Healthy Eating for Seniors

Eating healthy is important at any age, but as we get older, it becomes even more essential to nourish our bodies properly. According to the National Council on Aging, “Giving your body the right nutrients and maintaining a healthy weight can help you stay active and independent.”

6 ways to eat well infographic

A healthy diet is also important for those who suffer from chronic conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease.

But even those who are active and already eating a healthy diet may need to pay closer attention to what they eat as they age. The aging process causes metabolism to slow down, so we need fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight. Seniors also require more of certain nutrients to maintain health and vitality.

So what should you eat? How do you make sure you are getting the vitamins and minerals that support a healthy and active life? We’ve put together some great tips that make it simple to make smarter choices that support a healthy, active lifestyle long into your golden years.

Eat the Right Portions

Before we talk about what you should or shouldn’t eat, it’s important to get your portions right. Think of every meal in terms of a dinner plate. Adding foods to the plate in the right amounts helps you get the protein, fiber and nutrients you need, in the proper proportions.

Half of your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables, the more colorful the better. A rainbow of fruits and vegetables ensures you get all the proper nutrients such as potassium, vitamin C, vitamin D, B12 and more. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of these nutrients, since it’s much easier for your body to absorb them from the food you eat, rather than relying on supplements. Some great choices include avocados, peppers, carrots, spinach, romaine lettuce, and peas.

The other half of your plate should be split into quarters. The first quarter should contain protein and healthy fats such as lean meat, fish, eggs, dairy, beans or legumes. The other quarter should include whole grains that provide fiber and other key nutrients.

Remember, a portion of protein is about the size of a deck of playing cards. Stick to that portion size whenever possible.

Healthy Protein Portions:

protein portion poster

Avoid the Bad Stuff

Now that you know what should be on your plate, let’s talk about foods to avoid. Excess salt, saturated fat, white sugar and hydrogenated oils top our list. You can avoid many of these by cutting out processed foods such as cookies, cakes, and candy, highly processed frozen meals and fast food.

You may also want to eat more lean turkey, chicken or fish and cut back on beef, bacon and fatty pork products.

If you do buy processed foods from time to time, get good at reading food labels to see how much hidden sugar, salt or saturated fat is in the foods you consume most often.

Make Healthy Substitutions to Continue Enjoying the Foods You Love

Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean giving up every food you love. Having a piece of cake or a cup of ice cream every now and then isn’t likely to affect your diet that much. It’s more important to consume healthier meals on a daily basis.

You can often modify many of your favorite dishes to make them healthier, too.

Video: Adapting Comfort Foods for Health

Love fried chicken? Remove the skin that contains most of the fat, then season the chicken and bake it instead. Love beef tacos with sour cream? Replace the sour cream with low-fat yogurt and the ground beef with ground turkey for a dish that has all the flavors you love, without the guilt.

You can also cut salt in many of your favorite dishes by adding garlic and other healthier spices that add plenty of flavor.

Cooking with olive oil can also help you cut saturated fat. Try desserts and drinks with sugar substitutes like all natural Stevia to cut down on sugar.

The key is to get creative so you can still enjoy many foods you love, while maintaining your health and weight.

Drink Plenty of Water

Water regulates body temperature, lubricates joints, transports vital nutrients that provide energy, and even helps our brains function better; but as we age, our bodies actually hold less water than they used to. This is one of the reasons that seniors are much more susceptible to dehydration. Older adults may also not notice thirst as readily as they did when they were younger. Some medications also deplete water in the body.

To stay healthy and active, be sure you are drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day. Also, to avoid dehydration, limit caffeinated beverages whenever possible.

Eating healthy as we age doesn’t have to be difficult. Paying more attention to our portions, eating the right foods, substituting healthier choices for unhealthy ones, and drinking plenty of water can go a long way to keeping us strong, healthy and independent for years to come.

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