We all know that eating well and developing healthy nutrition habits are important at any age. Eating well can make a difference in both our physical and emotional well being. As we age eating a well balanced diet is even more important. Often time’s seniors don’t eat as well because of physical or financial restrictions. What many seniors don’t realize is that a well balanced diet can help manage such things as; high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and can also help reduce or prevent the risks of heart disease, stroke, cancer and osteoporosis.
Often time’s seniors are less physically active and therefore they need fewer calories in order to maintain a healthy weight. If that is the case the calories that they do consume must count and be higher in nutrients. Eliminate empty calories and focus on nutrient dense foods.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT!!!
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) suggest two eating plans which you can find The National Institute on Aging website (www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/HealthyEating.htm).
Below is a list of helpful nutrition tips. Print it off and post it on the fridge for reference.
1) Feed the mind, body and soul and look and feel your best
2) Make good nutrition a way of life
3) Think of your mouth as a gateway to the rest of your body. There are more enzymes in your mouth than in your stomach that break up food, for digestion. The slower you eat and longer you chew your food results in better digestion.
4) Planning ahead can help you choose healthy foods when you shop. It can also help you get the most for your money. Before you go shopping plan your meals and snacks out for a few days. Make a list of the foods you will need and stick to it.
5) Always eat colorful veggies for memory health, carrots, bell peppers, celery all contain luteolin, a flavonoid believed to reduce inflammation that can lead to cognitive decline.
6) Choose foods that contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. They are nutrient dense and contain less calories
7) Drink plenty of water or water-based fluids. You may notice that you feel less thirsty as you get older, but your body still needs water to stay healthy. Examples of water-based fluids are caffeine-free tea and coffee, soup, and low-fat or skim milk.
8) Many adults over the age of 50 have difficulty absorbing adequate amounts of this vitamin B12. Leafy greens and asparagus deliver folate, which works with B12 to help absorption.
9) Do not skip meals. Skipping meals may cause your metabolism to slow down or lead you to eat more high-calorie, high-fat foods at your next meal or snack.
10) We get most of vitamin D essential to absorbing calcium through sun exposure and a few foods (fatty fish, egg yolk, and fortified milk). With age, our skin is less efficient at synthesizing vitamin D, so consult your doctor about supplementing with fortified foods or a multivitamin.
11) Reduce sodium (salt) to help prevent water retention and high blood pressure. Look for the low sodium label and season meals with a few grains of course sea salt instead of cooking with salt.
12) Put five colors on your plate. Take a tip from Japanese food culture and try to include five colors on your plate. Fruits and veggies rich in color correspond to rich nutrients (think: blackberries, melons, yams, spinach, tomato, and zucchini).
13) Cook smart. The best way to prepare veggies is by steaming or sautéing in olive oil it preserves nutrients. Forget boiling it drains nutrients.
14) Enjoy good fats. Reap the rewards of olive oil, avocados, salmon, walnuts, flaxseed, and other monounsaturated fats. Research shows that the fat from these delicious sources protects your body against heart disease by controlling bad LDL cholesterol levels and raising good HDL cholesterol levels.
15) Look for hidden sugar. Added sugar can be hidden in foods such as bread, canned soups and vegetables, pasta sauce, instant mashed potatoes, frozen dinners, fast food, and ketchup. Check food labels for alternate terms for sugar such as corn syrup, molasses, brown rice syrup, cane juice, fructose, sucrose, dextrose, or maltose. Opt for fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned goods, and choose low-carb or sugar-free versions of products such as tortillas, bread, pasta, and ice cream.
16) Fiber up. Avoid constipation, lower the risk of chronic diseases, and feel fuller longer by increasing fiber intake. Your go-to fiber-foods are raw fruits and veggies, whole-grains, and beans.
17) Loneliness and depression affect your diet. For some, feeling down leads to not eating and in others it may trigger overeating. Be aware if emotional problems are affecting your diet, and take action by consulting your doctor or therapist.
18) Say "no" to eat alone”. Eating with company can be as important as vitamins. Think about it: a social atmosphere stimulates your mind and helps you enjoy meals. When you enjoy mealtimes, you’re more likely to eat better.
19) Instead of eating 3 big meals a day try 6 small meals. The smaller meals help to aid with digestion.
20) Rekindle inspiration by perusing produce at a farmers market, reading a cooking magazine, buying a new-to-you spice, or chatting with friends about what they eat. By making variety a priority, you’ll soon look forward to getting creative with healthy meals.
21) Have low-fat milk or milk products daily. These products provide calcium and vitamin D which helps to build strong bones. If you don't drink milk, be sure to have other products that contain the nutrients that milk provides such as, fortified cereals, juices, salmon, and sardines.
22) Read food labels. Ingredients are listed in order by weight, which means that the ingredient present in the largest quantity is listed first.
There are a lot of things a senior can do to help maintain a healthy diet, many of which can be found at Nutrition.gov (http://tinyurl.com/yc4uv3g) “Elderly Nutrition Program”. There are also Meals on Wheels programs that you can find out about by contacting your local Council on Aging, in Massachusetts (http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=eldershomepage&L=1&L0=Home&sid=Eelders). Remember eating well is not a diet it is a lifestyle choice.