Active and Healthy Seniors: It's Time to Bite Into a Healthy Lifestyle
March is National Nutrition Month and the message this year from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is to “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle.” This message is more about establishing a healthy pattern of eating and making informed food choices versus perfection.
So Why Eat Healthy in the First Place?
Eating healthy provides our bodies with substances called nutrients that keep body functions operating, e.g., your heart beating, your brain active, and your muscles working. Nutrients build and strengthen bones, muscles, and also regulate body processes such as digestion and blood pressure. We usually don’t become aware of how eating helps with all these things until there is a problem.
Eating well is one of the best tools we have in our toolbox to prevent diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, digestive problems, and fatigue. But the best reason for choosing to eat healthy is it provides the energy and zest active and healthy seniors need to do the things we really enjoy!
What Does Healthy Eating Look Like?There are some general eating guidelines that will work for a majority of people, but remember the best-informed choices are based on your own individual needs and health profile. As we approach our senior years, we require fewer calories and so it becomes even more important to make every bite count! Including nutrient-dense foods to our diet, but in smaller portions, is one example. While there are general guidelines for making better food choices, there is no "one meal pattern" that fits the nutritional needs of everyone. Below I have provided some general healthy eating tips for seniors:
- Choose fresh food that is cooked from scratch. Limit use of boxed or prepared items.
- Half your plate should consist of vegetables.
- Select starches and grains that have more whole grains and fiber in them, e.g., whole oats, brown rice, quinoa, whole grain bread. One serving is generally a ½ cup or 1 slice of bread.
- Choose fresh fruit versus juice or canned fruit. One serving of fruit is about the size of a baseball.
- Eat fruits and vegetables with different colors. This will provide you with a variety of valuable nutrients such as carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- Include lean proteins such as white meat poultry and turkey, round or sirloin beef, fish, eggs, beans, and nuts. Trim excess fat off of meat and remove skin off of poultry. One serving of meat, chicken or fish, is equivalent to a deck of cards.
- Choose low fat or skim milk products.
- Season food with lemon juice, herbs and spices rather than using butter and salt.
- Choose foods that are baked, broiled, braised, grilled, steamed, sautéed or boiled. Limit intake of fried food or items with cheese or cream sauces.
How Can I Make Better Food Choices?
For more great resources such as healthy recipes, meal plans, videos, and articles, I suggest the National Institutes on Aging, the National Institutes on Health, and the Choose MyPlate website listed at the end of this article.
If you’re unsure which healthy meal plan will work for you or if you have special dietary needs, it may benefit you to speak with a registered dietitian or your health care provider.
I hope you found this article informative. Stay tuned for next week's post on fruits and vegetables.
National Institutes on Aging: http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/whats-your-plate
National Institute on Health: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/nutritionforseniors.html
Choose MyPlate: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/
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About Leslie A. Moskowitz, MS, RD, CDE
Leslie is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Kirkland Village. Her area of expertise includes healthy eating, nutritional care plans, and diabetes education. As a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserves and part of the US Military-Baylor Graduate Program in Nutrition faculty, she has been very active in her field. Leslie has served as a conference chair, program chair, and exhibits chair for several PA Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics conferences and an education and media chair for the Lehigh Valley Dietetic Association.