Even if you’ve always been a pretty healthy eater, the diet that was adequate in your 20s, 30s, and 40s, may not have all the nutrients you need today. Experts say our dietary needs change as we grow older. The ways they change might surprise you.
How Nutritional Needs Change as We Grow Older1. Eat fewer calories.
If you tried to lose weight in your 40s or 50s, you may have noticed this: We need fewer calories as we get older. “We move around less, we have less muscle, and our metabolic rate goes down,” says Connie Bales, PhD, RD, associate director of the Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center at Durham VA Medical Center in an article on WebMD.
Of course, this may not be the case for very active older adults. But if you find you’re gaining weight from the same diet you’ve always followed, or just aren’t as hungry as you used to be, you may want to cut calories.
2. Choose more nutrient-rich foods.
Just because you may need fewer calories doesn’t mean you need fewer nutrients. Older adults need the same vitamins and minerals as anyone else (and may even need more of certain nutrients).
To get the same nutrients in less food, choose nutrient-dense foods. For instance, leafy green vegetables are packed with vitamin D and fruits contain plenty of vitamin C.
Other top choices? Vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, fish, and lean meat for protein and iron.
3. Consider supplements to make sure you get enough of certain nutrient.
It’s especially important to make sure you get enough B12, vitamin D, and calcium. Our bodies may not break down and absorb B12 from foods as easily, so older adults may need to take supplements.
Likewise, vitamin D and calcium are important to prevent bone loss. Many older Americans don’t get enough of these important nutrients. Speak to your doctor to see if you may benefit from a supplement.
4. Eat brain-healthy foods to help stave off Alzheimer’s.
Research suggests that eating foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids could help maintain healthy brain function as we age. To get more Omega-3s easily:
• Add cold water fish like salmon, tuna, and trout to your diet
• Sprinkle flaxseed over Greek yogurt
• Snack on a handful of walnuts
5. Drink more water.
People of every age should drink plenty of water. Nutrition experts currently recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces of water. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink 75 ounces of water daily.
As we age, we may not feel thirsty as often. That’s why it’s important to set reminders or develop habits that encourage us to stay hydrated. For instance, you might keep a water bottle near your favorite chair and take a few sips each time a commercial comes on, or drink each time you switch activities.
Remember, too, that you can get water from other beverages and even foods. Drink seltzer, non-caffeinated herbal teas, or infuse plain water with your favorite fruits.
Foods with high water content include: