For some of us, healthy eating as we age doesn’t sound all that appealing. We think of it as giving up the food we like for food that’s good for us (as in boring). It reminds us of our childhood when our parents insisted we eat our broccoli.
It’s not easy to change our eating habits, especially as we get older. Even when a doctor orders us to change our diet after a health scare, we may resist.
But here’s the thing. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring. It doesn’t have to be something imposed upon us. In fact, once you start, you may actually enjoy it.
Eat Healthy as You Age: The payoffs
Of course, there are some very good reasons for watching what you eat. Chances are you’ve heard many of them. But they bear repeating.
There’s the reduced risk of getting a whole bunch of nasty medical conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, bone loss, cancer, even Alzheimer’s disease.
There’s also the more immediate payoff. Once you start eating better, there’s a good chance you’ll start feeling better. Physically as well as emotionally.
Eat Healthy as You Age: What to eat
Finding the healthy diet that works best for you may take a little bit of experimenting, but here are some foods you should try to include (as outlined on HelpGuide.org, a trusted, ad-free website that publishes articles on a variety of health-related topics):
- Fruits and vegetables (2-3 servings a day)
- Calcium-rich foods like milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu, broccoli, almonds, or kale
- Varied sources of protein including fish, beans, peas, eggs, or nuts (i.e. not just red meat)
- More whole grains and less simple carbs like white rice, white flour, and sugar
Staying hydrated is also important. Don’t wait to feel thirsty. As we age, our sense of thirst isn’t as keen. Drink water often. Limit drinks with caffeine or lots of added sugar or salt.
Get over your preconceptions about healthy food
HelpGuide reminds us, “Just because a food is healthy, it doesn’t mean it can’t be tasty as well.”
Yes, you may still have cravings for French fries and donuts, but it is possible to reprogram your brain’s food cravings over time so that you crave healthier foods instead.
They suggest that the trick is not to try to change too much at once. Make small adjustments to what you eat at first.
Don’t forget the people side of food
If you’re on your own and you’re having a hard time getting motivated to eat healthily, consider ways to involve other people. Food can actually be a great way of connecting with others (pandemic permitting).
- Find people to eat with. Invite someone over for a meal. Or find groups in your community that get together over food (at community centers, churches, etc).
- Cook together. Sharing cooking responsibilities with someone can be fun if you approach it the right way.
Have someone else cook for you
Maybe this all feels a little overwhelming. You’d like to eat healthier, but it still sounds like a hassle.
That’s why some people choose to move to a retirement community where meals are prepared for them. Want to eat healthier? No problem. The dining staff is used to accommodating all sorts of diets and know how to make them appetizing. No need to do your own shopping or cooking anymore. And you won’t have to eat alone, either.
Just the Facts Guide: Memory Care
Eating healthy can be especially challenging for those with memory loss. If you or a loved one is faced with memory, you may find our Just the Facts Guide: Memory Care helpful.