There is a famous quote that says “Eat to live but don’t live to eat.” Or shall we go one step further and say “Eat well to live well?” While choosing healthy foods is a smart thing to do at any age, eating healthy takes on even greater importance as you grow older and become prone to more health issues.
Be a smart eater
The trick is to eat a variety of foods from different food groups. This will help you get the nutrients you need. The food groups below will give you a wide range to pick and choose from. The dietary guidelines developed by the National Institute on Aging suggest that people over 50 choose foods every day from the following:
Fruits: 1.5 to 2.5 cups
Half a cup of fruit is equal to a fresh peach or 16 grapes.
Vegetables: 2 to 3.5 cups
Please understand that leafy vegetables take up more space in a cup, so as a rule of thumb, one cup of diced vegetables is the same as two cups of uncooked leafy vegetables.
Grains: 5 to 10 ounces
This is equal to a small bagel, a slice of whole grain bread, a cup of flaked ready-to-eat cereal, or a half-cup of cooked rice or pasta.
Protein foods: 5 to 7 ounces
To get your daily dose of protein, have one egg, a quarter cup of cooked beans or tofu, a half-ounce of nuts or seeds, or one tablespoon of peanut butter.
Dairy foods: 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk
If you don’t like drinking milk, you can substitute that for one cup of plain yogurt or up to two ounces of cheese. Remember, one cup of cottage cheese is the same as half a cup of milk.
Oils: 5 to 8 teaspoons
When choosing oils, try and stick to the healthier varieties such as olive oil or coconut oil. But remember, foods like olives, nuts, and avocados have a lot of oil in them. So the days you eat these, you have to cut down to balance your oil intake.
Solid fats and added sugars (SoFAS), and salt: Be careful with these. If you eat too many foods containing SoFAS, you will have consumed your daily calorie quota without getting the nutrition you need from the more nutritious foods you should be eating. So, keep these to a minimum if you can’t eliminate them completely. Your body does not need them. (Salt could be the secret to lower blood pressure.)
Special diet plan: In addition to the above, your doctor may want you to follow a special diet plan because of a health problem such as heart disease or diabetes. Or, some of the above foods might interact adversely with medication. In these cases, speak to your doctor or nutritionist to suggest alternate foods so that your nutritional intake is not diminished. (This “Mother of Antioxidants” fights off a slew of free radicals.)
Of course, you don’t need to stick to the same food every day—mix it up a bit. The trick is to create a healthy eating pattern by making good choices about what you eat every day. These guidelines are flexible and are meant to help you choose a diet of nutritious foods and drinks that you like, that are available in your area, and that fit your budget. However, remember to stay away from empty calories: foods and drinks that are calorie-rich but nutrient-poor such as chips, cookies, soda, and alcohol.