Tips for Eating Healthy as You Age

Most seniors know that healthy eating helps them stay active and reduces their risk of heart disease, diabetes, bone loss, and some forms of cancer. And if you already have certain health issues, nutritious foods can help you manage the symptoms. But did you know that making healthy food choices as you get older is more important than ever? Food provides the nutrients you need every day but getting the right amount of food with the ideal nutritional value can be challenging. Does this sound familiar?

Here are tips to help you get the nutrition you need to help you stay healthy and feel good in the years to come:

  • Enjoy your meals. Eating is one of life’s pleasures. Sometimes food may taste and smell different. Some foods are more difficult to chew or digest. Try making small changes with the way you prepare your food or share new recipes with others.
  • Learn how much and what to eat. Even as you age, maintaining proper nutrition and ideal weight is a balancing act between how active you are and how much you eat. For some people diseases such as diabetes may also determine what they should eat and how frequently. Talk to your doctor or registered dietitian about your specific nutrition needs for any medical conditions and how to maintain a healthy weight for someone your age and level of activity. As you get older, you may have to eat less food to maintain a healthy weight. Choose foods that have plenty of nutrients, like fruits and vegetables. Avoid foods and drinks that are low in nutritional value—such as candy, cookies, chips, soda, and alcohol. The Nutrition Facts panel on food labels contains information on protein, carbohydrates, fats, sodium, key vitamins and minerals, and calories per serving. It’s a good place to start. Trusted nutrition information also can be found on ChooseMyPlate.gov and the National Institute on Aging websites. Practice portion control, particularly when eating out. Save part of your meal to eat later.
  • Eat plenty of multicolored fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Most fruits and vegetables are low-calorie sources of nutrients. They also contain fiber, which may help lower cholesterol and blood sugar and prevent digestive problems. It’s better to get fiber from food than dietary supplements. Choose whole fruit over juice. Leave skins on your fruit and vegetables when possible. Choose whole grain breads and cereals like oatmeal and 100% whole wheat bread.
  • Choose healthier fats. Fat provides energy and helps your body use certain nutrients, but depending on the type of fat it may be associated with cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer. Choose plant sources of fats like canola and olive oils, and nuts and seeds for their key nutrients. Limit saturated fat found mostly in foods that come from animals and trans fats found in some margarines, snack foods and prepared desserts. Increase the amount of seafood you eat and choose lean cuts of meat. Remove extra fat before cooking and roast, bake, boil, stir-fry, and broil instead of frying. Use low-fat dairy products and salad dressings.
  • Replace salt with herbs and spices. This will add flavor to your food while reducing sodium which can increase blood pressure in some people. People tend to eat more sodium than they need. Sodium is added to most canned and processed foods, including cheese. Many people also add it during cooking or after to flavor their food. Herbs, spices and lemon juice are a healthier alternative.
  • Stay hydrated. Older adults are more prone to dehydration. Drink plenty of fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty. If you’re not getting enough water, your energy and many bodily functions will suffer. Water is the best option to stay hydrated, and choose fruits and vegetables with a high moisture content. Limit beverages that have added sugars, salt, or caffeine.

Renowned British writer Virginia Woolf once said, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well,” Meals give us nourishment and also the chance to spend time with others. Make healthy food choices every day and dine well.


Resources:
NIH Senior Health
2015 Dietary Guidelines
Optima Health Registered Dietitian Network—access on optimahealth.com
Staying Healthy programs

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