As you get older, your nutritional needs change, and these need to be reflected in your diet. Whatever your age, it’s important to consume plenty of fruit and veg and avoid processed foods and refined sugar, but what tips and advice should you follow when you reach 65 and over?
Here are some healthy diet tips for you to follow:
Avoid foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt
Ready meals or sweet and savory snacks have been linked to common health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and some types of cancer, as well as tooth decay. These foods should be eaten in moderation, as part of a balanced diet and are best to be considered as treats. Most supermarket brands use colour-coded nutritional food labels to tell you at a glance if the food has high (red), medium (amber) or low (green) levels of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt. Any foods with red on the label should be eaten less often and in small amounts.
Be aware of hidden sugars
Remember, there are a lot of sugars hidden in unlikely foods too, such as some pasta sauces, cereals, yoghurts and salad dressings, as well as tinned and dried fruit. Where possible, find reduced and low-sugar options, or use healthier alternatives such as dates, honey and agave, which are commonly used in cooking and baking to sweeten foods.
Get your five-a-day
Fruit and vegetables should make up over a third of the food you eat each day. They contain all of your vital vitamins, minerals and fibre and research shows that people who consume the daily recommendation are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. No matter what age, you should aim to eat at least 5 portions of different coloured fruit and vegetables. Keep dried fruit, fruit juices and smoothies limited, as they have a higher sugar content.
Eat foods rich in fibre
Potatoes, wholemeal bread, brown rice, pasta and other starchy foods are high in fibre, which helps to support your digestive system and prevent constipation and disorders of the digestive tract. There is also plenty of fibre in fruit and vegetables. If you suffer with bowel discomfort, it is important to monitor your fibre intake and make adjustments slowly, as increasing fibre intake rapidly or in large quantities can cause constipation, flatulence and stomach distension.
Protein helps repair the body
Beans, pulses, fish, eggs and other proteins, including meat, all contain protein, fat, minerals and vitamins, which help maintain and repair cells in the body. Beans, peas and lentils are great alternatives to meat as they are naturally low in fat, but high in fibre and protein, and contain plenty of vitamins and minerals. Avoid processed meats, as these are higher in fat and salt and lower in iron. Try eating less red meat also, such as bacon, ham and sausages, as these can be harmful to your cholesterol levels. Instead, choose lean cuts of meat such as chicken or turkey mince.
Eat approximately 2 portions of oily fish each week
Tinned fish, salmon, mackerel and pilchards are rich in Vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids, which are good for heart health and may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, dementia and macular degeneration (a type of vision loss).
Consume some dairy
Milk, yoghurt and cheese are good sources of calcium, protein, fat and vitamins A, D and B12. Dairy is high in fat and should only be consumed in small quantities, so choose lower fat and lower sugar options like 1% fat, semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, reduced-fat cheese and plain low-fat yoghurt.
Calcium helps support your bones, nerve and muscle function. Vitamin D is required to absorb the calcium and therefore plays a vital role in your diet, especially as you get older, as bones and muscles tend to get weaker, meaning you are at a higher risk of osteoporosis and brittle bone disease.
When checking your food labels, you should also bear in mind that ‘low fat’ means a product has 3g or less fat per 100g, meanwhile reduced fat means a product is 25% lower in fat than the standard product. Fat is also made up of different fatty acids – mono-unsaturated, poly-unsaturated, saturated and trans-fat. Too much saturated or trans-fat in your diet can raise LDL cholesterol in the blood, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. As part of a healthy diet, you should try to cut down on foods and drinks high in saturated fats and trans-fat and replace some of them with unsaturated fats.
Drink plenty of water
Your body needs plenty of fluids to keep you hydrated and allow fibre to pass through the body. As you get older, you may not feel as thirsty, but you should still aim to drink between 6-8 glasses of fluid every day, whether that be water, tea, coffee or soup. However, certain medical problems such as heart failure can restrict the amount of fluid you consume each day, and if you suffer with urinary incontinence, you might feel reluctant to drink lots of water to avoid going to the toilet too often, but you should take the advice of your doctor for how much fluid you need.
Monitor your salt intake
Too much salt in your diet can increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Some foods already contain high levels of salt, such as cured meats, crisps, pastries and sauces. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or are at greater risk, choose reduced-salt foods when grocery shopping, and when cooking, use herbs and spices to flavour your food, instead of salt. Takeaways and fast-food restaurants are also guilty of containing high quantities of salt. However, if you are diagnosed with having low blood pressure, your doctor may recommend a diet with increased salt intake, but remember to drink plenty of fluids.
Reduce your alcohol consumption
Alcohol in large quantities can be detrimental to your health. As we get older, we tend to have less body weight than younger adults, and therefore when alcohol is consumed, it is more concentrated in the blood. Over-consumption of alcohol can impair judgement and put you at greater risk of falls or injury, and is also harmful to your vital organs, specifically your liver.
Adjust portion sizes
Remember that as you get older, you need to adjust your portion sizes. Dietary needs also vary with gender, as in general, men require a higher caloric intake than women. If you’re unsure of how much you should be eating, speak to your general practitioner or doctor.
We hope you found our healthy eating guide useful. If you or a family member require assistance with day-to-day living, speak to us about our Live In Care package.