It’s March. March means New Year’s resolutions are fizzling out, and our goals to change our eating habits to healthier choices may have taken a turn for the worse. Choosing healthy foods is difficult at all ages, but maintaining good nutrition as an older adult can be even more challenging. Transportation options can be limited, healthier food tends to be higher priced, and many older adults no longer cook for themselves. Combined with regular exercise, maintaining proper nutrition will help you live longer, be more mentally sharp, and feel better all around.
So how do we make sure our bodies are receiving the proper nutrition considering all of these factors? Jumping into healthy eating can be overwhelming when trying to sift through the numerous diet and exercise plans available online, the long list of ingredients you can’t pronounce on your groceries, and figuring out exactly what your body needs when it comes to nutrition and physical activity.
First, talk to your physician or a dietitian about your body’s nutritional needs. How many calories are you consuming per day? How many hours are you active per day? The answers to these questions will help you begin to build a plan for how much you should be eating and exercising to maintain a healthy and happy body.
The grocery store is full of healthy options, and knowing how to navigate the aisles and buy the right products before walking in can help save both time and money. Before heading to the store, look at weekly ads and coupons to see which products are on sale and meal plan for the week based on those items. This will save you time in the store, decrease spending, and lower stress levels knowing you have meals planned out for the week. Some grocery stores, for example Kroger, have mobile phone apps that allow you to digitally download coupons to your store loyalty card. The discount will be taken off with just the swipe of your card!
Now what’s the difference between kale and spinach? They’re both green, so they must be healthy, right? The healthiest items at the grocery store are whole foods, which are typically found on the perimeter of the store in the meat and produce sections. When venturing into the packaged food aisles, read the nutrition label to choose items that are low in fat, sodium, and added sugars. Not all fats are bad. You should include healthy fats such as nuts, avocados, and dark chocolate in your diet. When eating grains, choose whole grains such as brown rice and whole wheat bread. Your body is powered by the protein you intake, but make sure to choose lean proteins such as chicken and fish, beans and eggs. Two dietary items that older adults should make sure to include in their diet are calcium and vitamin B12. Calcium rich foods such as low-fat yogurt or cheese, milk, and kale can help to protect your bone health. As we age, our body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12 decreases, so including fortified cereals, shellfish, and some red meat in your diet can give your body the amount it needs. Lastly, the more colorful your plate the better! Fruits and vegetables contain important vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, fruits and vegetables such as cabbage and certain types of berries can even help improve your memory.
Healthy eating isn’t just a part of a diet, it’s a lifestyle. Make sure to take care of your body and be conscious of the food choices you are making every day.