By Holly Greuling RD, LD/N, Nutritionist, Administration on Aging, U.S. Administration for Community Living
Happy National Nutrition Month! During this month, take stock of your nutritional habits.
Eating a healthy balance of nutritious foods is more important than ever as you age. Eating the right foods, eating the right amount of foods and regular physical activity will help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. Almost 45 percent of people over age 65 have one or more chronic conditions or disease. Eating right helps prevent and manage many diseases that affect older people, such as diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Healthy eating tips for older adults include:
Eating many different colors and types of vegetables and fruits. Choose dark green vegetables or fruits such as spinach, kale, kiwi or avocado; consume bright orange-red colored vegetables or fruits such as tomatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, oranges, pomegranate, mangos or strawberries.
Making sure at least half of your grains are whole grains. This will help provide nutrients that you need, but also will add fiber to your diet. Choose brown rice, whole wheat bread or oatmeal to help increase your fiber and nutrient intake.
Eating only small amounts of solid fats and foods with added sugars. These foods add calories to your diet but few or no nutrients. Cut back on solid fats. Butter, doughnuts, candy bars and sweetened soda/pop add calories but little else.
Limiting saturated or solid fat found mostly in foods that come from animals. These foods provide nutrients, but also more fat than you need. If you consume animal products, choose lean meats, fat free milk, and skinned chicken. Choose baked, steamed or broiled rather than fried foods.
Drinking fluids. Drink plenty of water, 100 percent juice, skim or low fat milk, and coffee or tea to stay hydrated. Our ability to detect thirst declines as we age, so drink fluids routinely and do not wait until you are thirsty.
Eating a variety of foods. This will help to insure that your diet includes the 40+ nutrients you need to keep your body healthy.
Some older people have trouble consuming the nutritious foods they need to stay healthy and independent. Some have trouble chewing, take medications that prevent them from eating certain foods, or simply do not like to eat alone. Others have physical problems that make it hard to shop for groceries or cook.
If you have trouble getting, preparing, or eating a healthy diet, you should know about the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program (OAANP), a program of the Administration on Aging (AoA), an agency within the U.S. Administration for Community Living. The OAANP is a nationwide program for frail or vulnerable people aged 60 and older that provides food and nutrition services including:
- Meals served at senior centers and other community gathering places.
- Home-delivered meals for homebound persons.
- Nutrition screening, education, and counseling.
The OAANP serves all 50 states, six territories and 256 tribes through a network of more than 5,000 local nutrition service providers. If you suspect that an older loved one or neighbor isn’t able to get proper nutrition, then help them find a local aging service provider by visiting the Eldercare locator website.
If you or a loved one needs additional information on the nutritional needs of older adults, please visit the National Institute on Aging website or visit Administration on Aging.