Even though National Nutrition Month has officially passed, NextFifty Initiative wants to dive deeper into what a healthy diet means for people over 50. Eating a healthy and balanced diet throughout adulthood is important to stay energized, maintain a healthy weight and lower the chances of developing chronic health conditions.
According to the CDC, 9 in 10 Americans consume too much sodium in their diets, leaving them at risk to develop illnesses such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. According to Harvard Health, key factors that influence nutritional health during the aging process are things such as calorie needs, protein, taste, antioxidants, calcium and Vitamin D, as well as Water.
Harvard Health further notes that as adults age, their resting metabolic rate declines. A decline in resting metabolic rate can have unwanted side effects such as weight gain. To counteract weight gain, it is important for older adults to increase their physical activity and burn more calories. Another way to counteract weight gain is to increase whole grains like brown rice and oatmeal; fruits and vegetables, lean protein like chicken, eggs, white-fleshed fish, or lentils; and non-fat or low-fat dairy products like skim milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt in the diet.
The difference is in making choices that are nutrient-dense rather than calorie-dense, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Choosing carrots over chips or fresh fruit over cookies results in lower sugar and sodium for a nutrient-dense snack. Ways to further reduce sugar can be shifting from sodas or lattes to flavored waters or switching from whole milk to skim in your coffee, according to NIA.
Even though adults need fewer calories as they age, it is important to eat enough protein each day. It is recommended that an adult consume 45 to 60 grams of protein and focus on high-quality protein foods, like turkey breast, salmon, tuna, tofu, tempeh, or pork tenderloin.
The aging process is known to dull the senses of taste and smell. To preserve these senses as one ages, it is important to stay hydrated, resist over-salting foods, and use herbs and spices to enhance food flavors. Including foods high in antioxidants can help prevent the chances of developing chronic diseases. Some examples of these foods are almonds, bell peppers, blueberries, dark green leafy vegetables, strawberries, and tomatoes.
Getting enough fluids throughout the day is needed for the body to complete its functions. It is recommended that adults consume 48 to 64 ounces per day. Dehydration is more common among older adults as the sensation of thirst decreases. Focusing on non-diuretic beverages such as water, 100% fruit juices and low-fat milk will help decrease the chances of dehydration.
NextFifty Initiative has funded programs with Coal Creek Meals on Wheels and Meals on Wheels Fort Collins, organizations that provide home-delivered meal services to those in need in the community. Meals on Wheels also works to meet the growing nutritional needs of older people who are unable to shop or cook for themselves. NextFifty Initiative has also funded a program with the North 40 Mountain Alliance to help provide food to susceptible older adults located in remote and rural areas.
To learn more about NextFifty Initiative and their grants available for community programs to improve the lives of the older adult population, visit https://www.next50initiative.org.