Aging and healthy eating

Older adults may experience common obstacles that need addressing to enable them to make good choices in regards to diet and exercise. Here are some tips that can help.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines encourage Americans to focus on eating a healthy diet. Michigan State University Extension and the National Institute of Health recommends a diet that focuses on foods and beverages that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight, promote health and prevent disease. For older adults there may be common obstacles that need to be addressed to enable them to make good choices in regards to diet and exercise. Some of these are listed below with tips to assist you.

  • Eating alone. Invite others to put foods together for a potluck lunch or supper, or check out the local senior center or community center. Enjoying a meal or snack together is fun and enjoyable.
  • Dental difficulties. If it is hard to chew foods, then you will most likely avoid them. Foods like meat, fresh fruits and vegetables supply nutrients that our bodies need. Cutting meats into smaller pieces and cooking them in soups and stews can reduce the difficulty of chewing them. Also, cook vegetables and fruits to soften them for eating. For example, try baked apples, poached pears or use canned fruits in their own juice. Vegetables can be added to soups and stews or poached in broth to help soften.
  • Tasting foods. As adults age some may lose their sense of taste and, or smell. Taste preferences, food choices and eating habits all change with age. This can affect the appeal of food. Some medicines can also affect the taste of foods or make you less hungry. Talk to your doctor if you have difficulties with changing tastes and smells.
  • Not hungry. Lack of appetite due to medication or changes in your body may leave you feeling full. Make sure that physical activity is part of your day, like stretching or walking extra steps when possible. Remember to vary the color, shape and texture of foods to enhance their appeal. You may wish to eat many smaller meals, rather than three large meals.
  • Keeping your food safe. As we age our body’s ability to fight off foodborne illness decreases. It is important to handle foods with safety in mind. Keep ready-to-eat foods available, including raw vegetables and fruits. Make sure to keep fruits and vegetables separate from raw meats and poultry to prevent cross-contamination; cross-contamination can have severe effects on aging immune systems. Always wash your hands with hot, soapy water, as well as surfaces where you prepare food. If you have leftover food, label with a “use by” date. If you are in doubt of a foods safety, toss it out. Finally, remember to refrigerate all perishable foods within two hours of cooking.

Check with your doctor or health care professional if you are experiencing any difficulties mentioned in this article. A healthy diet and exercise may be the key to longevity. Here’s to your good health!

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