Have you ever been told by the doctor to start eating more healthily? It’s not the most fun thing to hear – but it is true. As we age, our bodies need more help to properly function on their own. One of the best ways seniors can get the vitamins and nutrition is by eating the right kinds of food.
Let’s take a look at what makes up a healthy diet and how you can eat well by following these guidelines.
1. What Makes Up a Healthy Diet?
Everything you eat is made up of compounded molecules that will either help or hurt your overall health. For every person – not just seniors – a healthy diet consists of appropriate amounts of different nutrients. Eating the right foods can also reduce the risk of having health problems such as strokes, diabetes and heart disease. We’ve listed the different food groups below, detailing how they can benefit your health and how much you need each day to stay healthy. The daily serving sizes are provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Most dairy products are milk-based including milk, cheese, yogurt and butter. These foods contain nutrients like protein, vitamin D and calcium, which contribute the the strength of bones. 3 cups of low-fat milk a day is a healthy minimum for seniors.
All fruits provide a certain amount of natural sugar. Along with that, they contain fiber, minerals, antioxidants and a variety of vitamins. According to the USDA, the appropriate amount of fruit to have each day is 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 cups. You will, however, want to avoid processed fruit products such as fruit juices or prunes.
Oils and lipids are essentially the different types of fats you consume. Fats such as trans and saturated are the unhealthy kind of lipids you will want to avoid. Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, are described as the “good fats” that can help your body. Foods that contain good fats are avocados, olives, nuts and peanut butter. The best amount of oils and lipids to have daily is 5 to 8 teaspoons.
Protein is a nutrient that is rich in vitamins and minerals and can benefit your bones, muscles, skin and blood. The best source for protein is lean meats. Since your body doesn’t store protein, it’s something that you have to eat larger amounts of to stay healthy. A good amount to eat daily is 5 to 7 ounces.
While vegetables might not be the tastiest foods, they are one of the best sources of fiber, vitamins and enzymes. A fun way to get the most out of your vegetables is to buy the brightest colored ones, since that is often a good indicator that they have more nutrients. Minimally, you should have 2 to 3 ½ cups of vegetables a day.
The words “whole grain” describe the grains that are not separated from other parts of the kernel. Whole grains contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals – some of which are not found in other food groups, such as iron. Types of foods labeled as “whole grains” include wheat, corn, rice, oats and quinoa. Whole grains also can help lower cholesterol. An appropriate amount of grains to eat daily is 5 to 10 ounces.
2. Specific Food Ideas
If you need some help thinking of specific foods that contain the right kind of nutrients you need each day, take a look at the lists below. Also remember that you should be drinking water routinely throughout the day. The average amount of water you should be drinking every day is 11 to 15 cups.
- Individual Whole Fruits
- Fruit Smoothies
- Peanut Butter Toast
- Banana Bread
3. Tips on Eating as a Senior
Eating healthy foods can be challenging for some. Because of that, we wanted to provide a few tips on how to make the transition a little easier. Take a look at the recommendations below.
- Never skip meals. Eat something small at the least.
- Try eating 5-6 small meals each day instead of 3 large ones.
- Make lunch the larger meal of the day, rather than dinner.
To Gain Weight
- Eat with a friend or family member. Sometimes it can be hard to have an appetite if you are lonely.
- Increase the calories. Try milkshakes, eggnog, and dehydrated milk.
- Don’t rush your mealtime.
Dental Chewing and Swallowing
- Steam vegetables to make them easier to chew and swallow.
- Make chunky stews that are soft to eat.
- Shred or cut up the meats you prepare.
- Blend nutrients together in a delicious smoothie.
As you transition to a healthier diet, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Got a favorite recipe or handy tip? Tell us in the comments below, or reach out to us on Facebook.