Anujit Mitter finds out how the elderly can avoid dehydration, stay cool and yet not compromise on the nutritional value in food in summer.
An adequate and well-balanced diet combined with regular physical activity is a cornerstone of good health in any season of the year. But keeping a check on that at the height of summer, especially for elderly people, becomes a challenge. Seniors must eat small quantities of food at more frequent intervals and drink water at frequent intervals to avoid dehydration and constipation in summer.
The diet for elderly people needs to be well-cooked, soft and should be less salty and spicy. Though a doctor must be consulted for an individualised diet depending upon the medical condition of the elderly, what can be the ideal diet for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Dr Avik Basu, general practitioner and intensivist, says: “In summer, most people complain about indigestion. Hence, I advise a not-so heavy meal. Moderate amount of carbohydrate (rice or chapati), along with vegetarian proteins (daal, soya bean) and some vegetarian curry or a non-veg dish (fish or poultry) and concluding with sour curd (or raita) will be the best menu. Lunch should always be full while breakfast and dinner should be light.”
On fruit intake, the doctor says: “Fluid intake should be liberal with fruit juice and green coconut water being an added attraction in summer. People are prone to suffer from dehydration and heat stroke, so it’s imperative to keep oneself sufficiently hydrated. One can take glucose drinks (Glucon D) or ORS solutions to maintain the salt balance in the body. Ice cream and dahi are a delicacy. But ice cream may lead to sore throat.”
On the recent trend of people buying vegetables from supermarkets, the doctor opined: “Fresh products from the local markets are undoubtedly the best. Stored products from supermarkets are not always healthy. But this is quite a controversial topic.”
“Some people enjoy buying their edibles from departmental stores as in the west. But the quality of food kept fresh in the open markets is much superior to that stored inside an air-conditioned room.”
However, Dr Basu added a note of caution about cut fruits from the roadside. “Keeping fruits cut for a long time leads to certain chemical alterations that may prove toxic for those eating them. Raw fruits, if fresh, are always a superior option. Fruit juices are equally beneficial. Sugarcane juice sold by the roadside doesn’t seem to be a hygienic preparation.”
On which food items should senior citizens steer clear of in summer, Dr Basu says: “Consumption of high protein diet should be restricted for the elderly people since their renal function is already on the decline. A non-vegetarian dish for lunch and a vegetarian menu for dinner will be best suited for them.”
On suggestions for mid-meal snacks, the doctor says: “No fixed quantity as such. A medium-sized bowl of flattened or puffed rice, biscuits, fruits or sweets. Even a bowl of raita may seem good. Over-eating should be avoided.”