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Eating Well and Aging Healthfully

April 2011

Karen Ensle Ed.D, RD, FADA, CFCS
Family and Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

Think healthy eating is all about dieting and sacrifice? Think again. Eating well is a lifestyle that embraces colorful food, creativity in the kitchen, and good times spent eating with friends and family. For mature adults, the benefits of healthy eating include increased mental acuteness, resistance to illness and disease, higher energy levels, a more robust immune system, faster recuperation times, and better management of chronic health problems. As we age, eating well can also be the key to a positive outlook and staying emotionally balanced. Supercharge your life by choosing healthy food. Below are some small steps to get started.

Remember the adage, you are what you eat? Make it your motto too! Choose a variety of colorful vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat or fat free dairy products. Below are the benefits:

  • Live Longer and Stronger – Good nutrition keeps muscles, bones, organs, and other body parts strong for the long haul. Eating vitamin-rich food boosts immunity and fights illness. A balanced diet reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, bone loss, cancer, and anemia. Eating sensibly means consuming fewer calories, eating more nutrient dense foods, and keeping your body weight in check.
  • Feel Better – Wholesome meals give you more energy and help you look better, resulting in a boost in self-esteem. When your body feels good you feel happier inside and out.
  • Sharpen Your Mind – Scientists know that key nutrients are essential for the brain to do its job. Research shows that people who eat brightly colored fruit, leafy veggies, certain fish, and nuts packed with omega-3 fatty acids can improve their focus and decrease the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

How Many Calories Does a Woman Over 50 Need Daily? Not physically active = about 1,600 calories a day; Some physical activity = about 1,800 calories a day; Very active = about 2,000 calories a day.

How Many Calories Does a Man Over 50 Need Daily? Not physically active = about 2,000 calories a day; Some physical activity = about 2,200 calories a day; Very active = about 2,400-2,800 calories a day.

A balanced diet is more than just calorie counting. It also includes the nutrient value of the foods that you choose. Along with physical activity, a good diet contributes to a higher quality of life and independence. Here are the mypyramid guidelines for adults for a healthy intake when eating 2,000 calories per day:
  • Fruit – Focus on whole fruits rather than juices for more fiber and vitamins. Aim for about 2 cups each day.
  • Veggies – Choose anti-oxidant rich dark leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, and broccoli as well as oranges and yellows, such as carrots, squash, and yams. Try for 2 ½ cups of veggies every day.
  • Milk – Incorporate calcium-rich foods into your diet. Aging bone health depends on adequate calcium intake to prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures. Adults need 3 cups a day through servings of milk, yogurt, or cheese. Non-dairy sources include tofu, broccoli, almonds, and kale.
  • Grains – Choose whole grains over flour for more nutrients and a higher fiber count. Look for pasta, breads, and cereals that list “whole” in the ingredient list. Adults need about 6 ounces of grains each day and one ounce is about 1 slice of bread.
  • Meat & Beans – Vary your sources of protein and important vitamins and minerals with a wide assortment of fish, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds. Adults need about 5 ½ ounces per day.