Multi-generational family sitting together to have a meal together

Besides staying active, a balanced diet with wholesome, healthy food is key to ageing well. Here are some tips that you can share with your grandparents — or even parents — so they can get their optimum nutrition to stay healthier for longer.

1. Pack Your Food with Nutrients

Bowls of quinoa with sauteed carrots, slices of cucumers, and fresh spinach

As our age rises, our metabolic rate slows down. This means grandparents need less energy from food. That said, their nutrient needs may be higher so you might want to encourage them to take enough protein, but cut back on food high in added sugar and salt. Use the handy Recipe for Healthy Ageing guide from the Health Promotion Board to prepare their food.

Tip: Encourage Ah Gong and Ah Ma to eat more dishes that are nutrient rich.

Related: Eat Well, Live Well

2. Include Meat, Fish or Tofu in Every Meal

Cantonese Steamed Fish

At your lunch date with Grandma, be sure to order a meat, fish or tofu dish as they’re rich in protein, which helps to build and repair the body. Including sufficient protein in the diet can help maintain physical function and reduce muscle loss. Other protein-rich foods are milk, beans and eggs.

Some dishes you could order (or cook):

Try this: Whip up some yummy dishes for Grandma and Grandpa with ideas from HPB’s new Recipe Book for Healthy Ageing.

Related: Meating You and the Others Quarter Way

3. Top Up on Calcium

Asian Senior Drinking Milk

Our bones can become brittle if we don’t eat enough calcium-rich foods. Stock your grandparents’ fridge and pantry with low-fat dairy products like milk, calcium-fortified soy milk, cheese and yoghurt, kailan, tau kwa and sardines the next time you visit. Remember, they need to have enough Vitamin D to help absorb the ingested calcium. So encourage them to spend at least 15 minutes outdoors every day but avoid the time between 10.30am and 3.30pm as it is the hottest period. Walking can also help to strengthen their bones.

Try this: Have a morning walk with Grandpa and Grandma at the beach or the park before treating them to a healthy breakfast.

Related: Calcium — For Greater Bone Strength

4. Wholegrains, Fruit and Vegetables

Bowl of uncooked wild rice

Another way to improve ah gong and ah ma’s diet is to include whole-grains, fruits and vegetables. Whole-grains, fruit and vegetables, which are rich in vitamins and minerals, help to strengthen the body’s immune system and have a protective effect against heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancers. Whole-grains, fruit and vegetables also contain both soluble and insoluble fibres. Soluble fibre helps lower blood cholesterol levels while insoluble fibre promotes healthy bowel functions.

Try this: Prepare/order a fresh fruit platter for Grandpa and Grandma as a healthy snack.

Related: Smart Ways to Fill Up on Fruit and Vegetables

5. Spice Up Their Lives

Spicing Up Dish with Herbs

Excessive salt intake can lead to high blood pressure, increasing the risk of stroke, heart and kidney disease. Encourage your grandparents to add a zing to their cooking by adding flavourful spices such as cinnamon, five-spice powder, pepper or fragrant herbs such as parsley and spring onions or even lemon juice.

Try this: If Grandma loves gardening, challenge her to grow some rosemary, basil, chives, or even curry leaves for more delicious and healthier home-cooked food.

Related: Add A Healthy Pop To Your Favourite Dishes

6. Choose Quality, Reduce Quantity and Frequency

Bowl of chinese fried rice, with the ingredients around it.

It can be hard for grandparents to change their dietary habits overnight. Like us, they’ll have their cravings for char kway teow or sweetened coffee and tea.

Introduce small changes to improve the quality of their diet. For example, getting Grandpa to switch to wholemeal bread, instead of white bread.

If the elderly person refuses to change the quality of his food (e.g. by reducing fat, salt or sugar), you can help by reducing the quantity and frequency of the less healthier dishes. For example, you could buy a smaller packet of rojak for Grandma or get them to eat less by sharing with the family at meal times. You may even use your beloved grandchildren charm to encourage them to try other (healthier) dishes.

If the elderly person isn’t overweight or does not have any major health issues, then “there is no need to restrict food choices, however, you will want meals to be healthy and balanced most of the time to ensure they continue a good quality of life” said Ms Li Xinyi, dietitian, BSc (Nutrition & Dietetics), Health Promotion Board. “Encourage them to stay physically and mentally active through exercise and a healthy diet.”

If your grandparents have existing medical conditions, consult their doctors on the most suitable diet for them.

For more information on eating healthy for seniors, check out HPB’s nutrition toolkit for seniors. Share this video with your grandparents too!

Read these next: