Good health goes hand in hand with a good diet, no matter what age. Having a healthy diet becomes even more important as we age – it can help improve mental sharpness, boost energy levels and increase resistance to illness. This is why we've put together some basic tips that can help you create and/or maintain a healthy diet and eat well well as you age.
Please note you should never make drastic changes to your diet without consulting your doctor, pharmacist and/or dietitian first. If you need help choosing or preparing a healthy diet, talk to a family member, your healthcare professional, carer or a dietitian.
Sharing your meal
Before we start, a common misconception is that ‘eating well’ is just about food. It’s good to remember that eating well is also about the pleasure of eating – this can be increased by having a meal shared with others. A social atmosphere stimulates the mind, making meals more enjoyable and therefore helping you stick to your healthy eating plan.
Not everyone is in a situation where they can easily eat meals together, for example those who are living alone. In these situations, you can make your healthy meals more enjoyable by:
- Shopping with others
Shopping together is a great way to share new meal ideas and to spend some time socialising while doing your chores.
- Cooking with others
Inviting a friend or family member to share cooking responsibilities is a fun way to improve relationships and to make cooking more fun.
- Making the mealtime a social experience
The simple act of talking to someone while having a meal can play a big role in relieving stress and boosting your mood. If you don't have loved ones nearby, you could video-call them to keep you company from afar. Alternatively, you could have your carer/Support Worker accompany you, visit day centres or enrol in senior meal programs that can provide companionship and nutritious meals.
How to create a healthy diet
Of course, the key to a healthy diet remains the food you eat. Focusing on the whole, minimally processed food (food that is as close as its natural form as possible) is often a relatively easy way to create and maintain your healthy diet. It should however be noted that all our bodies respond differently to different foods, and it may take some experimentation before finding the diet that works best for you.
The following tips are a good way to start:
- Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables
Fruit and vegetables are stocked with vitamins and important to add to your diet. Try to go for 2-3 servings per day of fruit and vary between fruits. The same goes for veggies – try to vary between dark, leafy greens (such as kale, spinach and broccoli) and more colourful vegetables such as carrots and squash. You can make your veggies more appetizing by using olive oil, feta cheese or using garlic and chili flakes. Try to aim for 2-3 cups of veggies each day.
- Eat more fibre
Fibre can decrease your risk for stroke, diabetes, heart disease and it can improve weight loss. Your digestion becomes less efficient as you age, so it is important to include enough fibre in your diet.
- Choose calcium
Calcium is an important source to keep your bones healthy. Calcium can be found in milk, yoghurt and cheese, as well as in non-dairy sources such as almonds, kale and broccoli.
- Focus on ‘good fat’ instead of ‘no fat’
Cutting out fat from your diet completely can be hard, and isn't necessary. Try to focus on the ‘good fat’ such as omega-3s instead, as these can protect your body against disease and support your mood and brain function.
- Vary sources of protein
Protein is good for a lot of things – it can boost your resistance to stress, anxiety and depression and improve your mood. Try to vary your sources of protein, as too much processed meats such as bacon and salami may increase the risk of health problems. Try to include eggs, fish, peas, beans, nuts and seeds as a source of protein instead.
- Be mindful with carbs and sugar
Our senses of taste diminish as we age. Because we retain the ability to distinguish sweet tastes the longest, many older people consume more sugar and refined carbs than is healthy. This can lead to a spike in blood sugar, leaving you feeling hungry and prone to overeating. Try to switch the simple carbs in white rice, white flour and refined sugar for more complex carbs that can be found in whole grains.
- Drink enough water
Last but not least, our sense of thirst gets less sharp as we get older – it’s important to drink enough water to avoid dehydration, which can lead to confusion, constipation and urinary tract infections. Remember to sip water regularly.
If you need help with cooking and meal preparation
Not everyone is able to shop and cook for themselves. If you or a loved one need help with your shopping, meal preparation or anything else, give us a call on 1800 226 342 or fill out this form and we will discuss possible options with you.