According to the National Institute of Health, eating a well-planned and well-balanced mix of foods daily has numerous benefits for seniors. A healthy senior diet can potentially reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and bone loss. Not only that, but proper nutrition also helps reduce high blood pressure and can lower cholesterol. Another benefit is that it will build up your body’s ability to manage some of the chronic conditions or illnesses you may already have.
Eating a healthy diet also provides increased mental capacity and higher energy levels, helping you feel better overall and live longer and stronger. But you might already be used to a certain type of diet and find change difficult. With these tips, you can get started and head in the right direction.
All diet or exercise changes should first be discussed with your doctor.
How to Plan a Nutritious Diet for Healthy Aging
As we age, we may experience changes in our appetites or taste buds. Our metabolism begins to slow as does our activity levels, which means the body needs fewer calories. Some seniors may begin to skip meals, which can lead to a variety of problems that jeopardize their health. An improper diet will cause undesired weight loss and a weaker immune system, making aging adults more susceptible to illnesses like the flu and the common cold.
It’s important to know how you can stimulate your appetite for proper senior nutrition. Promote healthy eating habits by:
- Setting a proper eating schedule. Our bodies thrive on routine, and when we stray from our typical schedules the appetite can be affected.
- Don’t increase the portion size; increase the amount of nutrients you’re eating. For example, adding peanut butter to your toast instead of butter or adding cheese to your scrambled eggs.
- Use more herbs, sauces or marinades to enhance the flavor of your foods and address decreased taste sensitivity.
- Eat socially! Go to lunch or dinner with some friends. Socializing with others during a meal can help improve your food intake.
Conversely, there are principles to follow if you need to lose weight. Control your weight by:
- Focusing on fruit and vegetables as a basis for your daily diet, as this is where the majority of your nutrients are going to come from.
- Making sure you have plenty of protein. This protein can come from lean meats, legumes, beans, or even from some quality protein bars. Protein is essential for muscle mass, which decreases with age.
- Carefully considering your portion sizes. Oftentimes you’ll be greatly surprised at the difference between a healthy portion versus what you initially want to put on your plate!
- While diet is extremely important, you’ll get even better results if paired with exercise. Check out our articles on that subject!
Eating Right for Proper Senior Nutrition
Now is the time to implement those changes in your diet that will improve your overall health! In addition to the previously discussed foods, which are rich in vitamins and nutrients, include healthy carbs from grains and to provide a boost of energy.
Another way to promote proper nutrition includes eating healthy snacks. Instead of reaching for that bag of chips or package of cookies, snack on chopped veggies, trail mix, whole-grain crackers, or dried fruit. Prepare small containers or bags of snacks so they’re just as convenient to grab as that bag of chips.
Also, did you know you should eat your biggest meals earlier in the day? It’s true! This can be a difficult rule to follow, as many people tend to skip breakfast and eat a lighter lunch, and then enjoy a large, calorie-laden dinner. However, eating a big, healthy breakfast gives you the fuel you need for the day, while eating a smaller dinner makes sense considering your body will soon be “powering down” for nighttime.
Don’t forget to treat yourself! Save around a reasonable amount of calories per day to satisfy your sweet tooth with some antioxidant-rich dark chocolate or pretzels for your salt cravings. Just watch your portion sizes and keep the calories in check. Be sure to consider whether you have any ailments requiring you to monitor sweets, such as diabetes.
All potential diet changes should be discussed with your doctor, as they can customize a diet and fitness plan tailored to your needs.