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Healthy Eating As You Age: The Ideal Diet

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September is Healthy Aging Month and although the month is winding down, aging with good health on your side is something to practice all year long. One of the staples of a healthy lifestyle is a nutritional diet (September is also “Fruits & Veggies – More Matters Month). This is all the more true the older you get. For adults over 50, a healthy diet can increase mental acuteness, help you resist illness and disease and leave you with more energy. If you already suffer from chronic health problems, switching to a healthier diet can help you better manage your illness and live longer.
So what does a healthy diet look like? First, a person needs adequate caloric intake and this may vary according to daily physical activity. According to the National Institute of Aging, the recommended guidelines for adults over 50 are:
Women over 50:

  • Not physically active needs about 1600 calories a day
  • Somewhat physically active needs about 1800 calories a day
  • Very active needs about 2000 calories a day
Men over 50:
  • Not physically active needs about 2000 calories a day
  • Somewhat physically active needs about 2200-2400 calories a day
  • Very active needs about 2400-2800 calories a day

So what foods should constitute your daily caloric intake? According to the Plate Method, within a 9 inch plate, shoot for ½ fruits and veggies, ¼ whole grains and starches and ¼ lean meat or protein per meal.

Fruits and Vegetables: Most nutritionists agree that a healthy diet consists mostly of fruits and vegetables. For women over the age of 50, that amounts to 4-5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day. For men over 50, the recommended guidelines are 5 ½ to 6 cups of fruits and vegetables a day. Look to include a variety colors when selecting your produce, including dark, leafy greens. Some fruits and veggies that pack a nutritional punch include kale, spinach, broccoli, blueberries, cantaloupe, apples, bananas, sweet potatoes, red beets, eggplant, carrots and tomatoes.

Grains:  The best grains to eat are whole grains rather than over processed white flour. Look for whole wheat pasta and breads. Brown rice is preferred over white rice. Women over the age of 50 should eat 3 to 5 servings while men over 50 should consume 3 to 6 servings.

Meat and Protein:  As adults age, increasing physical activity and protein in your daily diet can help preserve strength and muscle mass and reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and hypertension. While red meat, poultry and fish are excellent sources of protein, you can also get your protein from nuts, tofu and legumes such as beans. Other sources include cheese, milk and yogurt. But you must be careful not to take in too much protein as it can put too much stress on your kidneys. Certain protein sources, such as red meat, are also high in fat and can increase cholesterol. For those who are moderately active, men over the age of 50 should consume 5.5 ounces of protein while women over 50 should eat 5 ounces of protein per day (roughly the size of a deck of cards). Furthermore, health experts encourage you to choose leaner protein such as grilled chicken, seafood and beans.
Overall, an ideal balanced and healthy diet consists mostly of fruits and vegetables with a small amount of grains and meat on the side.
Before you make any significant changes to your diet, always consult your primary care physician about the diet that works for you.