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Key Ingredients for a Healthy Diet When You're Over 50

Meghana Giridhar - April 07, 2014 12:56 PM

Do you subscribe to any of the following myths?

•    As you get older, it is natural to not feel hungry.
•    Slower metabolism just means that fewer nutrients are required.
•    It is okay to have irregular meals and once hungry, older people can take liberties with food choices.
•    It might just be easier to consume store bought, fuss-free dietary supplement pills since they contain all necessary vitamins and minerals.

If you are one who believes this, it’s time for an immediate reassessment of your diet plan! In this day and age, when nutritional advice is available freely, it has become even more important for seniors to be aware of what is right and what is safe.

It is true that age leads to a slowing down of systems. Seniors don’t require as many calories to achieve a healthy weight. Less fluids are produced to process food. This and the consumption of medications for health conditions can affect appetite. Emotional health also plays a role with seniors often neglecting meals due to loneliness or may eat more than required to fend off depression. All these factors only go to prove that with age the food consumed has to as nutrient-rich as possible. You are what you eat!

According to the National Institute of Aging:

A woman over 50 who is:
•    Not physically active needs about 1600 calories a day
•    Somewhat physically active needs about 1800 calories a day
•    Very active needs about 2000 calories a day

A man over 50 who is:
•    Not physically active needs about 2000 calories a day
•    Somewhat physically active needs about 2200-2400 calories a day
•    Very active needs about 2400-2800 calories a day

Creating a healthy, balanced meal plan is not daunting with the following guidelines but it’s important to talk to your doctor before making any drastic changes.

•    Fab Fat: Opt for healthy fats such as seeds, nuts, avocados, fatty fish, and vegetable oils.
•    Liquid Tactic: Water and non-caffeinated beverages are a key part of a good diet. Also, include foods with high water content like soups, cucumbers, grapes, and melons.
•    Whole Goal: Go for whole grain foods such as brown rice, whole grain cereals, and whole wheat bread instead of white bread and refined grains.
•    Fiber Force: High-fiber foods like raw fruits and vegetables and whole grains are essential for a senior’s diet.
•    Protein Power: Lean proteins like beans, eggs, chicken and fish, lean meats and nuts.
•    Critical Calcium: Low-fat dairy products and a calcium supplement, usually paired with vitamin D. milk, yogurt, or cheese. Non-dairy sources include tofu, broccoli, almonds, and kale.
•    Vote for Vitamin B12: Cereals fortified with vitamin B12 are ideal as part of breakfast meals.
•    Fruit Factor– Whole fruits rather than juices are always better for more fiber and vitamins.
•    Veggie Delight – Antioxidant-rich dark, leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, and broccoli as also orange and yellow vegetables, such as carrots, squash, and yams do wonders for the body.

Adapting meals to include these nutrient-rich foods will go a long way in boosting physical and mental fitness of seniors and keep health problems at bay.

However, a good diet is not only about eating certain foods. It also involves the manner of eating. Here are some simple strategies to eat well and create a perfect plate. According to a medical review by Cynthia Haines, MD:

•    Half of your meal should include vegetables and fruits.

•    Half the plate should include whole grains.

•    Eat slowly and deliberately.

•    Eat till satisfied but not overfull.

•    Compare Sodium in Foods and Reduce Quantities: Choose foods labeled as “low sodium” and use seasonings like garlic, herbs, and spices instead of salt.

•    Say No to Bad Carbs: White flour, refined sugar, and white rice are all part of the bad carb group, with no bran, fiber, and nutrients. Choose “good” or complex carbs such as whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables.

•    Sugar is Not Your Friend: Always check for sugar content in bread, canned soups and vegetables, pasta sauce, instant mashed potatoes, frozen dinners, fast food, and ketchup. Sugar is often included in the form of corn syrup, molasses, brown rice syrup, cane juice, fructose, sucrose, dextrose, or maltose. Avoid canned food and opt for low-carb or sugar-free versions of products such as tortillas, bread, pasta, and ice cream.

•    Cooking Right: Boiling food strips food of all its nutrients so cook smart by steaming or sautéing in olive oil.

•    Add Color to Your Plate: Color rich fruits and vegetables like blackberries, melons, yams, spinach, tomatos equate quality food.

•    Social Eating: Eating with family and friends makes meals more enjoyable rather than eating alone. Mental happiness means better meals and a richer diet.

Changing your diet the right way could change your life, for the better!

References:

http://www.helpguide.org/life/senior_nutrition.htm

http://www.everydayhealth.com/senior-health/understanding/diet-and-aging-gaining-a-nutritional-edge.aspx

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/taking-a-bite-out-of-senior-diet-myths.html

http://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/3-15-14-senior-nutrition-myths/

Meghana Giridhar serves as Content Coordinator and is part of eCareDiary's founding team.  In her role, she oversees and edits content across all of eCareDiary's media platforms.

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