Written By Annell St. Charles, PhD, RD, LDN
Human aging is a product of not only physical changes, but modifications and adjustments to our mental, emotional, and social selves.
Creating a healthy daily meal plan is challenging for even the most motivated of us, and it is helpful to keep things as simple as possible. At the forefront of a healthy lifestyle is a healthy diet. However, as we age there is a tendency for many of us to allow our dietary patterns to regress to childhood. If most children are given permission to design their own diet, it would likely be full of sugary treats, salty snacks, and limited choices. As adults, we understand that this is not a healthy way to eat. And yet it often becomes the exact pattern we adopt as we grow old.
The American Institute for Cancer Research’s publication Nutrition After 50 lists some helpful ideas for fitting more plant foods into the diet, as follows:
- Include fruits, juices, or vegetables with the breakfast meal. These foods can be added to cereal, stirred or blended into yogurt, or mixed into an egg dish.
- Pack a snack of fresh, dried, or canned fruit (no sugar added) for a day’s outing.
- Be creative with adding vegetables to meals. Include them in pasta sauce, use them to top potatoes, or make a vegetable pizza.
- Choose fruit for dessert, but make it special. Top low-fat frozen yogurt or sorbet with fresh berries. Bake an apple and top with softened raisins and cinnamon.
- Try something new. Branch out from eating the “same old” fruits and vegetables and try something new. The internet provides a lot of good tips for recipes using previously untried food.
- Buy frozen and canned vegetables and fruits. Fresh is not always best, especially when most of it gets thrown away because of spoilage. There are many products available without added salt or sugar. Rinsing canned vegetables can also help wash off excess sodium.
Since many of the changes that occur with age are now recognized as resulting from an imbalance between pro-oxidants and antioxidants, consuming a surplus of antioxidants is ideal. In essence, an antioxidant-rich diet is rich in plant foods and healthy oils and low in simple sugars and solid fats. It is also a diet that is part of an overall active lifestyle that includes physical movement, social interaction, and meaningful encounters. Because, in the end, our measure of the worth of our lives should not be the years we have accumulated, but the quality of the years we have lived.