new dietary needs
Aging is said to be a privilege many don’t get to have, but with that privilege comes a need to pay closer attention to eating habits.
Marion County’s new extension agent for family consumer sciences, Tristen Cope, offers tips for how to stay healthy as a person ages.
“Aging is an important and unavoidable process,” Cope said.
The way you treat yourself has a lot to do with how you feel, especially as you get older, she said.
Cope likes National Institute on Aging healthy eating tips for people over 40 and recommends several of them:
- Drink plenty of fluids even though aging can cause reduced sense of thirst.
- Make eating a social event by eating with friends or at senior gathering places to make mealtime more enjoyable.
- Plan healthy meals based on trustworthy nutrition information.
- Know how much to eat to control portion size. When eating out, remember you can take part of your meal home with you.
- Choose a variety of vegetables of different colors. Vegetables are a good source of fiber as well as nutrients.
Aging can bring changes to teeth and gums. Softer foods can help. So can cooking vegetables you once ate raw.
“If you have trouble chewing, you might have a problem with your teeth and gums, or might have a problem with your dentures and need them adjusted,” Cope said.
Possible solutions are to use softer meats, such as ground meats, or substitute eggs, cheese, yogurt, or beans, she said.
- Use herbs and spices instead of salt if your favorite foods don’t taste like they used to. A changing sense of taste or smell, or even medications, can affect how food tastes.
- Remember to keep food safe to ward off food-related illness.
- Read nutrition labels and ask your doctor what nutrients you want to limit or increase.
- Ask your doctor about vitamins or supplements.
“We know food is the best way to get the nutrients you need, but you may need supplements,” Cope said.
Aging or medications can reduce appetite, but it’s still important to get sufficient nutrition, Cope said.
“It’s never too late to start eating well.”
She recommends making one change at a time. If someone wants to drink more water and reduce their salt intake, make one change first and then the other change.
Cope also recommends older adults participate in the “Stay Strong, Stay Healthy” program.
The program teaches muscle-strengthening exercises developed to help older adults maintain fitness, build muscle mass and strength, regain balance and flexibility, and decrease arthritis pain.
Cope said census data indicate America has the largest population of people 100 and older in the world.
In 2011, there were 70,000 Americans over 100. The Census Bureau predicts that number will grow to 600,000 by 2025.