Seven pointers for healthier senior eating
Nutrition is an important factor that we often tend to ignore and as we age, healthier senior eating is important. Part of the reason this happens is because we don’t like to change, but our metabolism doesn’t stay the same. Here are seven pointers for healthier senior eating.
Understand your eating habits
Do you like to snack on salty junk food? If so, don’t eat directly from the large bag. Get the smaller individual snack bags or take out a handful from the big bag and put the rest away. If you think the microwave is a lifesaver, buy healthy foods that can be easily prepared in the microwave. Realizing your individual eating preferences and working with them will help you to eat healthier much more effectively than trying to force yourself to adapt to new ways of doing everything. Remember that humans are extremely resistant to change, and the bigger the change, the more we resist. Keep the changes small and more comfortable, and you will be much more successful.
Reduce meat consumption
Contrary to what most Americans think, meat should not be the mainstay of your diet. In fact, for healthier senior eating should consist mainly of grains, nuts and seeds, and non-starchy vegetables and fruits. Try to work more of these foods into your daily diet. Put some shelled sunflower seeds on a salad. Add a can of kidney beans to soup or your pasta dish. Have a bowl of brown rice mixed with three bean salad, some peanut butter and a splash of low-sodium soy sauce.
Experiment with different foods
Eat more vegetables. No one said you have to eat plain steamed broccoli. Try adding some unusual spices that you like to common vegetables. Some of your experiments might not turn out great, but you may surprise yourself with some interesting combinations. Or, you can add some leftover vegetables to your omelet or scrambled eggs in the morning. A big benefit of increasing your vegetable consumption is that it increases the volume of a meal while reducing calories. People tend to eat the same weight of food, not the same amount of calories per day. Since non-starchy vegetables are usually lower in calories and higher in bulk, you can trick yourself into thinking you’re eating as much as you always have.
Packaged foods and labels
The fact is that Americans ingest three-quarters of their sodium and almost all the trans fats and added sugar from packaged foods. Don’t pay attention to all the fabulous claims on the fronts of packaged goods. Look for the nutrition facts section instead and pay close attention to the calories, saturated fats, trans fats and sodium. Check other brands to see if the numbers on a competing brand may be lower. And don’t forget that the numbers shown are for one serving. If you know you’re going to eat more than one serving, make sure you multiply the numbers by the expected serving you’ll be consuming.
Know your fats
Fats have almost twice the calories per gram than proteins or carbohydrates. If you want to maintain or lose weight, you need to limit the amount of fats you eat – both the “good” ones and the “bad” ones. Different fats affect the body in different ways. Polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats are the “good” fats found in vegetable oils and oily fish. They don’t raise cholesterol levels and may even reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems. Saturated and trans fats are known as “bad” fats. These are found in dairy and beef products and many packaged and fast foods. The more you eat of these, the higher your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Watch what you drink
Beverages can create a lot of unwanted calories. A twelve-ounce can of regular soda contains 150 calories. If you drink just two of those every day, you could gain over 30 pounds in a year. And beverages don’t fill you up the same way that foods do. Studies have shown that people eat the same amount whether they wash their food down with a 150-calorie drink or just plain water. If you think about it, for thousands of years, all people drank was water. And that’s not a bad thing.
Portion control is important
Restaurants these days cause us many problems when it comes to eating healthy. In addition to high calorie high fat dishes, they also serve us huge portions. The average human is usually in a state where they can say they are neither hungry nor full. Unfortunately, in that state, if something is put in front of us, we’ll eat it. Remember that a serving of almost any food should be the amount that fits into the palm of your hand. If you’re eating out, one strategy is to share an entree. That way you’ll eat less, and save some money, too. Another tactic is to ask your server for a “doggy bag” as soon as you get your food and put half of it in the bag before you begin to eat.
By Thomas D. Manfredi, M.S., Online fitness coach