Nutrition and hydration is an essential part of everyone's overall health. It is even more important in the elderly and those who are in poor health or face chronic health issues. In fact, millions across the UK are at risk of malnutrition and dehydration.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to help lessen the risk to your loved ones and those in your care.
1. Make sure those you care for are eating enough
It may seem obvious but we can’t stress it enough. Make sure those who you care for are eating enough.
Struggling to eat enough during the day can lead to malnourishment and unintentional weight loss
. It will also play a role in dehydration as you consume a lot of water through the food you eat.
One step that can be taken to increase calorie intake is to encourage those with a reduced appetite to eat little and often throughout the day.
Eat little and often
While those with a reduced appetite may not want to eat large meals, these people still require significant amounts of key nutrients including calories and protein. Three small meals a day supplemented with snacks between meals is a simple and effective way to increase dietary intake and even provide hydration.
The number of calories and nutrients required will vary depending on the individual’s requirements, however, as a general guideline, adults should incorporate 2-3 portions of protein and 2-3 portions of full-fat dairy per day. Each meal should also contain starchy foods (such as potatoes, rice or bread) and a serving of fruit or vegetables.
Snacks provide energy for your activities through the day and can provide valuable nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, protein and fibre. However, it is important to remember snacks can also be an extra source of fat, sugar and salt. Some healthy snack ideas include unsalted nuts, dried fruits and yoghurts.
How to promote good nutrition and hydration for those who struggle chewing
Those who have chewing or swallowing difficulties may find increasing the frequency of meals difficult. In this situation we recommend that you provide higher energy meals to make sure you receive the necessary calories and nutrients.
Eating with swallowing difficulties can also often be an uncomfortable experience that leads to a reduced appetite. Methods for making meals safer to eat, such as using water when blending foods, can significantly dilute the nutritional value of a meal. These factors lead to those with swallowing difficulties living with a higher risk of poor nutrition.
Eating higher energy meals when suffering from chewing and swallowing difficulties is a good way to make sure you receive the necessary calories and nutrients. Pre-prepared, energy dense meals are designed to serve a similar calorie and protein content as larger meals, but are offered in smaller portions that seem less daunting.
2. Make sure they’re getting the vitamins, minerals and fibre they need
It’s not just the energy that food provides that we need. We also get vitamins, minerals and fibre. These are all essential for good nutrition.
According to the British Nutrition Foundation, one third of our diet should be made up of fruit and vegetables. A portion of fruit or vegetables is 80 grams. This can be fresh, frozen, canned, juiced or dried, and still contribute to your 5-a-day.
Fruit and vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals, which contribute to a healthy and well-balanced diet, consequently minimising the risk of nutritional deficiencies.
It is important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables in order to maximise the nutritional benefits. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends eating a minimum of 400 grams (5 portions) of fruit and vegetables a day in order to reduce the risk of serious health problems.
Why getting the right amount of fibre is important
The high fibre content found in both fruit and vegetables can aid a healthy gut and digestive system by removing waste more efficiently. Dietary fibre can also help reduce blood cholesterol levels whilst increasing satiety, consequently allowing you to feel fuller for longer and support weight maintenance.
Apples, bananas and raspberries are great sources of fibre – make sure to eat the apple peels as this is where most of the fibre is! Increased fibre intake is associated with a lower risk of multiple ailments such as heart disease, bowel cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Staying hydrated with fruit and veg
Fruit and vegetables contain 80-98 per cent water, which, as a result, can contribute significantly to your hydration. Consuming dense vegetables such as cucumbers and tomatoes can be an easy way to stay hydrated and refreshed. They’re great additions to salads, or just as a snack. Tomatoes are also a nutritious source of Vitamin A, which can
- help the body’s immune system fight against illnesses and infection,
- improve vision,
- and help grow and repair skin
If you require a specialist diet, there are a variety of Texture Modified meals by apetito which include a range of vegetables such as peas, broccoli, spinach and carrots – all of which can contribute to your daily intake of vegetables.
3. Serve up a nutritious breakfast they’ll love
A great way to maintain good nutrition and hydration is to always have a nutritious breakfast.
Breakfast not only provides the energy to kickstart the day but also provides key nutrients the body needs such as fibre, vitamins and minerals such as calcium and iron. Breakfast should provide about 20-25% of your daily nutritional requirements.
There are many other health benefits of eating breakfast. The British Dietetic Association says those who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight and have reduced risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Establishing a regular eating pattern has also been shown to improve glycaemic control and curb hunger gains. A nutritionally balanced breakfast everyday will help enhance the overall nutritional quality of your daily food intake, by reducing the chance of snacking on less healthy foods without necessarily catching up on essential nutrients.
How to build a healthy breakfast
A healthy breakfast should be built from the main food groups; starchy foods, fruit and vegetables, and milk and dairy.
Starchy foods such as breads and cereals provide energy, B vitamins, fibre and some iron. Likewise, fruit and vegetables are a good source of vitamins and fibre.
Milk and dairy form an important element of breakfast too. Those who miss breakfast miss out on a vast amount of calcium intake as this meal is the main source of dairy. Calcium is essential to keep your bones strong and healthy, no matter your age. A serving of milk with breakfast can give you up to one third of your daily calcium needs and provide a way of keeping hydrated.
4. Keep them hydrated
Nutrition and hydration go hand-in-hand, but it’s not always easy to make sure those you are caring for get all the water they need.
Water plays an essential role in our bodies – through temperature regulation, nutrient transportation and absorption, and waste removal – it makes up on average 60 percent of our body weight.
The Eatwell Guide recommends 6-8 glasses of water per day, which isn’t always easy to attain. Water intake can also be increased through other sources such as drinking tea, juice, smoothies and milk. Likewise, our food intake can also contribute significantly to our water intake. Some foods such as fruits, vegetables, soups and stews are also great sources of water.
What happens when we don’t get enough water?
A 2012 research study published in The Journal of Nutrition found dehydration impacted cognitive function, mood and concentration when compared to hydrated individuals. So, it is important to continuously replenish water intake to avoid experiencing these negative effects.
The hypothalamus in the brain regulates our fluid intake. It acts as the thirst signal via a negative feedback loop in order to allow us to seek hydration. However, with age, this feedback loop can weaken. As a result, it is imperative to drink water regularly without solely relying on these signals. Our kidneys also play a role in water regulation. When the body detects a lack of water, the kidneys reduce the amount of water lost through urine. As a result, the urine becomes darker in colour, which can be an indicator of dehydration.
If you’re on a texture modified diet, you can maximise your hydration by consuming thickened beverages – this is not just limited to water, it can also include smoothies, juices, and tea – all of which can provide a great source of water for those with dysphagia.
Our service includes access to our in-house Nutritionists and Dietitian
We pride ourselves on supporting you and those in your care when it comes to nutrition and dietary needs. As part of meals service for your care home, hospital, nursery or school, our Nutritionists and Dietitian are always on hand to provide advice that keeps everyone healthy and enjoying their food.
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to discuss your needs, and discover how together we can make a real difference at mealtimes.
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