How We Should Be Eating as We Age

By Christa Banister

Health and wellness information can be frustrating and confusing. One week, coffee is good. The next, it’s an absolute no-no. Ditto for red meat, bread, and dairy products which may or may not be healthy depending on the latest study. Adding to the mayhem is the multibillion-dollar diet industry with seemingly endless regimens endorsed by experts of all kinds: keto, gluten-free, low-fat, high-fat, carb-forward, carb-adverse, intermittent fasting.

Yet, despite all the ways to “get thin fast,” obesity is at epidemic proportions, according to Healthline.com. It’s no wonder why so many people struggle with healthy eating. And as we age, these decisions become even more important. There are numerous benefits of eating healthy for older adults, and the good news is that the best approach isn’t the latest fad. It’s one that’s sensible and never goes out of style.

Different Body, Different Needs

With an emphasis on more nutrient density and not labeling foods “good” or “bad,” the approach is to make better choices that are proven to bolster mental health, lessen symptoms of depression, and provide fuel for a healthy body.

Meadows Senior Fellow and registered dietician Kristin Kirkpatrick addresses the fuzzy nature of nutrition and how a back-to-basics approach tends to be “the best one.”

“Real food is something found in nature, fed from nature, and will eventually rot,” Kirkpatrick says. “So, if you do nothing but eat real food 90% of the time, you’re going to be pretty good.”

With an emphasis on more nutrient density and not labeling foods “good” or “bad,” the approach is to make better choices that are proven to bolster mental health, lessen symptoms of depression, and provide fuel for a healthy body.

What exactly does healthy eating as we age look like? Eating enough protein to prevent the loss of lean muscle mass. Incorporating more whole grains. Opting for more fruits and vegetables rather than foods with added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. In short, healthy eating is a commonsense approach that favors real food over its processed counterparts.

As our bodies age, healthy eating for older adults requires specialized nutritional needs for optimum performance, which is why it’s important to eat healthy as you get older. Staying hydrated, which helps with digestion, is vital as the usual sensation of thirst declines. Your body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12 commonly lessens with each birthday too, which plays an essential role in nerve function. Choosing foods like fruit and whole grains found in oatmeal that are fiber-rich promotes feeling full and fends off colon- and bowel-related discomfort, according to the National Institute on Aging.

Another building block of healthy eating as we age is incorporating healthy oils into your diet. Whether it’s from peanut butter, avocado, or olive oil, a daily allowance of five to eight teaspoons provides energy, vitamin E that supports heart health, and help in absorbing vitamins.

healthy eating meal prep

With Good Habits Comes Freedom

So much of healthy eating as we age boils down to choices: Selecting colorful, nutrient-rich food that is fresh as opposed to processed. Learning to read and understand nutritional labels and steering clear of clever marketing ploys can help too, says Foodoverknives.com.

You can also set yourself up for success by learning how to prepare fresh, simple meals at home.

You can also set yourself up for success by learning how to prepare fresh, simple meals at home. With today’s technological advances that combine artificial intelligence and nutrition, this process can be streamlined by customizing nutrition to your specific medical conditions.

But even with health taking precedence, Kirkpatrick knows that a life without the occasional slice of pizza or scoop of ice cream isn’t sustainable. If anything, it often leads to a full-on binge that can lead to a pattern of unhealthy choices.

And that’s where making good decisions the majority of the time and not labeling foods “good” or “bad” comes into play. It provides the freedom to enjoy your favorite treats every now and then.

Taking Care of Yourself

As you establish good habits over time, you will ultimately return to the foods that are best for your body and long-term health. By avoiding gimmicky diets and making a commitment to your health, it should become second nature as you embrace the benefits of eating healthy for older adults.

If you or someone you love is specifically struggling with mental health or addiction, regardless of your age, we at The Meadows Malibu can help. We understand that an essential part of the healing process is to focus on taking care of your body through nutrient-rich foods that nourish, replenish, and help heal. In addition to enjoying the delicious creations by our on-site private chefs, you will learn how to prepare healthy meals that will help you thrive once you return home.

For more information or to start your journey to wellness, contact us today.