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Aging Healthfully: How To Eat Well

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Proper nutrition is important at all ages, but for older adults, getting the right nutrients in sufficient quantities is essential for maintaining good health. But only 17 percent of adults over the age of 60 consume a quality diet, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Here are some tips on how to eat well to protect your health. 

Older adults often have difficulty meeting dietary requirements for a number of reasons, says Colleen Christmas, M.D., an assistant professor of geriatric medicine at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. 

Most commonly, older adults may have difficulty getting to the grocery store or preparing nutritious foods. 

  • Depression can lead to loss of interest in food.
  • The senses of smell and taste diminish with age, which can make food less appealing.
  • Medication side effects, such as dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, and gastrointestinal disturbances, can decrease appetite as well. 

Here are some tips on how to eat well to protect your health: 

  • Though convenience foods and frozen, prepackaged meals that you pop in the microwave are handy, try to avoid them when possible. Baked goods, crackers, chips, cold cuts, and frozen dinners tend to be high in sodium, sugar, and fat but low in essential nutrients. 
  • You can freeze almost any food (except eggs in shells) for later, but some foods taste better than others after they are defrosted. Meats, poultry, fish, soups, and casseroles are all foods that freeze well. For best results when freezing vegetables, first blanch them (partially cook them in boiling water or a microwave oven).  
  • Canned beans or vegetables can be a good option in a pinch; stock your pantry with canned items that are low in sodium, saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, and sugar. 
  • Eat with others. “Loneliness can have a big impact on appetite. Increasing social contact often makes people want to eat,” says Dr. Christmas. Dine with friends or family when you can, or visit a local senior or community center for mealtime company.   
  • Exercise and stay active. An active lifestyle is key for older adults. As we age, the body naturally loses muscle mass, causing weakness that can impair the ability to perform activities of daily living, such as cleaning the house, cooking, or bathing. Exercise also helps stimulate appetite and improves mood, which can prevent undereating due to depression.  

Posted in Nutrition and Weight Control on December 29, 2010


Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Johns Hopkins Health Alerts Disclaimer


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