These years can be a time for rejuvenation. This period can be a wonderful opportunity to explore things we were always interested in, or never thought of before. With our newfound freedom, we can engage in a new, fulfilling life. But, to do that, we have to be healthy. That means taking care of our bodies and watching what we eat. Our bodies are changing in our 60s and beyond, so that means our diet must change, too. Here are tips to keep your body in excellent health.
Dealing with Changing Bodies
Strange things happen as you age – food that you once loved now tastes bland. Your sense of smell is strong or subtle, and you never feel thirsty. Gums and teeth have had a regular ride three times a day for decades, and they’re starting to show a little wear and tear, making eating a different experience.
These changes are all normal. The best thing to do is adjust! So if you can’t really taste that chicken, or it just needs something, give it a little kick with new herbs and spices. Maybe roasting was great before, but now you’d prefer to sauté some thighs with an onion and rosemary, or squirt some fresh orange juice on it – the point is, new recipes might be in order. What’s better, you’ll have a little fun in the kitchen and change up your go-to meals, which may be a little tired anyway.
Make sure you’re drinking! Yes, water is the best anecdote for dehydration, but you could drink low fat or skim milk, or 100 percent juice. It’s strange, but you probably don’t know when you’re thirsty, so just try to make sure you always have a glass of something standing by.
For your gums and teeth, try baking apples and pears, instead of biting into them raw. Make healthy tuna or chicken salad from a can. Soups make great meals, as do mashed potatoes with some string beans. Try to get inventive, because poor gums aren’t a reason not to eat, they’re just something to work around.
Cooking Good Food
Make sure the food you cook is nutritious. Homemade meals are the healthiest, as long as you make something rich in vitamins. What you need now is nutrients more than calories, so make sure you get a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. Vary the color and the kinds you eat – it’ll keep things interesting, and look pretty on the plate, too.
A good way to easily eat healthy meals at home is to plan ahead. Make a list, pull out some recipes that you want to cook, and make a list. Throughout the week, maintain a list, too, that way if you run out of olive oil or salsa, or some other staple, you won’t forget to get to pick it up. Make a meal that will last four nights or so. This way it won’t be a big production every time you want to eat.
When you fulfill that grocery list, make sure you pick the best ingredients. That means looking at labels, and knowing what they mean (more on that below), as well as choosing real, good food. That can be expensive, but one way to cut costs is to get the inconvenient version. So, buy the non-instant rice, the whole chicken that you will need to prepare, slow cook oatmeal, that kind of thing.
Make sure you have a balance of foods. Your grocery cart should not only be vegetables, or heavy on meat, or dairy, but a nice variety of foods to ensure proper nutrition.
Eating When You Don’t Want to
Our appetites can wane when we age. While normal, it’s not good. You do need to eat. If you’re not hungry, consider the medications you’re taking, and ask your doctor if it hampers your appetite. Maybe you can find an alternative. Talk to you doctor if you’re feeling a little down, too. Sadness is normal, but if you feel it all the time, as many seniors do, it could be a sign of depression, and loss of appetite is a known symptom of the disease.
Sometimes we don’t want to eat because it’s difficult to swallow, which is scary. This could be due to a reduction in saliva, which is counteracted by drinking lots of fluids. Or, you might have a health condition that makes it hard to swallow, like GERD, in which case, consult your doctor.
Finally, eating with friends is a great way to maintain a healthy diet. Making meals social takes the emphasis off your food, and focuses on the experience. This means that not only will you eat your meal, but for those of us who love to eat, we’ll choose the healthy option, because it’s not so much about the food, but the person we’re with. We can sacrifice easily.
In our senior years, we gain and lose in different ways. If we gain, this is not great for our health, as we all know, and so it’s important to watch food intake. Eating fruits and vegetables, and making smart choices when we eat out can be a great help. Also, portion control, which in some ways works for those who are losing weight, too. Eating the right amount of food each meal controls overeating or under eating.
Exercise is wonderful for those looking to gain or lose weight. It builds muscle and strengthens bones, which are crucial musts to avoid frailty. Also, exercise burns fat, so you lose some of the bulkiness you may have gained.
Resources for Healthy Diets
How much should be on your plate? What should you be eating? The nutrients on a food label are only useful if you know what’s what. Choosemyplate.gov is a wonderful resource, as are the National Institute on Aging, Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate’s SuperTracker. All are found on the web and can direct you to make the right healthy decisions.