Nutrition Guide for Seniors
Healthy eating and exercise play a key role in aging gracefully. Fortunately, there are many tips and resources available to help navigate healthy eating while aging. Follow the tips below in order to take a healthy step into the New Year.
Seniors need fewer calories to keep the body running. Even though caloric needs typically decrease during this time, it is still important to make food choices that are nutrient dense and provide our bodies with a greater value. Food choices with adequate potassium, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and fiber are a few of the nutrients we need to focus on more as we age. Additionally, sense of smell and taste may begin to change which can greatly impact the ability or desire to make sensible food decisions. Try adding new spices to foods to help liven up your food. Another issue that may arise is a decline in dentition. It may become more difficult to chew some foods so it is important to make choices that are not only easy to chew but also provide the nutritional benefits that your body requires. Seniors tend to avoid meat since that may be hardest to chew. This is detrimental to our health as we may not be consuming adequate protein to fuel our bodies and maintain muscle mass. Suggestions for easier to chew protein sources include quinoa, eggs, yogurt, milk, soy, fish that can be easily flaked and protein shakes homemade or commercially prepared such as Ensure or Boost.
The USDA launched a tool in 2010 called “My Plate” when the Dietary Guidelines for Americans were changed. My Plate is designed to give a visual perspective of what your plate at meals should look like. Nutritional recommendations were originally conveyed to consumers by using the Food Guide Pyramid developed in 1992. My Plate has replaced that. A few of the My Plate recommendations include: make ½ your plate fruits and vegetables, make at least half your grains whole, go lean with protein and switch to fat-free or low-fat dairy. Additional information about this helpful tool can be found at ChooseMyPlate.gov.
Keeping active is also a very important component to healthy aging. Please check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Even though you may not have a gym membership or it is too cold to walk outside, there are still many alternatives to get your body moving. This can even be as easy as moving your arms and legs back and forth while sitting in your living room watching your favorite program! Many health clubs or park districts have indoor walking tracks available to their residents. Locally, Barrington Park District has an indoor walking track available to use for a minimal fee. You can reach them at 847.304.5279 or BarringtonParkDistrict.org for more information.
For additional local senior resources, contact the Barrington Area Council on Aging at 847.381.5030 or BACOA.org. This agency provides resources such as activities and programs for active seniors, information on housing or in-home care services, meals with wheels, educational programs related to aging and Medicare/Medicaid enrollment.
Remember to make changes one at a time rather than changing every “bad” habit that you have had for the last 50 years. This will certainly ensure the greatest success and adherence to your new lifestyle for years to come.