Eating a variety of foods from all food groups can help supply the nutrients a person needs as they age. A healthy eating plan emphasizes fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy; includes lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts; and is low in saturated fats, trans fats, salt (sodium) and added sugars.
Eating right doesn’t have to be complicated. Start with these recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans:
Balancing physical activity and a healthful diet is the best recipe for health and fitness. Set a goal to be physically active at least 30 minutes every day — this even can be broken into three 10-minute sessions throughout the day.
For someone who is currently inactive, it’s a good idea to start with a few minutes of activity, such as walking, and gradually increase this time as they become stronger. And always check with a health-care provider before beginning a new physical activity program.
Eat well to age well
As we get older, the types and amounts of foods we like to eat can change. It is important to keep choosing healthy foods to support our health. However, as we get older our lifestyles and appetite can change and this can affect the types and amounts of foods we eat. A decreased appetite and/or reduced ability to buy and prepare healthy foods can negatively affect the intake of essential vitamins, minerals and fiber older adults require to thrive. Inadequate nutrient intake can contribute to general unwellness or exacerbate some chronic conditions.
It is important to use every meal and snack as an opportunity for optimal nutrition. Try to find ways to improve your diet to fit with your personal tastes, abilities, and lifestyle – even if this means asking for support from friends, family, or other community services. Ask your doctor, health centre, hospital, or local council for available support services in your community
Maintaining healthy eating habits
The following suggestions can also help you to maintain healthy eating habits as you get older:
Use less salt
Everyone requires a small amount of salt in their diet, but too much can increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Salt occurs naturally in many foods such as meat, eggs, milk and vegetables, but much of the salt in the Australian diet comes from the salt added to foods by manufacturers or when adding salt at the table. Older adults should restrict their intake of high salt foods such as cured meats (including ham, corned beef, bacon and luncheon meats), snack foods (such as potato chips and savory pastries) and sauces (such as soy sauce). Choose reduced salt varieties of foods when shopping, and flavor foods with herbs and spices instead of adding salt.
Drink more water
Water supports many vital functions in body, including hydration, digestion and blood volume. As you age, you may not feel thirsty as often, even when your body needs fluid. Aim to drink at least six times a day, and more in warmer weather or if you are exercising. mineral water, soda water and reduced fat milk all count towards your fluid intake during the day, but water is always best!
Limit your intake of foods containing saturated fats and trans fats
Pies, pastries, fried and battered foods, and ‘discretionary items’ such as chips and chocolate are generally high in saturated fat, and may also contain dangerous trans fats. They should only be eaten very occasionally. If you are in the habit of having desserts, aim to make it as nutritious as possible and avoid high sugar and saturated fat foods, or those containing trans fats. Try fresh fruits with yoghurt or custard for sweetness and flavor, and choose wholegrain and/or oat-based options for crumbles or cakes.
Be careful with alcohol
Alcohol does not provide any essential nutrients, but it is full of kilojoules. which can add up. American guidelines state that: healthy men and women should consume no more than ten standard drinks a week and no more than four standard drinks on any one occasion, to reduce the risk of harm from alcohol.1
Vitamins and minerals
Vitamins and mineral supplements may be recommended by a doctor or dietitian for diagnosed deficiencies. Nutrient deficiencies are not uncommon in older adults due to reduced appetite or digestion issues from illness or medication. For the healthy population, vitamin and mineral supplements cannot compensate for a poor diet and can also be expensive. Enjoy a variety of foods from the core foods groups to get as many nutrients from foods as possible or see an Accredited Practicer Dietitian or your GP to discuss your specific nutritional needs.