Nutrition and Diet Tips for Healthy Eating as You Age

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There’s no denying that our bodies change as we age.  For this reason, seniors have very different nutritional needs than teenagers, children, or even middle-aged adults. Age-related changes may affect how your body processes food, which in turn influence your dietary needs and appetite. Here are some changes that you can expect to see as we age:

  • Your metabolism slows down – This will happen gradually over time, but getting less exercise than you should may fast-track this process. This means your body isn’t burning as many calories. To maintain a healthy weight, you need to eat less calories. Eating foods that are rich in nutrients help you feel full and maintain your energy throughout the day.
  • Your digestive system changes – Sometimes bodies produce less of the fluids that help us digest our foods properly as we age. This makes it harder for your body to absorb important nutrients.
  • Your appetite may change – Taking one or more medications for health conditions may cause side effects such as loss of appetite or upset stomach.
  • Your emotional health may be affected – Emotional issues can affect our attitude towards food. For example, those who are depressed or lonely may experience a loss of appetite. On the other hand, some issues may cause you to eat more leading to unwanted weight gain.

Create a Healthy Eating Plan

A healthy diet is packed full of vital nutrients, which helps ward off potential health problems and unwanted side affects as seniors age. Common problems include constipation, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Eating a range of nutritious foods will not only help you maintain a healthy weight, but it will do wonders for your energy level. The following foods and activities are healthy according to The National Institute on Aging:

  • Bright-colored vegetables such as carrots and broccoli.
  • Deep-colored fruit such as berries and peaches.
  • Whole, enriched and fortified grains and cereals such as brown rice and 100% whole wheat bread.
  • Low- and non-fat dairy products such as yogurt and low-lactose milk.
  • Dry beans and nuts, fish, poultry, lean meat and eggs.
  • Liquid vegetable oils, soft spreads low in saturated and trans fat, and spices to replace salt.
  • Fluids such as water and fat-free milk.
  • Physical activity such as walking, resistance training and light cleaning

If you’ve never followed a nutrition-based eating plan in the past, don’t worry! Eating healthy isn’t difficult. In fact, you may already be eating healthful foods. Planning the correct amounts of various foods is the key to building a healthy, balanced diet. The National Institute on Aging suggests two options for seniors:

1.  The MyPlate Plan – This plan focuses on maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet by simply comparing this guide to each plate of food you consume.

  • Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Make at least half of your grains whole grains.
  • Enjoy your food, but eat smaller portions.
  • Ditch soups, breads and frozen meals that are high in sodium for lower sodium alternatives.

2.  The DASH Plan – This plan is an option for those who prefer to measure their key food groups. While this plan is healthy for anyone, it’s designed to reduce blood pressure and promote heart healthy foods.

  • Eat 7-8 ounces of grains daily.
  • Eat 6 ounces or less of chicken, meat or fish daily.
  • In addition, eat 4 to 5 servings of nuts, seeds, and/or dried beans per week.
  • Drink 2-3 cups of milk or a milk substitute daily.
  • Eat 2-2.5 cups of vegetables daily.
  • Eat 2-2.5 cups of fruit daily.
  • Consume 2 teaspoons of healthy oils daily.

Now that you have the necessary tools, it’s time to commit to eating healthy as you age. If starting gradually works best for you, exchange junk foods for healthier options is a great first step. Just be sure to continue making small changes everyday to bring you closer to your goal and improve your overall health and life as you age.

 

 

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