It’s no secret that choosing to eat healthy can—along with just generally making you feel better— help to prolong your life. Many seniors suffer from malnutrition, due to many different factors, from health to income. To make sure you age well and stay active, independent, and happy, here are five easy ways you can make sure you eat healthy.
1. Know What Nutrients You Need
Seniors may need less calories than younger adults, but in many cases, seniors need more of specific nutrients. As we age, we don’t absorb certain vitamins as well as we used to. As a result, seniors often take in lower amounts of necessary nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. To make sure you get all of the proper vitamins and nutrients that you need daily, familiarize yourself with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new version of the Food Pyramid called MyPlate. When possible, choose foods that are high in fiber and low in sodium as well, and talk to your doctor about whether or not a taking a daily supplement is right for you.
2. Read the Labels
The best thing you can do for your body is buy fresh meats and produce when you’re grocery shopping, but if that’s not an option for you, be smart when you go to shop for canned and packaged items. Check the labels for added salt and sugar, and buy the items that have the lowest amounts or none added at all. The National Institute on Health (NIH) recommends that seniors limit their intake of saturated fats, trans fats, sodium, and added sugar.
3. Practice Portion Control
Overeating can shorten your lifespan by contributing to several different health problems, from type-2 diabetes to cardiovascular disease. To make sure you don’t overeat, first focus on getting all of the proper vitamins and nutrients that you need. When your body is given the proper food fuel, you will feel full sooner. Per day, most seniors need about 5 servings of vegetables, 4 servings of fresh fruit, 6 servings of whole grains, 3 servings of dairy, and 3 servings of good oils and fats. Per week, seniors need 2-3 servings of fish or other seafood, 5 servings of nuts and seeds, and 8-9 servings of poultry, meat, or eggs.
4. Stay Hydrated
Drinking enough water throughout the day can help you to stay full and avoid feeling the need to snack on empty calories. But staying hydrated is not just about feeling full. Dehydration can lead to complications, like seizures, kidney failure, and even death in severe cases. Due to health issues, medication side effects, and age-related changes in our bodies, seniors between the ages of 85 and 99 are six times more likely than any other group to be admitted to the hospital for dehydration. To make sure that you stay hydrated, stock your fridge with water, milk, and 100 percent juices. Having healthy drink choices close and available to you at any time is an easy way to help yourself drink enough liquids throughout the day. Keep foods that are high in water as well, like fruits, soups, and yogurt.
5. Don't Skip Meals
You might not always feel hungry at mealtime, but just like overeating, doing the opposite is bad for your health, too. Skipping meals can lead to unhealthy fluctuations in blood sugar levels and poor eating habits. When you skip too many meals, your body starts to crave calories, which can lead to snacking on foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients. So if you don’t feel hungry when it’s time to eat, make sure you eat just a few bites of something that is high in good fats, like nuts or avocados. These types of foods, though small, can give your body necessary vitamins that you would fail to get if you skipped a meal. Also, sometimes nibbling on a few bites when you don’t feel hungry can jump-start your metabolism and cause those familiar pangs of hunger.