Nutrition as We Age: What Changes
Quality over quantity. It’s a recurring theme as we strive to create an active adult lifestyle that maximizes health and happiness. Dietary concerns are no exception. As we age, our metabolisms slow and our bodies require fewer calories to function. But, even as our appetites decline, our need for more of certain nutrients increases. So, when we fill up the tank, we need to make sure we are choosing the fuel that gives us the best nutritional bang for the buck.
Here are some active adult nutritional tips recommended by the National Council on Aging (NCOA)
A Healthier Plate
Remember the old food pyramid? Well, forget about it. The revised USDA guidelines for balancing food groups on the plate calls for more generous portions of vegetables, fruits and grains and smaller servings of protein and a side of dairy. According to today’s experts, these are the building blocks of a healthy diet.
A Rainbow of Nutrition
If your plate is filled with a variety of colorful foods, you are more likely to be getting a better mix of the nutrients you need. The deeper the colors, the more loaded these foods are with vitamins and antioxidants. Blueberries, raspberries, dark cherries and dark leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and swiss chard are a few choices packed with the right stuff. The dairy portion of your plate is critical for the calcium and vitamin D that supports healthy bones.
When you are meal planning, think high fiber and low fat and sodium. Read labels to avoid items that have added sugars.
Make sure to include:
Lean protein (lean meats, seafood, eggs, beans)
Fruits and vegetables (orange, red, green, and purple)
Whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat pasta)
Low-fat dairy (milk and its alternatives)
As we age, we may lose some of our sense of thirst which can lead to unwitting dehydration. Be sure to drink small amounts of liquids consistently throughout the day. Drink tea, coffee or just plain water to stay sufficiently hydrated. Keep fluids with sugar or salt to a minimum unless directed otherwise by a physician.
Spice it Up
Though life at this stage can be full of zest, unfortunately, often food is not. It may be a result of diminished senses of smell and taste or a side effect of a medication. Whatever the reason food is not knocking your socks off, adding extra herbs and spices may be just what the chef ordered to keep your palate happy.
Creating social occasions around meals will make eating both nutritionally and emotionally satisfying. Pooling resources and sharing healthy entrée ideas will make meals a fun, informative time to look forward to.
Food-related illnesses can be fatal for older adults. If there is even the slightest fear that food may be spoiled, throw it out. Avoid unpasteurized dairy foods, as well as raw and undercooked eggs, fish, shellfish, meat, or poultry.
Maintaining a diet rich in vital nutrients such as potassium, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, minerals and dietary fiber will keep you energetic and help reduce the risk of chronic issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
**Feature image depicts actual Overture residents.