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DIET TIPS: Secrets to Eating for Healthy Aging

Practically every expert will tell you it’s important to “eat right,” but they often don’t tell you why. As we age, eating well can help prevent many common health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity. And for those who already have chronic conditions, following a nutritious diet may help keep them from getting worse.

 

Understanding the connection between eating and aging is great, but next we need some definition of a nutritious diet. Dietary advice can be confusing and overwhelming. The University of Washington offers tips for healthy eating and healthy aging.*

 

Aim for Balance and Variety

Your body needs a variety of nutrients to function at its best, including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. A healthy diet offers a balance of these nutrients. Each day, try to consume a combination of 7 dietary must-haves:

 

  1. A Variety of Vegetables. Include dark leafy greens like spinach, red-orange vegetables like carrots, and beans or peas.
  2. A Variety of Fruits. Consider options like blueberries, raspberries and apples. Try to choose fresh, whole fruits when you can.
  3. Whole Grains. Go for high-fiber choices such as whole wheat, oats, or brown rice.
  4. A Variety of Proteins. Opt for fish, lean meat, poultry, or eggs. You can also find good sources of protein in nuts, beans, quinoa or soy products.
  5. Low-Fat Dairy. Enjoy low-fat milk, cheese, or yogurt. If you have trouble digesting dairy products, choose soy, rice, or almond substitutes with calcium added.
  6. Plant oils. Incorporate heart-healthy oils into your diet, such as grapeseed or olive oil.
  7. Water. Stay hydrated. It’s an important part of a healthy diet, and your sense of thirst may weaken as you age.

 

A balanced diet means that you can occasionally enjoy your favorite processed foods or desserts, as long as your overall diet includes a variety of fresh, nutritious foods.

 

Tips for Making Healthy Changes to Your Diet

Small changes can make a big difference when it comes to healthy eating. Consider making some substitutions to foods you consume often. For example:

 

▪  Choose whole oranges instead of orange juice.

▪  Try whole wheat pasta or bread instead of white.

▪  Add chopped vegetables to casseroles, soups, or even baked goods. As you age, you may need to choose softer vegetables that are easier to chew.

▪  Purchase low-sodium soups and sauces, or make your own to reduce salt.

▪  Choose lean cuts of meat, such as skinless chicken breast or fish for your protein, or try non-meat substitutes, such as soy products, beans, or nuts.

▪  Replace soft drinks or other sweetened beverages with unsweetened sparkling water, milk, or if you tolerate caffeine, tea and/or coffee.

 

We hope these simple tips from university researchers and nutrition experts will help you evaluate your diet and make healthy changes.

 

*University of Washington. (2017). Tips for healthy eating & healthy aging [Factsheet]. http://agerrtc.washington.edu

 

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