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Heathy Eating Tips for Older Adults

Does the phrase eating healthy mean giving up everything you love? Or make meal times unnecessarily complicated? While the dietary needs of older adults differs from what someone in their 20s needs, it isn’t necessarily restrictive or complicated.

Before you eat that meal, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests taking time to think about what foods you are going to eat. Then choose options that give you the nutrients that your body needs. The Academy offers a few simple tips for healthy eating specially for older adults:

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

Brighten your plate or snacks with color. Eat a variety of different colored vegetables or fruits, including dark-green, red and orange. Beans, peas, and lentils are also good choices. Healthful options include fresh, frozen and canned vegetables; and fresh, frozen, canned in water or 100 percent juice. Look for “reduced sodium” or “no-salt-added” on the labels.

Make at least half your grains whole.

Look for breads, cereals, crackers, and noodles made with 100% whole grains. Whole grain corn tortillas, brown rice, bulgur, millet, amaranth and oats all count as whole grains, too. Consider fiber-rich cereals to help with regularity and cereals that are fortified with vitamin B12.

Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese.

Calcium and vitamin D help older bones to stay healthy. Try to include three servings of fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt or cheese each day. For those who may be lactose intolerant, there are many options such as lactose-free milk or a calcium-fortified soy beverage.

Vary your protein choices.

Protein is an important part of healthy eating. Proteins are a source of vitamin B12, a nutrient that decreases in absorption with aging or due to some medications. In addition to lean meats, poultry and eggs, consider eating seafood, nuts, beans, peas and lentils. In addition, try to spreading your protein through the day.

Limit sodium, saturated fat and added sugars.

Healthy eating also means keeping an eye on sodium, saturated fat and added sugars in our foods. It doesn’t mean cutting out everything, but being mindful of the sodium, saturated fat and added sugars in the prepared foods you buy. Rather than adding salt to your food, choose to add spices or herbs to season food. Use oils in place of solid fats when preparing meals. For dessert, consider choosing fruit rather than an item with added sugar.

Stay Well Hydrated

Drink plenty of fluid throughout the day. Best choices are water, unsweetened beverages, or low fat milk.

Mind the size

Enjoy your meals, but try to avoid oversized portions. Most older adults need fewer calories. To make your portions seem larger, try using smaller plates, bowls and glasses.

Home cooking helps because you are in control of what’s in your food

But we all need a break from cooking, so when eating out, choose the healthier menu options that include vegetables, fruits and whole grains, along with a lean protein food. To avoid large eating large portions, share a meal or take half home for later.

When it comes to planning meals at Benedictine, there is no ‘One size fits all.’ Resident feedback is a valued part of the customized menu planning process that occurs in our Benedictine communities, according to Denise Cleveland, Benedictine registered dietician and culinary services specialist. Our culinary teams work hard every day to create healthy, flavorful meal choices that reflect the preferences of the residents we serve.

Tips source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics staff registered dietitian nutritionists.

Reference: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, 5th edition