As adults age, healthy eating is a key contributor to a higher quality of life, helping you stay active and independent.
Eating healthy doesn’t mean strict diets and tasteless food. No matter your age, eating healthy should be about fresh, creative, tasty foods that are enjoyable to eat.
Tips for Picking Healthy Food
The USDA recently changed the food pyramid guideline to a simpler way to help people identify a healthy eating style. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlate
This simple graphic shows how the five food groups create a well-balanced meal.
To obtain all the nutrients you need, your plate should look like a rainbow, brightly colored foods are always a best choice and should include:
- Fruit – Focus on whole fruits rather than juices and aim for 3 to 4 servings each day.
- Veggies – Color is fundamental when choosing veggies. Rich, dark, leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, and broccoli as well as orange and yellow vegetables such as squash, yams and carrots. 3 to 4 cups or more a day is recommended.
- Protein – eating sufficient high-quality protein can improve mood, boost your resistance to stress, anxiety and depression, and can even help you think clearly. Divide protein intake equally among meals and a variety of protein source is important. Don’t rely solely on red meat, make sure to incorporate fish, beans, eggs, nuts, peas, milk and cheese. 3 servings per day – 6 ounces per serving.
- Whole grains – Choose smart carbs. Choose whole grains over processed white flour for more nutrients. If you aren’t sure what to choose, look for pasta, cereals, and breads that list “whole” in the ingredients. Try for 6-7 ounces of grains each day. (1 ounce is roughly around 1 slice of whole grain bread).
- Calcium – Older adults need 1,200 mg of calcium a day through servings of milk, yogurt, or cheese. Nondairy calcium enriched foods include tofu, broccoli, almonds and kale. Consume 2-3 servings daily. One serving would be equivalent to an 8oz cup of milk or 1 cup yogurt.
Feeding Your Body, Mind and Soul
When choosing to eat a healthy balance of fruits and vegetables, high quality protein, and whole grains, you will notice an improvement in the way you think and feel. Improving your diet can help:
- Brighten your well-being – Healthy well-balanced meals can increase your energy, help you feel and look better, resulting in a boost to your mood and self-esteem. When your body is feeling good you will feel happier on the inside and out.
- Keep you stronger for the long haul – Proper nutrition keeps muscles, bones and organs stronger throughout the aging process. Good nutrition boosts immunity which fights off illness, reduces risk for heart disease, type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, bone loss, anemia and cancer.
- Enhance your mind – Key nutrients are essential for the brain to function properly. Eating the proper variety of fruits, leafy vegetables, and fish and nuts packed with omega-3 fatty acids can improve focus and decrease risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Overcoming Obstacles to Healthy Eating
If you’re having trouble getting started on a healthy eating plan, these tips can help:
- DON’T eat alone – a social atmosphere stimulates your mind and helps make the meal more enjoyable. When you enjoy your meal time, you are more likely to eat better. If you live alone, eating with company can be challenging but with some strategic planning, the efforts can pay off. On a rotating basis, share lunch or dinners with children, grandchildren, friends and neighbors. Adult day care centers provide nutritious meals and companionship for older adults who are isolated or lonely or unable to prepare meals on their own.
- Loss of appetite – First check with your doctor to see if your loss of appetite is related to a medication you’re taking and discuss possible options in changes with the medication. Try natural flavor enhancers such as butter, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, onions, and spices to boost your appetite.
- “I don’t like healthy foods” – Commit to keeping an open mind. Just because food is healthy, it doesn’t mean it can’t be tasty. Try including a healthy veggie or fruit at every meal and you don’t have to change everything all at once. Add a side salad to your dinner, or substitute unhealthy fries with baked sweet potato fries. Have a smaller portion of desert and fill up on fresh fruit such as melon and pineapple slices. Focus on how you feel after eating well – this helps create new habits and tastes. The healthier the food you eat, the better you will feel afterwards.
Eating healthy is an ongoing commitment. It’s never too late to change your eating habits! Whatever your age, you can start making positive lifestyle changes today. Ensuring adequate nutrition will keep you feeling more vibrant, ultimately healthier; improving your quality of life.