The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds Americans that nutrient needs change as we age, so eating right and being physically active are keys to staying healthy throughout life. Ensure you and loved ones are getting the nutrients you need with expert advice from a registered dietitian nutritionist – the food and nutrition expert.
“Healthful eating plays a large role in aging well,” says registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy spokesperson Ruth Frechman. “For seniors, it is particularly important to stay well-hydrated with water and choose a variety of foods from all five foods groups to help your body get the nutrients it needs, especially calcium and vitamin D, fiber, B12, potassium and better-for-you fats.”
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide a clear framework of what to aim for on your plate. Adopting some, if not all, of these recommendations can make all of the difference to your health.
- Make half of your plate colorful fruits and vegetables at every meal. Go for the richly colored green, purple, orange, yellow and red produce. You can use fresh, frozen or canned – just be mindful of the sodium content in canned foods.
- Vary proteins with lean meat, poultry, fish, as well as beans, peas and legumes.
- Eat at least three 1-ounce servings of whole grains like whole-wheat bread, oatmeal and brown rice daily.
- Switch from solid, saturated fats (butter, bacon and sour cream) to healthier, unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, canola oil, grape seed oil, avocados and nuts like pistachios, almonds and walnuts.
- Aim for at least 3 servings of low-fat dairy (low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese), and be sure it’s fortified with vitamin D for healthy bones and teeth.
“Older people have to think about their overall health and the foods they put on their plate can make a big difference,” Frechman says. “Maintaining lean muscle mass by getting enough protein, as well as weight bearing activity is vital for bones and overall fitness level.”
Physical activity does not have to take long. If you are currently inactive, set a goal to start small. Daily activity can be done in short, 10 minutes intervals. “Moving daily makes a big difference when balanced with healthy eating – it’s the perfect equation for a healthy, long life,” Frechman says.
If you or a loved one is struggling to meet your nutrition needs there are nutrition programs targeted towards older Americans, like Meals on Wheels or Congregate Dining, that ensure low-income older adults have the nutritional resources they need to prevent or manage chronic health conditions. These programs help older adults remain independent and in their own homes.