As I’ve gotten older, I have placed a greater value on the contribution that lifestyle makes to health because I want to live a happy, long and comfortable life. I enjoy moving my body in ways that it lets me, and I love everything about food.Knowing this, you can imagine how sad it makes me to think that my calorie needs will decrease as I age, yet it is befuddling that my nutrient needs will become greater. How can I possibly get more nutrients in less food? I will need to
be intentional about choosing nutrient-dense foods and beverages, meaning those packed with beneficial nutrients relative to their content of calories and have less nutrients that are harmful in excess, such as saturated fat and cholesterol. As I get older, I need to ensure I consume foods and beverages containing nutrients of concern. While we all need more of the nutrients that most US Americans do not get enough regardless of age, including calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and dietary fiber, as we get older, the need for other nutrients such as protein, vitamin B12, and fluids becomes more significant too.
- Protein: getting enough will help reduce the loss of muscle mass that comes with aging. Imagine pairing that with muscle-strengthening exercises – now we are talking about a dynamic duo to help preserve our precious muscle mass!
- Vitamin B12: the leading cause for its deficiency is age because it can be hard to absorb due to medications or gastrointestinal issues. Consuming enough animal protein (beef, liver, chicken, and seafood) may help and so may dairy foods such as low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese, eggs, and fortified cereals.
- Fluids: a concern because with age, trips to the bathroom become more frequent and inconvenient. Plus, the thirst mechanism gets weaker, so elders may not drink enough fluids to remain adequately hydrated. Keep that flow of water circulating in the body with enough fluids to make urine the color of pale lemonade. Besides water, fluid intake can come from foods with high water content, such as soups and broths, fresh fruits and vegetables, and nutritious beverages such a slow-fat milk or 100% juice.
As you can see, it is vital to make every bite count, especially as we get older. You can do it with these four guidelines:
- Follow a healthy dietary pattern such as MyPlate.
- Honor your preferences, traditions, and budget - and medical conditions!
- Focus on nutrient-dense foods and beverages.
- Limit alcohol and foods high in sodium, added sugars, and fats.
You can learn more with the newly released Dietary Guidelines for Americans. If you have a chronic condition better managed with dietary modifications, consult with a registered dietitian to come up with a tailored meal plan that follows these guidelines.