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Healthy Nutrition for Older Adults, Part III:

5 Tips for Better Eating Habits

In the second part of our series, we looked at the five most important elements of a healthy diet. Today, we close with five additional tips to promote healthier eating habits in older adults. Although based upon nutritional science, the following are all common-sense ways to promote dietary health:

Eat a nutrient-packed diet. A healthy diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.

  • Fruits — Whole fruits provide more dietary fiber than juices. Strive for 1½ – 2 servings each day.

  • Vegetables – Fresh veggies are the most nutritious (and tastiest). The average diet needs 2 – 2 ½ cups per day.

  • Grains – Select whole-grain over processed white flour in breads, pasta, etc. Seniors need 6 – 7 ounces of grains daily (one slice of bread counts as one ounce).

  • Protein – Vary protein sources so that you don’t eat red meat exclusively. Fish should be eaten at least weekly, along with eggs, beans or lean meats. You can obtain “good” fat through some fish sources as well as cooking oils or spreads. Adults over 50 need about 2½ – 3 ½ ounces of protein per day.

Avoid unhealthy foods. Too much salt or sugar, for example, can wreak havoc with a healthy diet. Stay away from over-processed or junk foods. And make every calorie count!

Maintain an age- and weight-appropriate caloric intake. Obesity is a health menace at any age, and malnutrition is a common health problem in older adults. Consider eating 5 – 6 small meals each day as an alternative to either being overwhelmed at large meals or overeating. According to the National Institute of Aging, adults over the age of 50 need to maintain the following daily caloric intake, depending up gender and activity level:

  • Inactive women – 1600

  • Moderately active women – 1800

  • Very active women – 2000

  • Inactive men – 2000

  • Moderately active men – 2200 to 2400

  • Very active men – 2400 to 2800

Make mealtime a festive occasion. Older adults who live alone may skip meals or just snack for convenience. Eat meals frequently with friends, neighbors, or family. When eating alone, set a table and prepare a complete, tasty meal. Seek assistance with meal preparation if needed.

Seek medical advice. Consult a physician about any problems that might affect digestion and about the need for any nutritional supplements. Before beginning any major dietary changes, check with your medical professional.

By following these five simple tips, you or an older loved one can improve your diet, as well as your overall health and wellbeing.

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