September 27, 2023

It is never too late to improve your nutrition habits and ensure many enjoyable years to come.

As we age, it is important that we maintain, if not improve, our health and well-being. One of the best ways to ensure you age gracefully is through healthy eating. While maintaining a healthy diet is important at any age, this is especially important as we grow older.

Common chronic diseases such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes are associated with aging and influenced by our nutritional habits. Not to mention other nutrient deficiency-related complications such as anemia, blindness, or malnutrition.

It is a scary list, but do not worry – the goal is to optimize healthy eating habits and proper nutrition and reduce our chances of serious complications from such illnesses!

Let’s talk nutrients

It may seem obvious (it is called nutrition after all), but nutrients play a key role in our health. Typically, nutrient needs from vitamins and minerals stay the same or slightly increase as we age, but calorie needs decrease. This is due to reduced physical activity, reduced metabolism, and age-related loss of muscle and bone mass.

Balanced meals

As we age and eat less, it is critical to make sure meals are balanced and full of nutrients. One of the easiest ways to balance meals is to build a plate with a variety of lean proteins, high fiber starches, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Look at that label

Another terrific way to make informed food choices is to utilize nutrition labels on foods. Always be sure to limit your sodium, saturated fat and added sugar intake as these are common culprits that can lead to poor health and common diseases.

Get a boost

If you struggle to get a variety of foods in, no matter the reason, consider talking to your doctor about supplementation. This can provide a boost to the nutrients your body needs. Your primary care provider or registered dietitian can also help you consider how other medications you take may affect nutrient absorption.

Don’t forget to hydrate

Adequate fluid intake is important for everyone. But as we age, there are additional factors at play. Dehydration can increase the risk of digestive complications such as constipation. Also, the ability to detect thirst can decline with age.

The first step for healthy hydration is knowing how much fluid you should be drinking each day. Aim for half of your body weight in fluid ounces per day. Remember that water is always going to be the number 1 recommended fluid, but all fluids count towards your overall fluid intake.

Keep it lean

Loss of lean muscle mass is common the older we get. Usually this is due to reduced physical activity and metabolism, but it is also a natural process of aging. The most effective way to fight muscle deterioration is staying as physically active as possible, but nutrition also plays a significant role.

Ensure you are consuming enough protein. Think of foods such as lean meats, beans, eggs, low-fat dairy, nuts, seeds or seafood. Always aim to make at least ¼ of your plate a lean protein.

Bonus tip: Work a protein source into snacks.

Addressing appetite

Another special consideration for nutrition as we age is reduced appetite. While not everyone experiences this, a variety of sources such as reduced sense of taste and smell, reduced activity, slowed metabolism, poor dentition, or social isolation can lead to lack of appetite

Some causes are easier to address than others – and it is important to be aware of what you can do to fight back against reduced appetite. Here are the basics:

  • Maintain good dental health.
  • Enjoy food with family and friends when possible.
  • Add a variety of colors and textures at each meal.
  • Season your foods with herbs and spices other than salt to improve flavor.
  • Eat smaller more frequent meals throughout the day.

Prioritizing nutrition across our lifespan helps create a happier, healthier aging process. Remember – your nutritional needs are unique. It is never too late to talk to your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to build a nutrition plan that will help you ensure many enjoyable years to come.

Essential Tips for Graceful Aging

Weekly Recipe

Cinnamon Sweet Tortilla Chips with Fruit Salsa