Remember the old saying, you are what you eat? It’s true, and it underscores the importance of eating healthy throughout life. As you age, your metabolism slows and your nutritional needs change.
Finding the proper balance of calories and nutrients is a key to better health and can help you lower your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney disease, certain cancers, dementia and bone loss.
Healthy eating, including heart-healthy foods for seniors, is important for your body to get the nutrients it needs and can help you maintain healthy body weight.
What is the healthiest diet for seniors?
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends older adults eat foods rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients. Here are ten foods to keep in your regular rotation:
- Leafy greens such as spinach, collards and chard
- Orange and red vegetables such as carrots, squash and peppers
- Fruits, including citrus, berries, melons, apples and stone fruits
- Whole grains
- Lean meats and poultry
- Beans, peas, lentils
- Unsalted nuts and seeds
- Fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products; or nondairy soy, almond, rice or other drinks fortified with vitamin D and calcium
How should a 70-year-old eat healthy?
When it comes to healthy eating for senior citizens, there are many ways to eat a healthy diet and enjoy your food. Let’s look at the main food groups and why each is important.
Vegetables and Fruits
Since you were a kid, someone has been telling you to eat your vegetables, and it’s never too late to start. Vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and fiber. Fiber is important because it can help lower cholesterol levels and keep you regular.
Bright colors often indicate high nutrient content, so look for dark green, orange, red and purple vegetables. Not only will they have more of what you need, but they’ll also have more flavor.
With their sweet flavors, fruits are generally more popular than vegetables, but many older Americans still don’t eat enough fruit. That means they’re missing out on a great source of nutrients, carbohydrates and fiber, and an easy way to add color and flavor to their diet.
If you’re wondering exactly how many fruits and vegetables you should be eating, they should cover half of your plate with any meal.
Grains have carbohydrates that give us energy, B vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium and selenium.
Examples of grains are wheat, oats, barley, rice, rye and cornmeal. These are made into a variety of foods including bread, cereals and pasta.
Not all grains are the same. At least half of your grain intake should be in the form of whole grains. These have more nutrients and fiber.
Only foods made with 100% whole grains are considered whole-grain foods. Refined grains are processed so they last longer, but this removes many of the nutrients. The nutrients can be added to the grains after processing to make enriched-grain products, but the fiber isn’t put back.
Dairy foods can help you maintain strong bones, which is important as you age. Dairy products contain calcium, potassium and vitamin D. To avoid saturated fat, look for low-fat or fat-free dairy foods. If you’re allergic to dairy or otherwise don’t consume it, try fortified soy milk and yogurt to get vitamins and minerals.
Protein is essential for maintaining muscle, helping your build and repair tissue, and helping you fight infections. You might equate eating protein with eating meat, fish and poultry, but those aren’t the only sources. Soy products, beans, lentils, peas, eggs, nuts and seeds also have protein.
Older adults should choose lean meats and poultry, or eat proteins from plant sources, which have the added benefits of no cholesterol, high fiber and nutrients.
How much should I eat over age 70?
How much is too much? What’s not enough? It all depends on who you are. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has MyPlate.gov, which can help you plan a healthy eating program. Just plug in your age, sex, height, weight and level of physical activity and the website will give you a plan with a target calorie amount and how to reach it with the right mix of fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy.
What foods should seniors avoid?
Seniors should avoid foods with salt, saturated fats and added sugar. They may be tasty temptations, but these foods can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
As the term suggests, added sugar consists of sugars and syrups that are added to foods when they’re processed. You should always check the nutritional information label, but here are some products that typically have added sugar:
- Soft drinks and sports drinks, fruit drinks, sweetened coffee and tea
- Breakfast cereals
- Cakes, cookies, pies, cobblers, donuts, pastries and brownies
- Ice cream
What is saturated fat? A good indicator is saturated fat is usually solid at room temperature. Butter is a common example. Other forms of saturated fat include coconut oil, palm oil, the fat in cheese and whole milk, and the fat on a pork chop. Saturated fats also are found in many baked goods and ground meats.
You can replace saturated fat with unsaturated fats. These are in vegetable oils, peanuts, avocado and other foods. Unsaturated fats can reduce your risk of heart disease and improve HDL (good) cholesterol levels, but make sure to avoid vegetable oils that have been hydrogenated. Here are some familiar sources of saturated fat.
- Sausages and bacon
- Fried chicken
- Baked goods
- Full-fat dairy foods and desserts
We might think of sodium as making foods salty, but high amounts of sodium lurk in many processed foods, including sweets.
Most of us eat more sodium than we need, and it’s important to watch your sodium intake, especially if you have high blood pressure.
How can you avoid sodium? Here are a few ways:
- Check the labels on processed foods and buy those that are low-sodium, reduced sodium or no-salt-added
- Buy fresh, frozen or canned vegetables without sauces or seasoning
- Buy fresh or frozen meat, poultry or seafood
- Cook at home and avoid takeout, prepared foods or ready-to-eat meals
- Use herbs and spices to season foods, but look out for hidden salt in some spice blends
How can my doctor help me eat healthier?
Your doctor knows your health conditions and how your diet may influence them. This is especially important when a food that is healthy for most people could have negative consequences for you because of an allergy, medication interaction or illness, such as diabetes.
A value-based care doctor can also tell you when you might want to take a supplement to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need.
How can I find a primary care doctor near me who accepts Medicare patients?
NewPrimaryCare.com™ can help you find a quality primary care doctor who accepts Medicare and knows how to care for seniors.
Our partner providers practice value-based care, meaning Medicare rewards them for helping their patients live healthier lives. With a doctor at a value-based care clinic, you’ll have time to talk about your diet and other specific health concerns because your doctor is focused on you instead of treating a high quota of patients.
You can expect quicker appointment scheduling, shorter waits at the doctor’s office and personalized health care from a caring physician.
Use our Find Your Doctor tool to search for and compare value-based care providers near you.