Here are some guidelines for healthful food choices in midlife and beyond.
1) Practice “power eating”
While your caloric needs decrease with age, most nutrient requirements do not.
Goal: eliminate “empty calorie” foods; select foods packed with nutrition
2) Stay hydrated
Water is a critical nutrient. Because thirst sensitivity decreases with age and some medications cause dehydration, it’s imperative to watch your fluid intake.
Goal: more than 6 cups daily
3) Mind your protein
Protein is important for your immune system, wound healing, and lean body mass (muscle). Concentrate on lean meats and vegetable-based protein (dried peas and beans, nuts).
Goal: 2 – 3 servings of protein-rich foods per day or one per meal (serving size: deck of cards)
4) Follow the rainbow
Brightly colored fruits and vegetables contain important vitamins and minerals, as well as beneficial fiber, phytochemicals,and antioxidants. They may protect against cancer, heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, and support the immune system and eye health.
Goal: 2-1/2 cups per day
5) Choose the right carbohydrates
The fiber in 100% whole grains helps prevent constipation, and is associated with decreased cardiovascular disease risk. To find the most healthful grains, divide the total grams of carbohydrates by the dietary fiber, and look for a number less than 10.
Goal: 5 – 6 servings daily
6) Use caution with fats
Although they’re crucial nutrients, by weight, fats carry more than twice the calories of carbs and protein; a high-fat diet is associated with heart disease and stroke.
Goal: Limit total fat to 2 – 3 tsp. per day
7) Make dairy products a priority
Dairy products are the best source of absorbable calcium, which helps prevent osteoporosis and may protect against high blood pressure.
Goal: 3 servings per day of non- or low-fat versions
8) Become fluent in ‘label-ese’
On the Nutrition Facts panel, pay attention to the serving size and number of servings per container. Look at calories, fats, sugar, sodium, and dietary fiber when comparing products. And remember that ingredients are listed by weight.
Goal: Become a nutrition-savvy shopper
9) Adopt a “whole diet” approach to healthy eating
Americans spend billions on unproven and unnecessary dietary supplements. Most of these products have not withstood the rigor of scientific investigation; some are harmful. And remember, one “super” food or supplement will not compensate for poor food choices and inactivity.
Goal: Concentrate on a well-balanced diet with regular exercise