Regular exercise helps increase muscle mass.
The standard body mass index (BMI) for adults is from 18.5 to 24.9, and those below this range are considered underweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Underweight problems relate to undernourishment, and underweight people tend to have compromised immune systems, weakness in the bones and hormone regulation disruption that affects how their bodies function. There are many reasons why people become underweight, and experts say that the factors can be either physiological or psychological.
Fewer Calories With Aging
As a person ages and becomes less active, the body's caloric need also decreases. It's common for the elderly to experience a lowering in appetite due to the drop in activity level and metabolism.
Consuming less food might also lead to weight loss and health complications, which means maintaining an optimal calorie intake remains important. According to the U.S. Department of Health, a person's estimated daily caloric needs depend on his or her activity level.
For men and women above 50 years of age, the requirements are:
Sedentary: Men - 2,000 to 2,200 calories/day; Women - 1,600 calories/day
Moderately active: Men - 2,200 to 2,400 calories/day; Women - 1,800 calories/day
Active: Men - 2,400 to 2,800 calories/day; Women - 2,000 to 2,200 calories/day
Revised Food Pyramid
An underweight elderly individual can get enough calories from eating foods rich in carbohydrates for energy, rich in fat for body mass and cellular function and heavy on the protein for muscle and bone health. However, nutrition experts at Tufts University came up with a new food pyramid diet recommendation specific to older adults.
In this recommendation, fiber-rich foods like deep-colored fruits and bright green vegetables take up most of an elderly person's daily plate. They also need a daily meal that has whole grain rice or cereals and whole wheat bread, as well as a healthy serving of proteins from fish, lean meat, tofu and yogurt.
The experts also suggested that the elderly could eat low-sugar and low-sodium canned food options if fresh varieties are not readily available. Canned varieties are easy to prepare and have a longer shelf life, so it's convenient for preparing meals when the elderly can't get out to buy fresh groceries.
It's best to consult a doctor first before changing a diet. A proper assessment of health might require more specific dietary requirements, especially if the doctor diagnoses a condition that needs to be prevented or controlled.