each day can help to keep men healthy.

Special concerns for men:

Although studies show that men are less likely to worry about their health, they have a higher risk of certain lifestyle-related diseases. They are more likely to:

  • have high cholesterol
  • have high blood pressure
  • be overweight

A healthy diet following the South African FBDG’s and regular physical activity can go a long way to reducing the risk of health problems and disease. An accredited practising dietitian can provide expert nutrition and dietary advice on how men can stay healthy and reduce their risk of lifestyle-related disease.

Try to include:

  • lots of fruit, vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals
  • moderate amounts of low fat dairy food and lean meats
  • small amounts of foods high in saturated fat, sugar and salt
  • If you drink alcohol, drink sensibly (2 units per day)

Try also to drink plenty of water each day and stay active.

Older South African’s

As people grow older, it is important that their nutritional needs are met by the foods they eat. Good nutrition is a key factor in maintaining a healthy body weight and can also reduce or minimise the risk and burden of certain illnesses, but the ability to meet nutritional needs can become increasingly difficult as we age.

Some common factors that affect food intake in older people include:

  • Altered taste and smell
  • Poorly fitting dentures
  • Dry mouth
  • Chronic illness
  • Living and eating alone
  • Poor mobility which could impact on the ability to shop for, and cook food
  • Side effects of medications.

Some great ideas to help achieve a well-balanced diet in this stage of life include:

  • Aim to eat at least three meals each day
  • Eat a variety of foods as outlined by the South African FBDG
  • Drink adequate amounts of fluids
  • If you drink alcohol, limit your intake
  • Ensure you have enough calcium-containing foods in your diet (milk, cheese, yoghurt,
  • Choose foods low in salt.

Sharing meals with family and friends can help make eating more enjoyable. Eating smaller but more frequent meals during the day, rather than trying to eat three larger meals, may also help to increase food intake. If dentures are impacting on food intake, choose soft and easily-chewed foods such as minced meats with additional gravies, eggs, bread without crusts and pureed fruit and custards.

Some nutritional concerns that may benefit from professional advice include:

  • Dehydration – drink plenty of water and other fluids
  • Constipation
  • Weight Loss and/or poor food intake
  • Anaemia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Vitamin D deficiency – Try to spend some time outside each day as sunshine helps the body to make vitamin D, which has a role in keeping bones strong. A doctor may be able to recommend a vitamin D supplement if necessary.

Tracy Sparrow is a dietician in Nelson Mandela Bay with her own practice. If you’d like to make an appointment to find out more about Healthy Family Eating you can contact her on Tune in to Kingfisher FM every Friday between 11:00 and 11:30 for your latest health chats.