Healthy Food Choice Tips for Older Adults
As we age, our bodies naturally become less effective at doing what they do. Because of this, some people accept weight gain and illness that seems to come with age.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Consuming the right types and amounts of food can minimize your chances of disease or infection, stave off weight gain and keep your body functioning at its best.
Picking the right foods does take some work, though, as older bodies are not as forgiving to unhealthy food choices.
Here are some tips to think about when shopping for food and planning your meals.
What Should Be On Your Plate?
- Fruits & veggies
- Healthy grains
Protein can come from animal products like meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood; it can also come from plant-based sources such as nuts, seeds, beans, and peas. If eating beef to obtain your protein, opt for leaner cuts like sirloin or get lean ground beef. Drain any extra fat to keep it lean.
Fruits and veggies should dominate your plate relative to the other food group. There are several vegetable subgroups, all of which should be present on your plate: dark green, red, orange, starches, and beans/peas. As for fruits, always go for fresh, whole fruits when possible. Canned, frozen, or dried fruits are acceptable if you can’t get fresh fruit.
Lastly, get some dairy in your diet. Dairy provides calcium, protein, potassium, and vitamin D. Dairy sources include milk and yogurt. For yogurt, avoid sugary fruity flavors when possible. If you’re lactose intolerant, seek out lactose-reduced or lactose-free versions of either of these.
How Much Should I Eat?
The amount of food and calories needed varies from day to day, activity levels, and between stages of life. If you’re inactive, shoot for 1,600 calories per day. Moderately active seniors (walking 1.5 to 3 miles a day) should aim for 1,800 calories. Active seniors should strive for 2,000 calories per day.
Shop At the Edge of the Store
At the edge of every grocery store, lies the unprocessed, whole foods of each of the kinds mentioned above. Don’t venture into the center aisles where packaged, processed products reside.
Don’t Shop on an Empty Stomach
Shopping while hungry opens up the temptation to buy junk food. Not only will you make poorer food choices, but you’ll be spending more money on food than you need to. Only shop if you’ve had a good meal within an hour or so of shopping.
Read Nutrition Labels
Not all foods are exactly what they claim to be. Read the nutrition labels to gain more information about added fats/sugars/sodium, processing, and the nutritional value of the food itself. An educated consumer is a powerful consumer. Go for foods with more fiber, and reduce the consumption of processed foods and foods with too much sodium.
Water is perhaps your most essential nutrient. Don’t wait until you’re dehydrated to start drinking water – sip small amounts throughout the day to keep yourself hydrated. Coffee and tea can work, but they are diuretics, meaning they cause you to make trips to the bathroom more often. This can dehydrate you faster, so rely on water as your main hydration source. Also, keep salty/sugary drinks to a minimum.