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Healthy Eating As You Age

January 2018

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

As we get older, we need to make sure our diet is appropriate for our age. We probably will need to change our diet to make sure that we get sufficient calories, vitamins and minerals, and protein. Our body changes over time and our food intake needs to change accordingly. Here are some meal tips for older adults:

  • Drink water throughout the day. As we get older, our sense of thirst diminishes and we don't always feel thirsty even though we need to stay hydrated. Water should be the beverage of choice and we need to limit beverages with added sugar.
  • Meals are more enjoyable when you socialize and share them with others. If you live alone, make an effort to join other friends or family for meals.
  • Pay attention to the portion size of the foods you eat. Sometimes, restaurant portions are very large and are enough food for two or more meals. Ask for excess portions to be bagged or boxed in containers and eat later that day or the next day.
  • Eating your main meal in the middle of the day is easier to digest for most. Keep the dinner meal a light salad, soup, sandwich or small meal as these are lighter options for those who have digestive issues.
  • Eat a wide variety of vegetables. Include dark green vegetable daily along with those of other colors for meals and snacks each day. New research indicates the importance of daily fruit and vegetables for your needed vitamins and minerals. Make sure half of your plate includes fruit and vegetables for most meals.
  • Pay attention to your teeth and gums. Dental problems can make it harder to chew fresh fruit, many vegetables, salads and meats. Adjust your eating patterns and diet according to what you can chew and eat softer versions of foods if you need to.
  • Use herbs and spices to flavor your food instead of salt by itself or other herb mixtures that contain salt. Food may taste bland due to medications you are taking or just the aging process. Make sure your food is tasty by adding spices and herbs that add flavor to the food but no added salt, sugar or saturated fat.
  • Keep food safety in mind and throw out expired foods. Check date labels on food products such as dairy and use up before expiration dates. Make sure all dairy consumed is pasteurized for safety of the old and young.
  • Make sure you eat a balanced diet as much as possible. Go to the USDA website, choose to make sure you are getting enough nutrients and calories from all the food groups.
  • Keep sweets and high fat foods to a minimum and avoid fried foods and sugar-sweetened beverages.

Eating healthy each day will help you to feel energetic and keep your immune system and your weight at healthy levels. Taking these small steps each day will provide you with an excellent wellness profile. Every small step makes a difference!