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Fuel Your Body

It is important to eat regular meals from a variety of food groups, stay hydrated, and limit alcohol consumption.

Eating a variety of foods regularly ensures your body is getting the nutrients and energy it needs all day. Drinking water will also help keep the body healthy and active, while limiting alcohol consumption will keep you alert.

You might not feel like cooking meals as you get older. You may want to skip meals or have just tea and toast. Poor nutrition, not having proper meals, or not eating enough food may make you feel dizzy and light-headed and may cause you to lose concentration.

It’s also important to stay hydrated, as not drinking enough water may lead to dehydration and feeling confused and dizzy. Some people choose not to drink very much water as they think it will make them rush to the toilet. Not drinking enough water concentrates your urine, irritates your bladder and increases your urge to go to the toilet. Rushing to the toilet can increase your risk of having a fall.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines for eating when you’re older

The Australian Dietary Guidelines provide the following three guidelines for older adults to maintain health and wellbeing:

Dietary Guideline 1: To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, be physically active and choose amounts of nutritious food and drinks to meet your energy needs

Dietary Guideline 2: Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five groups every day and drink plenty of water (visit the Eat for Health website for more information about serve sizes).

Dietary Guideline 3: Limit intake of foods and drinks containing fat, added salt, added sugars, and alcohol

Tips for healthy eating and staying hydrated

  • Don’t skip meals, and always eat breakfast
  • Eat with other people. Eating meals with others keeps you well-nourished and mentally active
  • Cook with fresh, colourful ingredients, even frozen vegetables!
  • Aim for 3 colours of vegetables at every meal
  • Cook big batches of your favourite nutritious foods and freeze them; this makes for quick, easy meals later
  • Avoid adding extra salt to a meal; instead, use herbs and spices
  • Drink a full glass of water first thing in the morning
  • Have a water bottle with you throughout the day
  • Take a water bottle with you when you leave the house, work outside, or do any exercise
  • Always have a glass of water with meals and stay hydrated when drinking alcohol
  • Choose low or no alcohol alternatives; many of these have the same or similar taste but contain less or no alcohol.

What nutrients do you need in your diet?

Protein

Protein is essential for building and maintaining muscle and is very important as you get older. Studies have shown that you need to slightly increase your protein intake as you get older, and protein is essential when you are unwell or recovering from illness or injury.

Protein can be found in meat, such as beef, lamb, chicken, fish, and other animal products, such as milk, eggs, cheese, and yoghurt. Protein can also be found in vegetarian options such as soy, tofu, nuts, and legumes.

Calcium

Calcium is needed to develop and maintain your bone strength and prevent loss of bone density. It works with other minerals to make bones strong and healthy. Studies have shown that those who do not have enough calcium in their diet are at a higher risk of fracturing a bone if they fall.

Foods that contain calcium include milk products, leafy, green vegetables, soy, tofu, fish, in particular, canned fish like sardines and salmon, nuts, and seeds, especially almonds.

Sunlight and vitamin D

Vitamin D is important as it helps the body absorb calcium. Vitamin D is sourced from natural sunlight, fatty fish such as tuna, salmon and mackerel, fish liver oil, and some dairy products.

For Australians, the main source of vitamin D is from exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is produced when our skin is exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) light from the sun. You only need a small amount of sun exposure to get a dose of vitamin D for healthy bones, so it’s important to balance sun exposure while avoiding the risk of sun damage.

The Cancer Council Australia recommends using sun protection when the UV Index is 3 or above when you are outdoors for more than a few minutes.
You can check the UV index via the SunSmart app, myuv.com.au, or the Australian Bureau of Meterology website.

Vegetables

You should am for five-six serves of vegetables each day, including a variety of colours from vegetables such as onion, garlic, leek, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and green leafy varieties. These vegetables are most beneficial for muscle and bone. Visit the Eat for Health website for more information about serve sizes.

It is important to speak to your GP before beginning calcium and vitamin D supplements.

Alcohol and falls

Alcohol can impact your judgement and how you perceive things. It affects your mental alertness, balance, and coordination. As we age, our body can find it harder to tolerate and break down alcohol. We are more likely to feel the effects of alcohol sooner and from smaller amounts, increasing the risk of having a fall.

Alcohol also interacts with a range of medications. The effects of alcohol and medication can be higher when mixed, increasing your risk of having a fall.

You may be at risk of a fall if you:

  • Drink alcohol
  • Take more than one medication (see Check Your Medicines)
  • Drink alcohol while taking medication

Who can help you to fuel your body?

Doctors or GPs  

If you have any concerns about your diet, it is best to speak to your doctor or GP at your next appointment. If you don’t have a regular doctor or GP, use Health Direct to find one near you.

Dietitians

Dietitians can help by looking at your diet and suggest changes to improve your diet. A dietitian will ask questions about your health, what you want to achieve, and what you eat and drink. Visit Dietitians Australia to find a dietitian near you.

Other nutrition services

If you would like more information about nutrition, organisations such as Nutrition Australia WA, Foodbank WA, and LiveLighter can assist.

Other alcohol support services and information

If you would like more information about alcohol and medication, and reducing your alcohol use, organisations such as the National Health and Medical Research Council, Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Health Direct, and Alcohol Think Again can assist.

The Alcohol and Drug Support Service is a 24/7 phone line available for counselling and support. You can also search the Alcohol and Drug Foundation eDirectory to find a support service in your area.

Aboriginal Health Workers

Aboriginal Health Workers can help you to find services that suit your needs. They help to provide a link between Aboriginal communities and health care services. For more information visit the services below:

Keeping your mind active and managing the medication you take is also important for improving your health and preventing falls. Learn how you can Keep a Healthy Mind and Check Your Medicines to prevent falls.

Find Out More

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