Maintaining a nutritious diet is no easy task, but for many, eating well becomes even trickier as we get older. Add in medications that require dietary changes or chronic health conditions, and it’s no wonder some lose track of a healthy eating routine or experience fluctuations in weight. By prioritizing nutrient-rich foods, we can strengthen our minds and immune systems, while also preventing illness down the road. Below are some common myths on healthy eating habits for individuals 65 and older.
- Myth: Older adults must eat three “proper meals” a day. o Fact: Caloric needs vary from person to person. Eating three full meals a day can sometimes be a struggle for seniors who experience a loss of appetite or find cooking time consuming. Pre-packaged meals or convenience dishes such as frozen vegetables can often do the trick. If three meals are too many, consider swapping them for five or six healthy snacks throughout the day.
- Myth: All hydration needs to come from fluids. o Fact: Staying hydrated is vital for health, but some seniors can struggle to get the appropriate amount of water. While water is the best source of hydration, consuming water-rich foods like watermelon, lettuce, peaches, tomatoes, or strawberries can be a great supplement.
- Myth: Supplements are sufficient on their own. o Fact: Dietary supplements are often seen as a quick way to get your daily vitamins and minerals in, but the best way to receive nutrients is through the food we eat. If you have difficulty eating a variety of food, talk with your doctor about the best approach for you.
- Myth: Low-sodium or low-fat diets are better for everyone. o Fact: Despite popular beliefs, a low-fat diet or low-sodium diet isn’t always the best. Unless you have certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure, eliminating salt can make food unappetizing and lead to missed meals. Meanwhile, fat is an important source of calories and something that’s especially important for older adults who struggle to keep weight on. It’s all about moderation. Before making any extreme changes to your diet, consult your physician.
- Myth: Older adults don’t need as much protein as younger generations. o Fact: Older adults need more protein than adults under the age of 65. Proteins — lean meats, poultry, fish and eggs — should form the center of a meal. The food group is vital to keeping your bones and organs healthy, as well as your immune system functioning well.
- Myth: We don’t need to worry about nutrition in our later years. o Fact: A healthy lifestyle should be pursued at every stage of your life. The National Council on Aging recommends older adults eat a variety of foods, including lean proteins, fruits and vegetable, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. It’s alright to occasionally enjoy guilty pleasures, so long as your diet is balanced with healthy options as well.
The earlier you establish healthy eating habits, the easier it will be to continue those behaviors as you age. For more information, visit www.homeinstead.com/care-resources/#SeniorHealthWellbeing.