Healthy eating as we age

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Eating well should be a goal at any age, but especially as we get older. When we age, we need to watch how the changes in our bodies interact with the items that we’re consuming.

A healthy diet is key to living a better life. It will help improve energy levels, allow you to better fight off illness, and give you the mental acuteness you need.

How does our body change?

There are multiple processes that take place in our bodies as we age.

These include:

  • Lowered senses: Our sensitivity to salt and bitter leave first, which may make you want to add more salt to items.
  • Digestion slows: Your digestive system slows down, meaning it is more difficult to process certain vitamins and minerals that are important for mental alertness.
  • Metabolism slows: Adopting a healthy diet and exercise routine will help avoid unnecessary weight gain

What should I be eating?

The key is the find foods that are healthy and delicious. It is one thing to try to eat lots of kale and spinach, but if you dislike the taste you will end up getting sick of the items quickly.

Here are some foods you should be including in your diet:

  • Fruit: (2-3 servings per day)
  • Vegetables: (2-3 cups per day) of dark, leafy greens (spinach, broccoli) and colorful veggies (carrots)
  • Grains: (5-10 ounces) Stay away from processed white flour and try more whole grains with nutrients and fiber
  • Oils: (5-8 teaspoons) Eat foods full of healthy oils like olives, avodacos, and nuts
  • Calcium: Limit your milk consumption to 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat types. 1 cup of yogurt, 1-1.5 oz of cheese, 1 cup of cottage cheese.
  • Protein: (5-7 oz) Eggs, tofu, nuts, peanut butter, fish, poultry

Snack smart

You can snack between meals if you feel yourself getting hungry. But be sure that they are healthy snacks low in calories, sodium, saturated and trans fat. These include items like Greek yogurt, nuts, seeds, and grilled chicken.

More fiber

As we age, our digestive systems become less efficient. That means we need to be eating much more fiber than we used to. Women over 50 should be eating at least 21 grams per day and men over 50 should eat at least 30 grams.

Here’s how you can get your fiber in:

  • Whole grains
  • Wheat cereal, barley, oatmeal
  • Beans and nuts
  • Vegetables like carrots, celery
  • Whole fruits (including the peel)

Skip the sugar & empty calories

We probably don’t need to be reminding you, but stick to drinking water. Sugary drinks like soda, sweet tea, and energy drinks may taste great but they are not doing your body any good.

Also stay away from “empty calories” which include many items in the middle aisles of the grocery store including cookies, alcohol, and chips.

Resources

Healthy Eating after 50
National Institute on Aging

Healthy Eating Tips for Seniors
National Council on Aging

Eating Well As You Get Older
NIH Senior Health

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