Nutritional Drinks for Seniors May Provide the Protein They Need

January 14th, 2014

“Eat more protein.”

It’s something that seniors tend to hear from their doctors, but often it’s a challenge to make that happen. As we age, our metabolism slows down, and so does our appetite. And foods high in protein, such as meat, usually require cooking and chewing — two activities that may be difficult for seniors with health issues.

Nutritional drinks for seniors is one way to help them get the protein they need.

Everyone needs protein to maintain our immune system and muscles, says Heather Schwartz, a registered dietitian. A lack of protein “increases the risk of infections, and pressure sores, falls and broken bones.” It can cause problems with wound healing, create dental issues, make us more likely to bruise, cause fatigue, and decrease our appetite.

Schwartz and others say that some nutritional drinks for seniors can help them get the protein they need.

Michele Turcotte, a registered dietitian, recommends these brands:

  • Carnation Instant Breakfast: Comes in powdered form or as a ready-to-drink bottled beverage. It also comes in a sugar-free version. One bottle provides 150 calories, 13 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, and 16 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Boost Plus: Higher in calories than Carnation Instant Breakfast and therefore may be appropriate for a senior having trouble maintaining his/her weight. One bottle provides 360 calories, 14 grams of protein, 14 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, and 45 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Ensure: Offered in several varieties, such as “Bone Health,” which has more calcium, and “Muscle Health,” which is higher in protein. It provides 250 calories, 13 grams of protein, 8 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat and 32 grams of carbohydrates.

Keep in mind, however, that real, whole food is always the best source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Seniors also need a diet rich in vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium. Kathleen Goodwin, a registered dietitian, notes that food ingredients must be printed on the label in order from the greatest quantity to the least quantity, so be wary of nutritional drinks that list corn syrup or sugar as a first or second ingredient.

Her recommendations:

  • Have at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Have at least 6 servings of grain products daily, preferably from whole-grain and high-fiber sources.
  • Have at least 2 low-fat or non-fat servings of dairy products daily.
  • Have at least 2 servings of low-fat protein daily.

Making sure you are getting the recommended amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals each day is an important part of your overall health.