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5 simple tips for eating well as you age
We all know that fuelling your body with fresh, tasty food and wholesome ingredients can help you stay active, healthy and independent at any age.
When your body feels good, your mood and self-esteem is boosted and you feel happier, inside and out.
But did you know, good nutrition is even more important later in life?
As you get older, your nutritional needs and habits change in several ways and you may experience new challenges when it comes to eating well. Your sense of smell and taste declines, which may affect your interest and enjoyment of food. You might experience a loss of appetite, feel you have less energy, weaker muscles or more joint problems. And if you’re living with a chronic health condition, your medication may impact your hunger, taste and body weight.
No matter what your age, it’s never too late to improve your diet and eating habits to give you the best chance at good health, happiness and wellbeing.
Here are our top tips for ensuring optimal nutrition as you age:
Most people don’t realise that whilst your energy requirements decrease with age, your need for nutrients actually increases. The problem is, your ability to absorb those nutrients often declines, along with your appetite! So how do you ensure you’re still getting all the nutrients you need? Ros Sambell from the Australasian Health Development (AHD) Network says the key is eating less food, but ensuring what you do eat is as nutrient dense as possible.
“Try to consume smaller portions of lean meats or vegetable protein with a variety of fresh or frozen vegetables,” says Ros. “Add herbs and spices to enhance flavour and whole grains to provide fibres and important resistant starch. These components support your gut health, which impacts your overall health.”
“Be adventurous!” urges Ros. “We tend to choose the same fruits and veggies when we go shopping - try to add a different fruit or vegetable to your trolley each week.”
We tend to choose the same fruits and veggies when we go shopping - try to add a different fruit or vegetable to your trolley each week.
Whether they’re fresh, frozen or canned (choose cans with low or no added salt), eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables will ensure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals you need to boost immunity, fight illness, regulate weight and reduce symptoms of chronic health conditions.
Try to use less salt in your cooking and avoid adding salt at the table during mealtimes. Ros suggests using onions, garlic, lime, ginger and fresh or dried herbs and spices to heighten the flavour of your foods. These can also provide key nutrients and phytochemicals to offer a protective effect to your health.
Professor Amanda Devine from AHD Network recommends growing basil, parsley, bay leaves, rosemary or other favourites in pots in your garden or on your kitchen benchtop, “So you have herbs at your fingertips!” she says.
It’s always wise to limit saturated fats and added sugars for good health. Reduced fat milk tends to be higher in calcium and other important B Vitamins. Ros suggests aiming for three to four serves of dairy a day to support your bone health.
Hidden sugar – found in many packaged foods, like canned soup, pasta sauce and frozen dinners - contributes zero nutrients but lots of empty calories, which can cause weight gain, mood swings and serious health issues, especially for people living with a chronic disease.
Mealtimes provide an opportunity to connect and share food with loved ones. If you live with family, Amanda suggests turning off the TV off when it’s time to eat. “Spend time shopping, preparing, cooking and eating together – and connect with one another, as well as with your food,” she says. “These behaviours boost the enjoyment of your meals and foster overall wellness.”
And if you live on your own? Set up a ‘dinner club’ with a few friends and rotate hosts. Invite family or friends over to share meals with you, or consider an in-home care provider, like Silver Chain, who can help you prepare and cook tasty, nutritious meals and offer companionship at mealtime.
If you or someone close to you could benefit from help to plan and prepare tasty and nutritious meals at home, please call the Silver Chain Care Team on (08) 9242 0119.