It’s a medical fact – as we age our bodies change in ways that impact our nutritional needs, the way we process the food we eat, and our appetite.
Over the years, our metabolism slows down, we loss muscle mass, and we don’t burn as many calories as we did when we were younger.
Another issue – aging causes our digestive system to produce lower amount of the fluids required to process food. This reduces our ability to absorb crucial nutrients like folic acid and B-vitamins.
We also experience gradual changes in our sense of smell and taste as we age. When this happens, many types of food simply don’t seem as appetizing.
Some medications prescribed for age-related health conditions can also impact our appetite and inhibit the way we absorb nutrients from food or vitamin supplements.
Though eating healthy, well-balanced meals is important at every age, here are 10 tips to keep in mind as we enter our golden years.
1. Stay Hydrated & Eat Water-Rich Foods
As we age we tend to gradually lose our sense of thirst which can lead to dehydration. Drinking water, healthy beverages, and water-rich foods, keeps us hydrated and helps us digest nutrients.
A good rule of thumb is to drink at least one cup of water daily for every 20 pounds of body weight. For the average person, this adds up to about six to eight glasses of water per day. Or, substitute you can a few of those glasses with 100% fruit juice and low fat or fat-free milk.
Eating water-rich fruits and vegetables is another way to help stay hydrated. These include watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, oranges, cucumber, zucchini, celery and tomatoes.
2. Learn How To Monitor Calorie Intake
Since our metabolism slows down as we age, and we lose muscle mass, we burn fewer calories for our everyday activities. As a result, if we consume the same amount of calories as we did in our 20s or 30s, we’ll gradually pack on a few extra pounds each year.
For women over age 50, the average recommended calorie intake is 1,600 to 2,000 per day, depending on the amount of regular daily exercise.
For men over age 50 who are not very active, the average recommended calorie intake is 2,000 calories per day and between 2,200 and 2,400 if they’re moderately active.
Lowering your calorie intake doesn’t mean you can never eat your favorite sweets – simply cut back on the portion size and only indulge occasionally. It’s also a good idea to read nutrition labels to check for sugar and fat content to help make better choices.
3. Cut Back On Salt Intake
As we grow older, the gradual loss of our sense of taste may lead to adding too much salt to the food we eat or cook. This can lead to high blood pressure and other heart-related health problems.
To add flavor to meals, substitute natural herbs, spices and garlic for salt. Also check the sodium content on nutrition labels – you’ll be amazed at how much hidden salt is added to canned and processed foods.
4. Eat More Nutrient-Rich & High Fiber Foods
Nutrient-rich foods provide more vitamins, minerals, and healthy complex carbohydrates, with fewer calories per portion and zero cholesterol.
To add nutrient-rich foods to your meals, make the effort to include:
- A variety of fresh and colorful vegetables
- A variety of fresh, frozen or dried fruits
- Whole grain breads, pastas, crackers and cereals
- Low fat or fat-free yogurt and other dairy products
- Lean meats, poultry and seafood
- “Good” oils like canola, sunflower, sesame and olive oil
- High-fiber beans, lentils, nuts, oats and oat bran
5. Talk To Your Healthcare Provider About Vitamin Supplements
Considering our ability to absorb nutrients from food diminishes as we age, vitamin supplements can possibly fill in the gaps.
Although food is the best way to get vitamins and minerals, supplements can help provide proper daily amounts of the calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and vitamin B-12 we need.
Always discuss supplements with your doctor first to ensure you’re not taking anything that interferes with your prescribed medication or an existing medical condition.