Essential healthy eating tips for older adults

These smart nutritional strategies will help you as you age.
Sep 4, 2018 ·
Two seniors looking at spread of nutritious fruits and vegetables

For most of us, eating right means having a well-rounded diet of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean meats, fish, and whole grains.

But throughout our lives, our dietary needs change. Aging slows down our metabolism, which means our bodies need fewer calories to maintain energy and feel full. You may also need more of certain nutrients than you did before. This is to help maintain muscle mass and overcome absorption issues, which means choosing foods with high nutritional values. 

This isn’t as easy as it seems. Labels are often hard to figure out. What’s more, keeping track of what’s in unpackaged foods – such as meats, grains, and produce – can be tricky.

If you follow these suggestions, you’ll eat the foods you need to feel well and stay active

Make calcium your friend
It’s especially important to keep bones strong as you age, since the chances of developing osteoporosis, or weak and brittle bones, rises as you get older. 
 
You can do this by getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D. Doing so will supplement the calcium your body makes on its own. You’ll find it in calcium-rich drinks and foods, including:
  • Low-fat dairy products, like milk and yogurt
  • Salmon
  • Leafy greens
Be colorful

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. This takes on a new meaning when you consider that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and legumes can help protect you from a handful of chronic diseases. 

Indeed, folks who eat plenty of produce and legumes reduce their risk of stroke. They may also be at less risk of type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

Take advantage of this by keeping a bowl stocked with your favorite fruits on the counter. You may also want to store an assortment of cut vegetables in your fridge to snack on when hunger strikes. 

Frozen fruits and veggies also count toward your daily goal and are often less expensive than fresh produce. An added bonus? Depending on where they are shipped from, they can be healthier. If they are frozen at the peak of ripeness, they can be more flavorful, too

Stick with so-called good carbs
Although pasta, white bread, and rice have gotten a bad rap of late, not all carbs are off-limits. 
 
These include whole grains, which can help reduce your risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, infectious diseases, and respiratory issues. 
 
But what foods fall into the whole-grain category? They include:
  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Whole-wheat noodles
  • Oatmeal
  • Quinoa
  • Bulgur 
Add these for better health

Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are not only a source of essential vitamins and minerals, but they also contain fiber. In addition to keeping you full, fiber may help reduce your risk of heart disease. Fiber also helps combat constipation. 

Some folks prefer to add them to their diets in the form of pills or powders called dietary supplements. If you're considering this route, you should discuss with your doctor whether it’s the right option for you.

Stay hydrated

Finally, with age comes less sense of thirst, which could result in dehydration. Avoid this by drinking water throughout the day and at meals. Low-fat or fat-free milk or 100 percent juice will also do the trick.

Staying healthy as you age shouldn’t be a hurdle if you eat the right amount of nutrients to meet the needs of your body