Remember, a healthy diet cannot always prevent the normal problems of aging but it can give you the strength to cope with some of the challenges. Healthy eating also helps reduce your risk of heart disease, some cancers, obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis.
The senior years are a time when most people need fewer calories. However, the need for vitamins and minerals does not decrease with age. Every bite must count.
Knowing that a good diet is important to health does not always mean that it is easy to achieve. There are many things that can get in the way, such as not having the energy or time or money to plan, shop and cook. It is also easy to become lost and confused in the wave of new nutrition information and products. Use the following suggestions to help you eat well.
Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating can help you balance your food choices for a healthy diet.
Many of your favourite foods or recipes can be adapted to today's healthy eating guidelines.
When altering recipes, you may need to experiment with the amount of liquid or the baking time. Share your ideas and successes with others.
Enjoy variety! Include cereals, breads and other grain products. Try some different vegetables or fruits. Plan to include a variety of milk products, leaner meat, fish, poultry, and dried beans and lentils in your meals every day.
Don't forget to plan for special diet needs. You may need softer foods such as eggs, custards or puddings if you have chewing problems. Foods high in fibre such as whole grain breads, cereals, fruits and vegetables can help combat constipation.
Try a combination of small meals and snacks throughout the day to meet your nutritional needs. This may suit your appetite better than larger meals. Be prepared for days when illness or bad weather keeps you indoors. Stock your shelf with non-perishable foods such as canned meat, canned or powdered milk, canned or frozen fruits and vegetables, as well as crackers, macaroni, rice and pasta.
Water is important at any age. Drink water and serve fruit juices, milk and soups as part of your daily fluid intake.
It's one thing to aim for healthy eating. It's another to stick to the plan. Many of your food choices will be made while you are shopping. To help you buy the foods you want, learn how to read the product labels. While ingredient lists and nutrition information on packages can be difficult to read, they provide valuable information. For instance, ingredients are listed on all products in descending order of quantity. If a product lists sugar first, it contains more sugar than anything else.
Fat and salt can be hidden foods. Words such as vegetable oil, shortening, palm oil, coconut oil or lard mean fat. 'Sodium chloride' and 'monosodium glutamate' mean that a product contains salt. Packages may contain additional nutrition information such as calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates or even dietary fibre. These can be helpful in comparing the dietary fibre or fat content of foods.
Claims such as 'cholesterol free' may appear on a label but the product may still be high in fat. Terms such as 'light' or 'lite' may be used to describe the colour or texture of a product rather than the fat or calorie content. Think about what the labels are telling you. Be cautious of products that claim to prevent or cure illness. Remember, there is no substitute for a well-balanced diet.
If shopping is difficult for you, try shopping with a friend or a relative, or find a volunteer to drive. It helps to shop on seniors' discount days, or during the week when stores are less busy. Don't forget to check weekly grocery specials for bargains. Read labels to compare prices. Buying larger quantities of some items and dividing them into smaller portions can save you money.
Cooking for one or two people can often be just as much work as cooking for a crowd. Doubling and freezing portions for another day can save you time and energy. Try having one-pot meals or meals in the microwave. You can use a double boiler to cook meat or rice in the bottom and a vegetable on top.
If you have trouble preparing foods because of a health problem, check with local medical supply stores to find out about the wide variety of modified kitchen tools and utensils available. There are also many ways you can adapt your old cooking utensils to make mixing or preparing easier.
At times, loneliness or depression may make shopping, cooking and eating hard to enjoy. It is important to recognize that these factors may interfere with appetite or the desire to eat well.
Sharing a potluck dinner with a friend or enjoying dinner at a local seniors centre may help perk up your appetite. In some communities, seniors meet once a month to plan, shop and prepare several meals together. These meals can then be taken home, frozen, and used on days when you don't feel like shopping or cooking. If you are eating alone, take the time to turn on some music or set the table near a window. Creating a pleasant and relaxing setting can make all the difference.
Let eating be a pleasure that lasts a lifetime!