Age Friendly: Smart Lifestyle Choices for Healthy Aging—The Other Food Group and Beverages

Last time in this “Age Friendly” series, we checked in on the protein and dairy food groups. Here, we’ll wrap up discussion of food groups with a look at the “other” food group and beverages in our daily diet.

Let’s start with some good news. Older adults can follow a healthy diet and still eat their cake, too. Fortunately, the federal Dietary Guidelines set aside for us a small number of calories for this purpose.

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We’re not talking about eating a half-dozen doughnuts at one seating, of course. Rather, you might want to enjoy (a little extra) butter on your baked potato or an larger/second helping of salmon or trout for dinner. The doughnut with your coffee is not part of a healthy eating plan, but enjoying this occasional treat makes us human. The key here is to avoid the excess calories, fat and even sodium that some of our occasional treats may contain.


Some of the foods we eat daily are not in the five main food groups. These include the healthy oils that can be eaten regularly as part of our diet, like olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, safflower oil and other monounsaturated oils. Corn oil, soybean oil, flaxseed oil and other polyunsaturated oils can be found in fatty fish, walnuts and some seeds.

In general, try to use oils instead of saturated fats or solid fats, such as butter, lard and palm. Saturated fats do occur naturally in some of the foods we eat, but they are also added to foods such as pastries, chips and pizza. It’s important to read the federal Nutrition Facts label on each product to help you track how much saturated fat—and what types—you are consuming.

Oils and solid fats are high in calories, but they also are an important source of vitamin E. Healthy fats provide energy and assist in helping your body to absorb certain vitamins. For older adults, the Dietary Guidelines daily allowance runs 5 to 8 teaspoons, dependent upon your activity level.


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When we think about beverages, we have an array of good choices. But, some can add extra calories without nutritional benefits. For example, drinking coffee or tea are both very low in calories. But, add in sugar and cream, and the calorie count can climb quickly. And, while you might enjoy ordering a beverage from coffee shops, be cautious. Many times, these drinks come spiked with added sugars and fats.

Soda, fruit drinks, sport and energy drinks, and even sweetened water are all examples of beverages with added sugars. Most sweetened beverages don’t contribute to a healthy meal plan and should be considered a “sometimes” food or beverage.

Alcohol is not nutrient-dense, and it, too, is not part of a healthy diet plan. Moderation is key here. The Dietary Guidelines suggest that if you do consume alcohol, limit that to one drink or less for women and two drinks or less for men.

Try drinking beverages that contribute nutrients to your diet. If you don’t prefer drinking water, try squeezing lemon or lime to add some fresh juice to your water glass. Or, add some cucumber slices, strawberries or raspberries to perk up the flavor.

One thing to watch for: as we age, some of us begin to lose the sense of thirst. Don’t wait to feel thirsty before reaching for the water or a beverage.

Walk away with these tips:

  • Drink throughout the day.
  • Take a full glass of water with your medications.
  • Drink a glass of water before you exercise or go out for a walk on a sunny day.
  • Drink beverages that are more nutrient-dense.
  • Try to avoid sugary, high-fat, calory-dense beverages.


Posted: April 20, 2023

Category: Health & Nutrition, Work & Life
Tags: Age, AgeFriendly, Aging, Diet, Food, Health, Healthy, Lifestyle, Nutrition, Pgm_FCS

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