Eat Well to Age Well

 

King County is fortunate to have a wide variety of farmers markets

Nutrition and successful aging go hand in hand. For older adults, the benefits of healthy eating are many: increased mental sharpness, higher energy levels, resistance to illness and disease, 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.

Eating well is a lifestyle that embraces fresh, colorful food, creativity in the kitchen and eating with friends. Here are some tips to energize your life through healthy eating.

Variety is the spice of life

Eating more fruits and vegetables can help cut your risk of cancer, stroke, heart disease, and some eye and digestive problems, and can help keep your appetite in check.

  • Go for color and variety—dark green, yellow, orange, and red.
  • Focus on whole fruits, rather than juices, to get more fiber and vitamins. Keep fruit out on your kitchen counter so that you can reach for it during the day. In colder months, oranges, grapefruit, apples and pears are good choices.
  • At lunch and dinner, try to fill half your plate with vegetables. Salads, especially made with spinach, add more color and nutrition to your meal. In winter, there are lots of dark greens to eat, such as kale,

     Photo courtesy of SNAP
    brussels sprouts and chard. To get the brighter colors in your diet, look for yams, carrots, beets, winter squash, and tomato products.
  • Take time to explore the produce aisle and hunt for seasonal bargains. Variety is the spice of life and a key to a healthy diet.

Choose good carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide fuel to keep you active. In addition to fruits and vegetables, the best carbohydrates source is whole grains, which keep you healthy by providing vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients.

  • Why not start your day with a bowl of oatmeal? Or choose a breakfast cereal that has a whole grain as its first ingredient.
  • At lunch time, choose whole grain bread. Again, make sure the ingredient label lists whole wheat, rye, or some other whole grain as the first ingredient.
  • For other whole grain choices, try whole grain pasta, brown rice, or bulgur.

Water, water, water

Dehydration can be a concern for older adults and can lead to a number of problems, including urinary tract infections, constipation, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, depression, insomnia, or confusion. As we age, our sense of thirst is dulled, which requires us to make a special effort to drink enough fluids. Here are some liquid tips:

  • Post a note in your kitchen reminding you to sip water every hour and with meals.
  • Fill a water bottle in the morning and place it in the refrigerator. Set a goal of drink it all by three hours before bedtime. The bottle can gradually get bigger as weeks pass. Aim for at least eight glasses a day.

Balance calories

In 1985, the obesity rate in Washington state was less than 10 percent; now it is over 25 percent. In the last 30 years, the average American has increased the number of calories in their diet by about 300—enough to account for the rise in the obesity rate. Almost half of that calorie increase is from sweetened beverages; the other half from French fries. Here's how to target the culprits:

  • If you drink soda or juice, try to replace it with water.
  • Try to limit French fries and other fried foods to one time per week, replacing them with whole grains, yams, or winter squash.

Recipes

Here are two great websites providing recipes that will help you to prepare healthy foods at home:

Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Source

ChooseMyPlate.gov food group recipes

—Valerie Baldisserotto, RD, CD, Public Health—Seattle & King County


Valerie Baldisserotto, RD, CD is a nutritionist with the Public Health—Seattle & King County Healthy Eating and Active Living unit.