Bearing this in mind, we sat down with Mary Schellhammer, a registered dietitian at Judson for more than 14 years. Each day Mary offers insights and advice to those interested in learning more about nutrition. We’ve asked Mary to share her top healthy eating tips for those over the age of 65.
Healthy eating and nutrition is one of the most important tools to help us age well. A varied menu of healthy foods consumed on a daily basis is critical for older adults to meet dietary guidelines. Planning and meal preparation can help with this, take time out of your day to plan your meals out either just for that day, or for the week ahead.
“It’s important to eat well-balanced meals with healthy foods like whole grains, fresh fruits, seafood, poultry, and a variety of different-colored vegetables,” says Mary.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found that more than two-thirds of adults in the United States are considered to be overweight or obese, with more than one-third of adults falling into the obese designation. The reasons for this are varied, but a primary cause is the modern American portion size.
“Most people don’t realize what a portion size is,” says Mary. “The average restaurant serves 2-3 times the amount of a proper portion.” When dining out, do not be afraid to take home part of the meal for the next day. “It’s not necessary to over-indulge, as this can lead to obesity and health problems.” Mary says.
As we age, our digestive system generally slows down, and it becomes critically important to regularly eat fibrous foods to help eliminate any complications resulting from inhibited digestion.
This is why it’s important to include a variety of different-colored vegetables. Varied vegetables will add lots of fiber and nutrients to your diet. Don’t eat the same types of vegetables every day, because each vegetable offers different vitamins and nutrients your body needs to survive and thrive.
Some older adults find their sense of flavor diminishes as they age, and their favorite dish might not taste as delectable as it normally would. Medications can also have an adverse effect on taste, as well as smell, which is strongly associated with how our food tastes. Use fresh herbs and spices to help to enhance the flavor of meals and bring life into some of your favorite dishes.
“Always look at fat, sodium and overall calories,” she says. “But this advice can be very specific and varied depending on health conditions.” Mary notes it is important to consult your physician for additional guidance on dietary choices.
“We find that as we age, teeth and gums change which can lead to dental problems,” says Mary, “so it can be difficult to consume harder fruits, raw vegetables, and meat. It’s important to incorporate softer alternatives, like cooked vegetables, tuna fish, unsweetened canned fruits, and low-sodium soups and broth.”
Food is the best way to get all the nutrients we need, but sometimes we’re not able to get all nutrients, vitamins and minerals from diet alone. Oftentimes vitamins and supplements are necessary, but this will always depend on what your doctor recommends. Be sure to consult your personal physician to make the best choice possible for your individual health.