Continuing with the Celebration of Older American Month, I am going to spend my topic talking about Healthy Eating.
Men and Women are living longer, enjoying energetic and active lifestyles well into their 80’s and 90” s. Study after study confirms eating well and being active can make a dramatic difference in the quality of life for older adults. You are never too old to enjoy the benefits of improved nutrition and fitness. With nutrient-rich foods and activities with friends, you can feel an immediate difference in your strength, energy levels and enjoyment of life. In fact, as we get older, our food and activity choices become even more important to our health.
AS Adults age, we need fewer total calories, but more nutrients, especially protein, B-Vitamin and calcium. In terms of nutrition, you need to focus on quality not quantity. All your food choices, for every food group, need to be powerful packed with more nutrients per calorie. For both optimal physical and mental health, older adults truly need to make every calorie count. For a healthy eating plan, choose foods from all the MYPLATE food groups.
Retired people on limited incomes may have trouble buying enough nutrient-rich foods to meet all their nutritional needs. If this is a problem for you or someone you love, explore the options for senior meal sites, meals on –wheels or supplemental nutrition assistance programs in the community.
The golden years are definitely not the time for extreme diets or drastic weight loss. Your goal should be to eat better while eating less. Fad diets frequently eliminate entire food groups, which can lead to serious nutrient gaps. Rapid weight loss often leads to a loss of lean body mass, exactly the opposite of what older people need for good health. Try to get a stable weight as you get older. If you want to lose a few pounds, talk to your health provider or a registered dietitian nutritionist about the best plan for you. The right balance of foods and activities could help you lose a little fat, while maintaining strong muscles and bones.
Always enjoy the power of protein. People of all ages need protein for strong healthy bodies. Some older adults do not get the protein they need to maintain muscle mass, fight infection and recover from accident or surgery. Chewing protein foods such as meat can be a problem for some older adults. We should enjoy more beans, make your crackers count, cook with milk, and use dry milk powder.
Healthy eating begins with you! Giving your body the right nutrients and maintaining a healthy weight can help you stay active and independent. You’ll also spend less time and money at the doctor. This is especially true if you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes or heart disease.
Always read your Nutritional Facts Label. The healthiest foods are whole foods. These are often found on the perimeter of the grocery store in the produce, meat, and dairy sections. When you do eat packaged foods, be a smart shopper! Read the labels to find items that are lower in fat, added sugars, and sodium.
For more information on Healthy Eating for Older adults contact Lethia Lee at the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Office. 910.592.7161 or [email protected]
Lethia Lee is the EFNEP program assistant for the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program with the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Center.