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Elder Nutrition: Making Healthy Choices as You Get Older

Elder nutrition is very important. As you get older, your body changes and so should your eating habits.  Making healthy choices isn’t just for the young and its importance increases as you age.  There are many ways to improve your food choices and make eating healthier.

      • Drink plenty of liquids-  staying hydrated is important and as you get older your sense of thirst lessens.  Drinking juices and fat-free milk are good choices, but you also need to make sure you are drinking plenty of water as well.  Make sure to limit beverages that have a lot of added sugars or salt.
      • Eat with others to encourage healthy eating– Invite friends to eat a couple of days a week so you motivate each other. two senior citizens holding a basket of vegetables in a gardenSenior centers or places of worship often offer meals for elders. The Family Nutrition Program often offers classes at senior centers, churches and assisted living facilities. .
      • Plan healthy meals in advance– get educated on what to eat, how much to eat, and which foods to choose.  Find sensible, flexible ways to choose and prepare tasty meals so you can eat foods you need.  You can find trusted nutrition information at ChooseMyPlate.gov and the National Institute on Aging or contact your local Family Nutrition Program Assistant.  The program also offers one on one consultations if you prefer something more confidential.
      • Be aware of your portions– portion control is the key.  No matter if you are eating healthy or not, if you are eating too much then you are not doing any good.  You can learn about portion control using MyPlate’s Super Tracker to learn about the amounts of food you need.  When eating out, ask for a to-go tray so that you can take half of your meal home and make two meals out of one.
      • Vary your vegetables– jazz up your plate with bright and colorful vegetables.  Vegetables are a good source of fiber and most are low calorie.  Veggies are full of nutrients that your body needs, especially as you get older.
      • Eat foods for your teeth and gums– don’t let dental issues discourage you, you need the nutrients.  If you find it hard to chew certain fruits, vegetables or meats, eating softer foods can help.  Try eating foods that are cooked or canned like unsweetened fruit, low-sodium soups, or canned tuna.  Be creative, just make sure you get the vitamins and minerals you need to be healthy.
      • Use herbs and spices–  as you age your sense of smell, sense of taste, or both may change.  Medication may also be affecting your taste.  If your favorite dishes seem to have lost their flavor, add herbs and spices to change it up so you can keep enjoying your favorite healthy foods.
      • Get educated about foods safety– food-related illnesses can be life threatening for an older person.  Don’t take any chances with your health and be sure to throw out food that might not be safe.  Make sure to avoid foods that are risky for an older person, such as unpasteurized dairy foods.  Foods that are raw or undercooked, such as eggs, sprouts, fish, shellfish, meat or poultry can be harmful to you.  Contact your local Family Nutrition Program Assistant to get more information about food safety and/or to ask about food safety classes that are available.
      • Be aware of nutrition facts label– It is important to know the calories, fats and sodium, but is also important to know what other ingredients and nutrients are in each food.  Ask your doctor if their are ingredients and nutrients you need to either increase or decrease so you will know what to look for.
      • Supplements or vitamins– The best way to get the nutrients you need are by eating fresh foods.  However, you should consult with your doctor to see if you are getting enough important vitamins and minerals.  Dietary supplements are vitamins and other pills and powders with herbs and minerals. More is not always better, depending on your dietary needs and medication.

      Always consult with your doctor first before making any changes to your diet or daily activity.  As you age your body changes and  your needs may change as well.  Which is why it is even more important to have regular doctor visits as you get older.  Contact your local Extension Office for Family Nutrition Program information, class schedules and consultations.

      Jana Hart- Extension Agent- FCS/4-H

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