Nutrition Month tips: The best foods to eat – and which to avoid – as we get older
March is Nutrition Month, a great time to remember some basics of healthy eating. We’ve talked before about mindful eating, a way to eat healthier by paying attention to the five senses. Learning which foods to say yes or no to can also be part of eating mindfully.
Here is some guidance for foods you can embrace as you get older and which foods to avoid. Remember, be sure to check with your doctor and listen to your body before starting a new diet!
Eat more fruits, vegetables and lean proteins
It’s no surprise that eating fruits and vegetables is important to your health. In fact, it’s the best way to get the nutrients you need, including potassium, calcium, vitamin D, dietary fiber and vitamin B12. Atrium Health’s Elaine Jones, RDN and LDN recommends eating your way through the rainbow over the course of a week by adding foods like tomatoes, watermelon, carrots, corn, yellow squash, zucchini, green peppers, blueberries, grapes, eggplant and blackberries.
Eating protein is also important as we get older, since it is needed for skin strength, immune function and can speed up recovery from illness. Try adding seafood, dairy or fortified soy products along with beans, peas and lentils to your meals.
Get plenty of fluids
As we get older, we may partially lose our sense of thirst. It’s important to remember to drink water, low or fat-free milk or 100% juice to stay hydrated. Limit your intake of drinks with added sugar or salt. The National Council on Aging recommends calculating one-third of your body weight and drinking that number of ounces in fluids. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, try to drink 50 ounces of water each day.
Limit unhealthy fats and high-sodium foods
As we get older, it’s important to avoid unhealthy fats. Many of our favorite fried foods contain trans fats and oils that raise cholesterol and may be linked to increased risk of heart disease. There’s no harm in enjoying some French fries every now and again, but talk to your doctor to make sure you’re consuming these foods at a healthy level, particularly if you have concerns about heart disease or diabetes.
Eating less sodium can help prevent high blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams a day. To cut down on sodium, avoid eating too many:
- Processed foods
- Natural foods with a higher-than-average sodium content (cheese, seafood, olives and some legumes)
- Table salt, sea salt and kosher salt (sodium chloride)
- Some prescription medications
Use caution with unpasteurized meat and dairy
As we get older, our immune system fights infections less effectively, so it’s important to avoid bacteria by eating only safely processed products. Try not to consume:
- Unpasteurized milk or any products made with unpasteurized milk (e.g., yogurt)
- Soft cheeses (e.g., Brie, camembert, feta, queso blanco)
- Raw sprouts
- Meat spreads that require refrigeration
We hope these nutritional tips can help you live boldly by eating healthier during Nutrition Month and all year long. If you have any questions about your diet, be sure to talk to your doctor.
For more information, call (844) 279-0508 (TTY: 711) to speak with an ApexAssistant. Our hours of operation are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (local time) from Apr. 1 through Sept. 30 and seven days a week 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (local time) from Oct. 1 through Mar. 31.