As we age, the role of nutrition becomes even more important. The benefits of a healthy diet and proper nutrition include:
- increased mental acuteness so you can still outsmart your kids and grandkids
- higher energy levels to do all you wanted to do in retirement
- faster recuperation times
- resistance to illness and disease
- better management of chronic health problems
- greater independence by increasing the length of time you can live on your own.
As we age our total energy requirements decrease and we require fewer calories while still needing the same amount of nutrients.
The rewards of good nutrition are quite clear, but sometimes the path to healthy eating isn’t. A good start is learning the basics about what constitutes a well-balanced and nutritious diet. Then, your task is to look at your current choices and see what you need to do to make your diet a healthy and nutritious one.
Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating provides 5 simple suggestions
- Increase your fruit and vegetable intake by having at least one vegetable or fruit at every meal and as a snack. This will help you get the amount of vegetables and fruit you need each day. Don’t forget to try a variety of colors, tastes and textures as this will help with getting in all the vitamins and minerals this food group has to offer.
- Optimize your nutrients from your grains by having whole grain products and whole grains such as barley, quinoa, wild rice, oatmeal, whole grain breads and whole-wheat pasta. Fibre rich foods can help you feel full and satisfied and this will help prevent you from overeating. Choose products that are low in fat, sugar and salt.
- Select lean meats and alternatives 2-3 times per day. You don’t need to eat large amounts of these foods to meet your nutritional needs. Have meat alternatives such as beans, lentils and tofu often and try to have fish at least two times per week. Prepare your lean meats, fish and alternatives with little or no added fat Health Canada advises adults over 50 to consume foods fortified with vitamin B12 or a supplement containing vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is found only in animal-based foods such as eggs, dairy, meat, seafood and poultry and some fortified foods such as soy milk and soy-based meat substitutes.
- Milk and alternatives contain important nutrients that are good for your bones. Have 1 – 2 cups skim or 1% milk or fortified soy beverage every day to provide you with the nutrients you need. Choose lower fat milk alternatives such as cheese or yogurt when available. They still taste great, provide you with nutrients and are fewer calories.
- There are different types of fat in the foods we eat including saturated, unsaturated and trans fat. Limiting the amount of fat and choosing the right types of fat can help lower your risk of developing the above mentioned diseases. Increasing the omega-3 fats from foods such as fatty fish, walnuts hemp and flax seeds are especially important for good heart health. It is also important to consume healthier fats from plants such as olives, nuts and seeds and lower the amount of animal fats.
My personal nutrition tips
- Plan for three meals/day with 1-3 snacks/day. Skipping any meal, but especially skipping breakfast, will make it difficult to get all the nutrients you need each day
- Choose foods from at least three of the four food groups at each meal
- Make sure that you eat at least the minimum amount of servings from each food group every day. You can eat more depending on your appetite, age, size, activity level and gender.
- Plan your meals around grain products and vegetables and fruits. These two food groups should cover about 2/3 of your plate.
- Eat a variety of foods everyday to ensure that you are getting all the nutrients you need.
- And enjoy what you eat and don’t forget that the more you move the more you can have and the more you can have from the other foods group.
- Monitor your quantity and portion sizes
- Limit your portions of high-calorie foods,
For more information on Healthy Eating see Canada’s Food Guide at www.hc-sc.gc.cn
It is also important to consult your doctor to determine whether you have special nutritional needs relating to your overall health and any special conditions you might have.