Healthy eating plays an important role in helping you feel young at heart. If you eat properly you’ll feel better because your continued good health depends on good nutrition. You can’t stop the clock. But you can feel good longer. Your choices now can affect your overall health in the years to come.
Seniors have special nutritional needs
With age, your body goes through many changes. This can affect the food you eat and the nutrients your body absorbs. Eating a well balanced diet can give you the nutrition you need to stay healthy, active and independent.
Dietary guidelines for seniors
Today, Australians are living longer, so it is important that older Australians enjoy a healthy and independent life for as long as possible. Following these dietary guidelines will help to achieve good health:
- Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods.
- Keep active to maintain muscle strength and a healthy body weight.
- Eat at least three meals every day.
- Care for your food: prepare and store it correctly.
- Eat plenty of vegetables (including legumes) and fruit.
- Eat plenty of cereals, breads and pastas.
- Eat a diet low in saturated fat (saturated fat is found in chicken skin, full cream milk and cheeses).
- Drink adequate amounts of water and/or other fluids.
- If you drink alcohol, limit your intake.
- Choose foods low in salt and use salt sparingly.
- Include foods high in calcium (milk, yogurt, broccoli, cheese).
- Use added sugars in moderation.
Eating for healthy ageing
No single food can provide you with all the nutrients you need. Eating a wide variety of foods from the core food groups is the key to healthy eating.
What are the core food groups?
The core food groups are foods that are grouped according to the main nutrients (carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, fibre and water) they provide. The core food groups are:
- Bread, cereal, rice, pasta and noodles.
- Vegetable, including legumes.
- Milk, yogurt and cheese.
- Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts and legumes.
The benefits of physical activity
Participating in physical activity not only keeps your body healthy; it makes you feel good too. You are never too old to start an exercise regime. Regular physical activity most days of the week can help reduce your risk of certain diseases, increase your strength and reduce your risk of falls. Walking, swimming, aqua-aerobics, gardening and bowls are all ideal activities. Even daily tasks such as vacuuming, mowing the lawn, and shopping count as exercise. Before you start a regular exercise regime, speak to your doctor about a safe exercise plan.
Benefits of regular exercise:
- Increased heart and lung fitness.
- Improved muscle tone and strength.
- Stronger joints and bones.
- Improved co-ordination, mobility and balance (less risk of falling).
- Maintains stable weight or assists in weight loss.
Practical ways to increase your daily activity:
- Use the stairs instead of taking the lift.
- Walk to the shops.
- Get off the bus one stop before your destination.
- Walk the dog more often and for longer.
- Spend longer time working in the garden.
- Do the housework – vacuuming, mowing and hanging out the washing.
- Park the car further away from the shops.
Can I take up tennis at 65?
You are never too old to begin exercising. There are many benefits to physical activity at any age. It is recommended that you have a medical check-up before beginning, increasing or even changing your physical activity. And if it’s been a while since you last pulled out your tennis shoes, start with a gentle exercise like walking.
I have stiff, painful joints. Should I still exercise?
Exercise can help relieve symptoms associated with joint pain (e.g. stiffness, muscle weakness). You need the right balance between rest and exercise. Rest is needed to settle inflamed joints, but too much rest can cause stiffness and muscle weakness. Gentle activities such as swimming, walking, yoga, tai chi, bowls and aqua-aerobics can be good for sore joints. Remember to avoid movements which cause too much joint pain, and exercise when you are least stiff.
Why is it important to go out for some fresh air every day?
Our bodies use sunlight to make Vitamin D, which enhances calcium absorption for healthy, strong bones. You only need 10-30 minutes of sunlight each day to make all the Vitamin D your body needs.
I am underweight. Which foods should I eat to put on weight?
Even though your daily energy requirements decrease as you get older, some older people may lose weight because of reduced appetite. Make every meal that you eat count by including nutritious foods with lots of energy. Try baked beans or cheese on toast, banana smoothie with ice cream, soup with added cream and larger serves of meat. If you are having trouble maintaining your weight, you should see your doctor or consult an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) in Australia or a Registered Dietitian in New Zealand.