Eating right is vital to maintaining a healthy body, no matter your age. While our parents taught us to eat more fruits and veggies in our younger years, we often forget these lessons as we grow up, leading to unhealthy eating habits in adulthood. Although eating your vegetables has importance whether you’re an adult or child, adults of retirement age may find their health depends on their eating habits more than other demographics.
As you age, your doctor may recommend you improve your food choices to reduce the effects of health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or obesity. Older adults have a slower metabolism and may require different ratios of nutrients than they did when they were younger, so changing what they consume can have a lasting effect on their overall health and wellness. However, it can be difficult to make such a large change after a lifetime of developing different habits. Follow these steps to switch to a healthier eating routine.
Know the Plate
The most important part of eating healthy is knowing what your body needs, especially since these needs change as we age. Do you know how much of each food group you should be eating at each meal? Rather than guessing, try taking a look at the USDA’s MyPlate graphic. This helps you visualize exactly what your meals should look like and highlights the importance of each food group. As a rule of thumb, eat less protein and grains than you think you need at each meal and eat more vegetables instead.
Many Americans also struggle with regulating appropriate portion sizes. Most people have eyes bigger than their stomach, which leads them to eat more food than is necessary. This problem is compounded by the societal expectation that diners should always clear their plates. Because of this, Americans find themselves eating far more calories than they burn through physical activity. This may cause or worsen obesity. The American Heart Association has developed an easy-to-use reference guide to help you understand how much food goes into one serving. Keep in mind that these numbers may vary depending on whether you’re hoping to gain, lose or maintain your weight. An appropriate portion size may not be as much as you’re used to eating or being served. Don’t be afraid to leave food on your plate if you’re served more than a portion!
Read, Read, Read
A trip to the grocery store is often just part of the routine. Perhaps you’ve purchased the same coffee cream or canned vegetables for years without considering how they impact your health. Now that you know what nutrients you need to reach your health goals, though, it’s time to turn off autopilot and start reading the nutrition facts on the back of every product.
That coffee cream likely has far more sugar than you need in your morning coffee, and those canned veggies could contain a lot more sodium than you realize. Familiarizing yourself with what’s in your favorite packaged food products can help you portion your meals and make healthier changes to your diet. The healthiest foods may be whole, raw foods, but when packaged foods are a necessity, it pays to know what’s inside.
Remember: Don’t be fooled by labels like “gluten-free” or “low-calorie.” Read the nutrition labels on supposedly healthy foods as well. Many void out the healthy ingredients by adding sugar or fat for flavor.
Make Healthy Substitutions Gradually
It’s much easier to begin a healthier diet when you don’t make a drastic change overnight. If you happen to notice that your usual packaged items are more unhealthy than expected or your favorite recipes have fatty, non-nutritious ingredients, now’s the perfect time to make small switches that can help you eat better. Does your favorite pan-fried chicken need butter? Use olive or vegetable oil instead. Prefer to cut out some sugar in a cake without sacrificing sweetness? Honey, maple syrup or agave are the perfect substitutes.
When you allow yourself time to get used to healthier ingredients, you’re more likely to stick to your new diet and less likely to crave the old stuff.
Live a Healthy, Active Life at Twin Lakes Community in Burlington, NC
Retirement is a great time to make healthier changes to your lifestyle so you can remain active for years to come. That doesn’t just mean your diet, though. Making friends and building a life in a community designed for you can also improve your mental health and make you more active overall.
At Twin Lakes Community, our neighborhoods are filled with people with one thing in common; they want to have a well-rounded, purposeful life surrounded by people who are engaged and open to new activities, new people and new ideas. The transition is not about what is lost, but all that is gained. In friendship, in community and care. In kindred spirits on their journey together. That is everything. And that is Twin Lakes. Contact us online at twinlakescomm.org or call 336-538-1571 for more information or to schedule a tour.