Healthy Eating for Older Adults Doesn’t Have to be Complicated
Our bodies change as we journey from 60 to 80 and beyond. These physical and health changes require that we choose what goes in our body with even more thought than in our younger days. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Eating a variety of foods from all food groups and limiting sodium and sugar will help supply the nutrients we need as we age. We’re not too old to learn some new tricks, so consider making a few of the changes below.
Mother was right when she said, “Eat your vegetables.”
Vegetables and fruits are a low-calorie source of necessary nutrients and fiber for good digestive health. Think color, like a rainbow, when making food choices.
- Think orange: Try vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes and fruits like oranges and easy-to-peel clementines that are loaded with Vitamin A (beta-carotene), Vitamin C, and potassium.
- Go green: Eat more dark green vegetables like leafy greens and broccoli that provide fiber, iron, calcium, and Vitamin K.
- Red is right: Beets, tomatoes, raspberries, and strawberries are high in antioxidants that fight infections and boost the immune system.
- Purple can’t be beat: Blackberries, grapes, grape juice, and purple cabbage are packed with antioxidants that may reduce inflammation and keep you young!
The USDA recommends that half of your plate be devoted to fruits and vegetables. They created the visual aid below of what healthy eating looks like.
Since firm vegetables and fruits can be a problem for people with teeth and gum issues, consider canned or cooked fruits and vegetables rather than raw if necessary.
Go beyond meat and potatoes.
If you’ve always been a meat-and-potatoes person, consider additional choices for protein. Add fish, poultry, and eggs on occasion to change it up.
Put down the salt shaker!
Picking up the salt shaker can become a habit. Make a new habit of tasting food before salting. Be careful with processed and pre-packaged foods that can have a high-sodium content.
Make the switch to whole grains when possible.
Try to get 3 ounces of whole grain cereal, bread, crackers, and pasta every day. Substitute brown rice for white rice. Whole grains add more fiber that is necessary for bowel health, lower cholesterol, and control of blood sugar levels.
Milk isn’t just for babies.
Aim for 3 servings of low-fat dairy products each day, including milk, yogurt, and cheeses. Look for Vitamin D fortified products for bone strength.
Sub out the fats.
Unless you are baking, make the switch from solid fats to oils and choose healthy oils like olive oil to lower bad cholesterol and maintain a healthy weight. Limit high-fat sauces, gravy, and fried foods.
Reduce the calories.
Older adults require fewer calories. Choose foods that are high in nutritional value instead of high in calories. Watch portion and serving sizes. One restaurant meal often contains more than one serving size. Share a meal or eat half and bring home the leftovers for another day! Tech savvy seniors can track daily food and water intake on apps such as MyFitnessPal and FatSecret.
Hydration is healthy. Some older adults lose the sense of being thirsty. Drink fluids throughout the day. Limit caffeine from tea, coffee, and sodas and chose water or low-sugar fruit juice instead.
Herbs and spices pack a punch!
Our sense of taste and smell may change with age and medications can affect the taste of food, so punch up the flavor with herbs and spices.
Share mealtime with others. It’s easy to skip meals or eat poorly when we’re alone. Joining others at mealtime makes the meal an enjoyable, social event.
Being more intentional about food choices will help you maintain a healthy weight to guard against complications from conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Wise food choices also help ensure you get the right nutrients needed for good health. Healthy eating can help you stay active and independent longer!