Healthier Eating for Seniors
Learning to eat healthy is important for all of us. The nutrients we consume on a daily basis support our physical and emotional health. Eating the right mix of foods and liquids provides energy and helps us maintain a healthy weight. Failing to eat a variety of foods may lead to vitamin or mineral deficiencies, potentially causing or exacerbating pre-existing health concerns.
Today, most people have a fairly good idea about what foods are healthy or not. We know that we should eat lots of fruits and vegetables and minimize the amount of fried foods and sugary drinks that we consume. We also are aware that we should stay hydrated — by drinking plenty of water.
So what should your dinner plate look like? The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), offers useful information about healthy plates for all different ages. For adults over 50, they recommend the following way to visually assess proper portion sizes.
baseball = 1 cup of salad
deck of cards = 3 ounces of meat/poultry
4 dice = 1.5 ounces of cheese
fist = 1 cup of flaked cereal or a baked potato
DVD = 1 pancake/tortilla
½ baseball = ½ cup of fruit, rice, pasta, or ice cream
tip of first finger = 1 teaspoon of butter/margarine
ping pong ball = 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
The USDA also recommends this diagram (to the right) that shows ideal proportion of portions.
Aging adults need to pay special attention to the amount of salt they consume, eating enough fruits and vegetables, consuming enough calcium and foods containing B12, and drinking enough water.
Healthy Eating Tips
To avoid using too much salt, add flavor to foods with fresh or dried herbs. Keep ready-to-eat cut up fruit or vegetables in the refrigerator. Try to include many different colors of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Stay away from cookies, cakes, soda, and alcohol that provide empty calories and almost no nutrients. Drink plenty of water and limit juice, soda and caffeinated beverages.
If some foods bother you, pay attention. As we age, sometimes we tolerate foods differently. Keep a record of your food and drink intake and evaluate which foods may be the culprits.
Make sure you get enough fiber to prevent digestive or intestinal problems. Fiber comes from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, as well as beans, seeds, and nuts.
If you’re ready to take charge of your health, start out slowly and make small changes. Allow your body time to adjust.
Your best bet is to consume minimal processed foods. However, for those processed foods you eat, take time to review the nutrition labels and understand how much sodium, sugar, and fat are in your food and drinks.
The average inactive woman can consume around 1600 calories; the average man can use around 2000 calories. For more active individuals, the amount of calorie consumption increases. For more information on calories, consult your physician or visit one of the many health and nutrition sites run by US governmental organizations like this one.
March is National Health and Nutrition Month and we want you to begin thinking healthy! For more information from the USDA’s Choose My Plate website, click here. The Eat Right website is another great resource found here.
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