We all know that diet and health are linked, but it can be difficult to give up those comfort foods or forgo a serving or two of a favorite family recipe.
So what are the most important diet changes that seniors to make? We did some research and found four simple adjustments you can make to your diet that will make you feel better immediately and improve your long-term health.
Consume fewer calories, but more protein.
As we age, we don’t need as many calories. Older women generally need between 1,600 to 2,200 calories a day, depending their activity level. Older men require 2,000 to 2,800 calories per day.
That said, protein is more important than ever. Not getting enough could lead to fatigue, a compromised immune system, or osteoporosis. So make make sure you are getting some protein in every meal. It doesn’t always have to be animal-based protein either. Add hummus or peanut butter to a piece of whole wheat toast. Have a bowl of lentil or bean soup at dinner.
You’ll find eating more protein will help you feel full longer and give you extra energy throughout the day.
Eat your fruits and veggies.
More and more dietitians are touting plant-based diets as the most healthful. Don’t worry; you don’t have to go vegan. Think of the 80-20 rule. Aim to get 80 percent of your calories from fruits and veggies and the other 20 percent from fish, lean meat, and low-fat dairy. And, save the red meat for a special occasions.
Eating more fruits and vegetables will prevent constipation and boost your immune system.
Fill up on fiber.
Fiber is essential for people in every age group. However, seniors need to eat even more. The recommended fiber intake for people 50+ is 21 grams per day for women and 30 grams per day for men. Fiber helps with a lot of things. It prevent constipation and diverticulosis and diverticulitis, improves blood sugar levels in diabetics, and may even prevent certain cancers.
The good news is that it’s not hard to get when you’re eating a healthy, plant-based diet. Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, legumes (like lentils and peas), and beans. If your doctor feels you still aren’t meeting the daily requirement, try adding an unsweetened, high-fiber cereal to your breakfast routine.
Right away, fiber will keep everything regular, and it will keep you feeling full between meals.
Drink more water.
Our sense of thirst declines as we age, causing us to drink less, which can actually makes us feel less thirsty. Additionally, many medications make it even more important to get plenty of fluids.
Each day, a person should drink at least one cup of water for every 20 pounds of body weight, or about 6-8 glasses for most people.
Tricks to up your water intake
- Drink a full glass of water first thing in the morning.
- Drink another with any vitamins or medications.
- Aim to have a glass with each meal. Add lemon, cucumbers, or even strawberries to a pitcher to make it tastier!
- Wind down with a cup of herbal tea in the evening.
Water is like a cure-all. It improves energy levels, can help kick a headache or an upset stomach, and helps keep your body functioning as it should.
As an added bonus: in addition to daily exercise, eating a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables has also been shown to protect your ears from hearing loss. If you already have trouble hearing, it’s important to get it checked out right away, as it could be an indication of other health issues.
As always, consult your physician before making major diet changes, especially if you are taking any medications.