10 ways older adults can eat healthy

Eating healthy is important no matter the age, but as we get older, maintaining healthy eating habits can be more of a challenge. Here are 10 ways to continue to eat healthy as the years go by!

1. Drink plenty of liquids

With age, people can lose a sense of thirst. To combat this, drink water more often. Low-fat or fat-free milk or juice with no added sweeteners can also help a person stay hydrated. Limit beverages that have added sugars or salt.

2. Make eating a social event

Meals are more enjoyable when eaten with others. Older adults can invite a friend or family member to join them during mealtime. Another option is to take part in a “potluck” a few times a week. Many senior center and places of worship also offer meals that are shared with others. Making meals more social and pleasant can help encourage older adults to eat and get the nutrition they need.

3. Plan healthy meals

By planning meals in advance, older adults — and those caring for them — can help ensure that the meals includes healthy, nutritious foods. For ideas and direction, check out the trusted nutrition information from ChooseMyPlate.gov and the National Institute on Aging. These sites give advice on what to eat, how much to eat, and which foods to choose, all based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

4. Know how much to eat

Learn to recognize how much to eat in order to control portion size. Often, when eating out, one restaurant dish is enough for two meals or more. Ask for a “to-go” box so that food beyond the necessary portion and be brought home and eaten later.

5. Vary your vegetables

Most vegetables are a low-calorie source of nutrients. Vegetables are also a good source of fiber. So remember to include a variety of different colored vegetables to brighten your plate and improve the nutrition value of your meal.

6. Eat for your teeth and gums

Many people find that their teeth and gums change as they age. People with dental problems or dentures sometimes find it hard to chew fruits, vegetables, or meats. Don’t miss out on needed nutrients! Eating softer foods can help. Try cooked or canned foods like unsweetened fruit, low-sodium soups, or canned tuna.

7. Use herbs and spices

As people grow older, both the sense of smell and the sense of taste can change. Foods might taste less flavorful as time goes by. Medicines also can change how foods taste. If once-favorite dishes now taste different and less appealing, you can try adding various herbs and spices to liven up the meal and excite the taste buds!

8. Keep food safe

Don’t take chances with your health. A food-related illness are dangerous for everyone, but can be downright life threatening for an older person. Throw out food that might not be safe. Avoid certain foods that are always risky for an older person, such as unpasteurized dairy foods. Other foods such as eggs, sprouts, fish, shellfish, meat, or poultry can be harmful when they are raw or undercooked. Don’t feel guilty if food needs to be thrown away — it’s better to be safe than sorry!

9. Read the Nutrition Facts label

To help make the right choices when buying food, pay attention to important nutrients as well as calories, fats, sodium, and other information that can be found on the Nutrition Facts label. Ask a doctor if there are ingredients and nutrients you might need to limit or to increase, and watch for those while grocery shopping.

10. Ask a doctor about vitamins or supplements

Food is the best way to get nutrients you need, but sometimes, dietary supplements — such as vitamins and/or minerals — are also necessary to stay healthy. The doctor will know if they are needed and can best advise the older adult on what types and how much to take. Remember, when it comes to supplements, more is not always be better. Some supplements can be extremely dangerous when taken in excess. Some can interfere with your medicines or affect your medical conditions. Always ask a doctor before starting or stoping a supplement.

Information courtesy of the National Institute of Aging

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