Eating Well As You Age

How well are you aging?

It’s a question worth asking yourself, no matter the year you were born.

Sure, a lot of factors that are out of our control shape our quality of life, especially as we age. Sudden illness. Needed surgeries. Unexpected loss.

But so much of aging well – in mind and body – comes down to a simple, daily observation: What are we putting on our plates?

Healthy Eating: The Path To Independence

We start to eat less as we age, but few people know that our nutritional demands remain high, if not higher. For instance, studies show that to remain strong and independent – a top goal for seniors – we need more protein, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin B12.

  • A three-year study involving more than 2,000 seniors found that those who ate the most protein lost 40 percent less muscle mass than people who ate the least. 40 percent!
  • Another study concluded adding extra resistance and exercise was the ultimate way to regain some muscle mass and strength.

In this blog, we’ll get on the path to healthy eating, with some easy tips from master dietitian Kim Bargay, RD, LD.  Don’t think Kim is all about a rabbit’s diet of carrot sticks and lettuce leaves. Kim does not take the fun out of eating.

“Not at all,” laughs Kim. “I love good food and some of my occasional favorite meals involve ribeye steak and baked potato or a breakfast with French toast and strawberry compote. But I also consistently include foods rich in color and flavor like a salad with chicken, brie cheese, walnuts, and dried cranberries.”

So, let’s get started!

(An important note from Kim: Please consult your physician before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.)

#1 Healthy Hydration. Across the globe, we’re experiencing record-breaking temperatures, which makes drinking enough water even more important. As we age, we start to lose the ability to notice when we’re getting dehydrated, so fill up your favorite water bottle every day and drink 8-12 cups of H2O. It will keep your body working and your skin glowing.

#2 Half a Plate of Color. Kim says half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables. Yes, half. It’s an easy measure of getting enough antioxidants that neutralize dangerous free radicals in your body. Put simply, the best way to slow down aging and disease is to eat your fruits and veggies. And make sure they’re colorful and varied to ensure you’re getting the right vitamins and minerals. Power-packed examples include:

  • Dark green vegetables at least three to four times a week. Good options include broccoli, peppers, brussel sprouts, and leafy greens like kale and spinach.
  • Berries pack a powerful punch. Include two to four servings of fruit in your diet each day. Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries are great choices.

#3 Protein Power. We need more protein as we age. Make sure to get a variety, from eggs to meat to vegetarian protein options.

  • Certain seafoods are higher in healthy fatty acids, called omega-3s. Choose salmon, trout, herring, bluefish, sardines, and canned light tuna. Try to eat two to three servings of fish a week. One serving consists of 3 to 4 ounces of cooked fish.
  • Beans and Lentils. Eat a bean-based meal at least once a week. Add beans and lentils to soups, stews, casseroles, salads, and dips, or eat them plain.
  • Flaxseed, nuts, and seeds. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed or other seeds to food each day or include a quarter cup of nuts in your daily diet.

#4 Dairy Rich. Dairy foods help you get that much-needed calcium and vitamin D. If you use a milk substitute, look to make sure it’s fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Adults between 19 and 50 years of age need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day, and adults over 50 need 1,200 milligrams daily. Include organic choices.

#5 Fiber Fortified. Eat whole grains at least two to three times daily. Look for whole wheat flour, rye, oatmeal, barley, amaranth, quinoa or a multigrain. A good source should have 3 to 4 grams of fiber per serving. The best sources have 5 or more grams of fiber per serving.

Remember to check with your physician about making any changes to your diet to make sure what you add doesn’t interfere with medications or any physical conditions.

Keep it simple. Keep it fun!