NUTRITIONALS LEARNING CENTER
EATING WELL AS YOU GET OLDER
Benefits of Eating Well
Eating well is vital for everyone at all ages. Whatever your age, your daily food choices can make an important difference in your health and in how you look and feel.
Eating Well Promotes Health
Eating a well-planned, balanced mix of foods every day has many health benefits. For instance, eating well may reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, some kinds of cancer, and anemia. If you already have one or more of these chronic diseases, eating well and being physically active may help you better manage them. Healthy eating may also help you reduce high blood pressure, lower high cholesterol, and manage diabetes.
Eating well gives you the nutrients needed to keep your muscles, bones, organs, and other parts of your body healthy throughout your life. These nutrients include vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fats, and water.
Eating Well Promotes Energy
Eating well helps keep up your energy level, too. By consuming enough calories -- a way to measure the energy you get from food --you give your body the fuel it needs throughout the day. The number of calories needed depends on how old you are, whether you're a man or woman, your height and weight, and how active you are.
Food Choices Can Affect Weight
Consuming the right number of calories for your level of physical activity helps you control your weight, too. Extra weight is a concern for older adults because it can increase the risk for diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease and can increase joint problems. Eating more calories than your body needs for your activity level will lead to extra pounds.
If you become less physically active as you age, you will probably need fewer calories to stay at the same weight. Choosing mostly nutrient-dense foods -- foods which have a lot of nutrients but relatively few calories -- can give you the nutrients you need while keeping down calorie intake.
Food Choices Affect Digestion
Your food choices also affect your digestion. For instance, not getting enough fiber or fluids may cause constipation. Eating more whole-grain foods with fiber, fruits and vegetables or drinking more water may help with constipation.
Make One Change at a Time
Eating well isn't just a "diet" or "program" that's here today and gone tomorrow. It is part of a healthy lifestyle that you can adopt now and stay wit in the years to come.
To eat healthier, you can begin by taking small steps, making one change at a time. For instance, you might:
- Take the salt shaker off your table. Decreasing your salt intake slowly will allow you to adjust.
- Switch to whole-grain bread, seafood, or more vegetables and fruits when you shop.
These changes may be easier than you think. They're possible even if you need help with shopping or cooking, or if you have a limited budget.1
Ten Eating Tips for People 65+
- Drink plenty of liquids. With age, you may lose some of your sense of thirst. Drink water often. Low fat or fat-free milk or 100% juice also helps you stay hydrated. Limit beverages that have lots of added sugars or salt.
- Make eating a social event. Meals are more enjoyable when you eat with others. Invite a friend to join you or take part in a potluck at least twice a week. A senior center or place of worship may offer meals that are shared with others.
- Plan healthy meals. Get advice on what to eat, how much to eat, and which foods to choose, all based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Find sensible, flexible ways to choose and prepare tasty meals so you can eat foods you need.
- Know how much to eat. Learn to recognize how much to eat so you can control portion size. When eating out, pack part of your meal to eat later. One restaurant dish might be enough for two meals or more.
- Vary your vegetables. Include a variety of different colored vegetables to brighten your plate. Most vegetables are a low-calorie source of nutrients. Vegetables are also a good source of fiber.
- Eat for your teeth and gums. Many people find that their teeth and gums change as they age. People with dental problems sometimes find it hard to chew fruits, vegetables, or meats. Don’t miss out on needed nutrients! Eating softer foods can help. Try cooked or canned foods like unsweetened fruit, low-sodium soups, or canned tuna.
- Use herbs and spices. Foods may seem to lose their flavor as you age. If favorite dishes taste different, it may not be the cook! Maybe your sense of smell, sense of taste, or both have changed. Medicines may also change how foods taste. Add flavor to your meals with herbs and spices.
- Keep food safe. Don’t take a chance with your health. A food-related illness can be life threatening for an older person. Throw out food that might not be safe. Avoid certain foods that are always risky for an older person, such as unpasteurized dairy foods. Other foods can be harmful to you when they are raw or undercooked, such as eggs, sprouts, fish, shellfish, meat, or poultry.
- Read the Nutrition Facts label. Make the right choices when buying food. Pay attention to important nutrients to know as well as calories, fats, sodium, and the rest of the Nutrition Facts label. Ask your doctor if there are ingredients and nutrients you might need to limit or to increase.
- Ask your doctor about vitamins or supplements. Food is the best way to get nutrients you need. Should you take vitamins or other pills or powders with herbs and minerals? These are called dietary supplements. Your doctor will know if you need them. More may not be better. Some can interfere with your medicines or affect your medical conditions.2
If added nutrition is needed, talk to your doctor about nutritional supplements such as Ensure. Nutritional supplements can help fill in the gap where certain vitamins and minerals are missing. Most nutritional supplements come in the form of a drink and multiple flavors. This helps with consumption and picky eaters. Other nutritional supplements can include fiber supplements and protein supplements as well as food thickners. Thick-It® has a wide variety of products available from drinks to puree foods.
Checking With Your Doctor
If you have a specific medical condition, be sure to check with your doctor or registered dietitian about foods you should include or avoid.
Source: 2 USDA Choose My Plate
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