A balanced, nutritious diet plays a huge role in our mental and physical health – and the older we get, the more eating well can make a difference. This is because as we age, our bodies undergo various changes that can impact our nutritional needs. For example, our metabolism slows down, and we may require fewer calories while still needing adequate amounts of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and protein. Achieving this balance can be a challenge!
Here are five tips on how seniors can eat a healthier diet for optimal health. Always be sure to speak with a medical professional before making changes to your diet.
1. Focus on Nutrient-Dense Foods
Swap heavily processed foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients for nourishing foods. While this habit is important at any age, as we get older, nutrition plays a bigger role in supporting optimal health and bodily function.
You can get the nutrients you need from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, beans, seeds, nuts and low- or no-fat dairy products. Plus, since many of these foods are lower in calories than processed snacks, you can better manage your weight while staying satiated.
Stock your home with fruits and vegetables that you actually enjoy eating to stay encouraged to eat them. Bananas, mandarin oranges and apples are good snacking fruits. If you prefer fresh vegetables, raw carrots, celery, tomatoes and broccoli with hummus to dip make a delicious snack.
2. Be Mindful of Changing Thirst and Hunger Cues
Our bodies are programmed to naturally remind us when we require hydration or snacks. But as we get older, these cues are not as noticeable, and may be absent all together. However, just because the cue isn’t there doesn’t mean that your body doesn’t need food or water. Because of this, you want to build strong habits that mitigate the risk of dehydration and malnutrition.
Eight glasses of water per day is a good rule of thumb to follow. Consider carrying a reusable water bottle with you to stay hydrated. If you don’t like water, add fruit to make it flavorful.
Keep a consistent snack and meal schedule to help regulate your biorhythms. If you don’t have an appetite, eating smaller, nutritious meals or drinking smoothies can give you the nutrients you need. Scheduling meals with friends and making them part of your routine enables you to stay both nourished and socially engaged. Speak with your healthcare provider to figure out how to improve your appetite and understand how much you should eat. Discuss any medications you take as certain ones can hinder your appetite.
3. Limit Sugars
Sugary foods are high-calorie and low in nutritional value. Because of this, and sugar’s inflammatory effects, these foods are a prime cause of weight gain and can increase your risk of certain chronic diseases.
The American Heart Association recommends that women stick to 24 grams or less of added sugar per day and men should consume 36 grams or lower. Cut out or limit sugary drinks like sodas, teas and juices. If you’re craving something sweet, opt for fruit instead of candy. Consume refined carbs, like white bread, pastries, pasta, cereal, white flour and white rice sparingly.
If you have diabetes or risk factors for it, speak with your healthcare provider about your recommended sugar intake and how to best manage your health.
4. Get Enough Calcium
Calcium helps support bone health, hormone regulation, muscle function and nerve transmission. Men ages 50-70 are recommended to eat 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. Women aged 51 and older and men over 70 are recommended to eat 1,200 mg per day.
Eating calcium-rich foods can help you increase your calcium intake, such as:
- Nonfat milk
- Calcium-fortified soy milk, orange juice or cereal
- Plain yogurt
- Whey Protein
- Dark green leafy vegetables, like broccoli, kale and spinach
5. Choose a Senior Living Community That Supports a Healthy Lifestyle
Forming healthy eating habits can be much easier if you live in a community that knows how important they are. As a premier senior living community in Downers Grove, Illinois, our team at Oak Trace provides delicious, nutritious, chef-prepared meals at our on-campus dining venues to help our residents live well.
Healthy meals aren’t the only thing we offer to enrich our residents. We also provide fitness classes, social events, tailored wellness programs and a robust list of services and amenities so that you can live the retirement lifestyle you deserve. Plus, should your care needs change, we offer a range of care types to support you long-term.
Contact us to explore your senior living options in Illinois at Oak Trace.