Eating well is important throughout every year of life. The basics of a balanced diet remain the same but individual nutritional needs do change as we age.
No matter how old or young you are, it is never too late to start living a healthier life and eating nutritiously. Your food choices are important now and will affect your overall health in the years to come. The risk for certain diseases associated with aging — such as heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes — can be reduced with a lifestyle that includes healthy eating. Good nutrition also helps in the treatment and recovery from illness and can help extend our lives.

Eating healthfully means consuming a variety of good foods each day. Nutritional needs usually decrease with age due to a decrease in what’s called the resting metabolic rate, or metabolism: how your body processes food and extracts nutrients. The goal during this time is to develop an eating plan that supplies plenty of nutrients but not too many calories, which may result in weight gain.

This can be achieved by choosing a variety of nutritious foods that are low in fat and high in fiber such as whole grain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables. Also be sure to include moderate amounts of low-fat dairy products and protein foods such as meat, poultry, fish, beans and eggs. Sweets provide very little nutrition and should be consumed sparingly.

Here are some sensible suggestions to following a healthy diet every day:
• Aim for three whole grain servings per day.
• Consume a wide variety of foods.
• Avoid high fat foods including those high in saturated and trans fats.
• Consume at least two servings of fish per week.
• Avoid adding salt to foods.
• Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
• Increase your intake of purple fruits and vegetables.
• Keep your calorie intake at a level to maintain your weight.
There are a number of nutrition programs available to older adults in need including Meals on Wheels, congregate meal sites, adult day care meal services, food stamps, farmers market and food commodity distribution. Check with your health care provider for more information.
There are several factors that that place an individual at high nutritional risk, including chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease. Or if you have any of the following conditions, be sure to talk to your physician and consider consulting a registered dietician: less than optimal health, poor eating habits, unintentional weight loss or gain, chewing or swallowing problems, change in the taste of foods or smell, poor oral health, or constipation.
Betsy Oriolo, MS, RD, LD, CDE, is owner of Total Nutrition Therapy, LLC, which provides home visit nutrition counseling in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas.