Discussions regarding important health issues have been dominated by COVID over the past 2 years, for good reasons of course. But as we move beyond COVID – or at least find ourselves in a better place managing the risks of COVID – we need to remember that there is an overarching factor that seniors should remember to help stay as strong and as healthy as possible: the importance of maintaining proper nutritional habits.
Why is this Important?
Food is our fuel and it is one of the best and most natural medicines. Proper nutrition should be the foundation of any health plan, and there are a few simple things we can all follow:
Calcium and Vitamin D – strong bones, strong bones, strong bones. Calcium can of course be found in milk and yogurt, but is also provided through green, leafy vegetables like spinach or broccoli. And for added Vitamin D, include more orange juice, cereals, oatmeal, and fish such as sardines or salmon in your diet.
Fiber – may not sound exciting, but it’s good for your heart and helps prevent some illnesses such as diabetes (and helps avoid constipation). Make sure to include whole grains and beans in your diet.
Healthy Fats – yes, there are healthy fats (called “unsaturated fats”) that can lower risks of certain disease and are found in vegetable oils like olive, sunflower, corn and canola, but can also be found in nuts, seeds, and fish (there’s fish again – starting to realize that fish is a good part of a healthy diet?!).
Bad Fats – stay away from “trans fats” that are found mostly in processed foods like certain pre-cooked, canned (watch out for that Spam, which is pre-cooked and canned!), frozen, or packages. These foods tend to be high in salt, sugar, artificial colors, artificial flavors or combinations of these.
Potassium – good for lowering blood pressure . . . think yogurt, bananas, potatoes.
A few tips to remember:
- Special dietary needs and doctor orders always come first – always consult with your doctor before initiating any new dietary plan
- Balance your plate. Put vegetables and fruit on one side, and then chicken, lean meat, or seafood and whole grains on the other
- Bright colors are your friend! Salmon, veggies = good
- Skip salt and try adding lemon juice, vinegar, and certain herbs to boost flavor
- If you are having difficulty eating certain foods, try softer and creamier foods like pasta or sweet potatoes
And when it’s time for a dessert and a special treat or healthy reward, consider these options:
- Dark Chocolate – contains a lower percentage of cocoa than milk chocolate, which means it has less sugar and is a good source of antioxidants
- Smoothie – great way to get a serving of fruits and vegetables. Simply blend any combination of fruits and vegetables such as bananas, blueberries, raspberries, avocados, or leafy greens. Have some fun and come up with your own favorite recipe!
- Yogurt Parfait – just add fruits to yogurt for a sweet treat