Moderate exercise and brain stimulation are important components of senior health & fitness, but the road to healthy aging starts with good nutrition. As we age our bodies require more nutrients and less calories. A good strategy to help seniors meet their changing dietary requirements is to meal plan.
Planning meals encourages healthy eating habits and is a good way to maintain a balanced diet while keeping costs down. A senior friendly diet plan should include a broad range of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats to insure proper nutrition. Dietary tips for Healthy Aging:
- Colorful Fruits and Vegetables contain the most nutritional value. The deeper the color a fruit or vegetable is, be it red, green, yellow, or blue, the more vitamins and antioxidants it contains.
- Low-Fat Dairy like milk, yogurt, and cheese are good sources of calcium and vitamin D which are necessary for maintaining bone health.
- Healthy Fats found in avocado, nuts, olive oil, and oily fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel support a healthy mind and immune system.
- Whole Grains like oats, brown rice, wheat & quinoa are a good source of vitamin B and packed with fiber.
- Lean proteins like fish, poultry, legumes, beans, nuts and dairy should be eaten daily to maintain muscle, tissue, and immune function. When choosing meat as a protein source be mindful that your portion size is no larger than a deck of cards.
- Drink More Liquids to compensate for the loss of thirst we experience as we age. As a result, seniors should drink small amounts of water, non-fat milk, tea or coffee throughout the day to stay hydrated.
Decrease sodium intake by using less salt. As we age our taste buds diminish, and the ability to taste sweet and salty are the first sensations to go. This can cause over-salting and excessive eating of sweets. These can lead to unhealthy habits that can raise blood pressure , increase the risk of developing diabetes, and contribute to heart disease. Season with flavorful herbs and spices such as rosemary, basil, sage, dill, and turmeric instead.
Seniors should read and understand food labels
Nutrition Fact labels are required by the FDA to provide detailed information about a food’s content. These labels provide information on the food’s nutritional value, serving size, and calories. Poor nutrition and obesity are factors that contribute to chronic diseases like heart disease.
Many older adults have limited cooking ability and rely heavily on packaged foods. Understanding nutrition labels can help seniors make healthier selections when buying these foods. The labels list the Daily Value (DV) per serving of specific nutrients based on how much should be consumed in one day. A serving with 5% or less of the daily value is low. A serving with 20% or more of the daily value is high. For Example, if you plan to buy a can of chili and the label lists 2.5 servings in the can with a DV sodium content of 20%, then that single can is going to be half of all the sodium you should eat in one day. A better choice would be to check various brands for a lower sodium selection or opt for pinto beans and chili powder and make your own.