My Plate: Senior Nutrition 101
Are you concerned that the older adults in your life might not be eating a well-balanced diet? Or maybe you’re a senior who wants to eat healthy, but you aren’t sure how your nutritional needs change as you get older.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has shared healthy eating guidelines for older adults. Here’s what should you know about eating well as a senior.
Aim to Eat Three Cups of Vegetables Each Day
As we age, our appetite and sense of taste diminish. It’s important that we choose healthy foods to ensure we’re getting enough calories and the right nutrients. To make sure you’re on the right path, eat three cups of vegetables per day.
Important tip: Two cups of leafy greens equals one cup of a chopped vegetable, such as broccoli or string beans.
To make sure you’re getting proper nutrition, aim for a variety of vegetables in different colors. Think: Red peppers, green spinach, and orange carrots. Some nutritionists recommend thinking of it as eating a rainbow of colors!
Used Canned Veggies for Convenience
Here’s some good news: The right canned vegetables have just as many nutritional benefits as fresh or frozen. If you’re concerned about food spoiling or can’t afford fresh produce all the time, you don’t have to miss out on the health benefits of vegetables.
Read the labels carefully to avoid choices with added salt, which can make them higher in sodium. Too much sodium can exacerbate high blood pressure.
Season with Fresh Spices Instead of Salt.
Give foods more flavor with fresh herbs and spices rather than salt to avoid too much sodium intake. Salt and sodium can contribute to hypertension and water retention.
Get the Calcium You Need for Healthy Bones
As we age, our bones may become more brittle. To prevent osteoporosis, make sure you’re getting all the calcium and vitamin D your body needs.
The U.S. government recommends three cups of fat-free or low-fat dairy. This can come in the form of milk, yogurt or cheese. About two ounces of cheese equals one cup of most other dairy products. Half a cup of cottage cheese equals one cup of milk.
If you need to avoid dairy, talk with your primary care physician about supplements.
Get Protein from Lean Meats and Legumes
Beans, chicken, fish, and lean beef provide the body with the protein it needs to stay strong. One serving of protein, such as beef, is about the size of a deck of cards.
Get Plenty of Fiber
Fiber—found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans—helps prevent constipation and can aid in stabilizing blood sugar.
To sneak more fiber into your diet without a supplement:
- Choose crackers, breads and cereals where whole grain is listed as the first ingredient.
- Eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juice to get more fiber and nutrients.
- Leave the skins on fruits and vegetables.
Avoid Sugar as Much as Possible
To avoid empty calories and prevent unhealthy spikes in blood sugar, avoid refined sugar as much as you can. When you’re in the mood for something sweet, grab a piece of fruit instead of a sugary treat.
The USDA recommends two to three cups per day. Or use a natural sweetener that won’t cause blood sugar spikes, such as raw honey, agave syrup, or Stevia.
The Five Star Dining Experience
The gourmet chefs at Five Star Senior Living cook up healthy, delicious meals every day. To get a taste of what you could be enjoying, visit our Signature Dining page.