Top tips for healthy eating in Older Age


               

1. The most important tip is to enjoy your food. Having a little of what you fancy really does help in keeping to a healthy diet. But too many indulgences will only make you feel unwell over time. Keep some foods as occasional treats, so they retain their value as something to look forward to.

2. Eat a variety of foods from the main food groups to ensure your diet contains as many different nutrients as possible. A balanced diet means lots of fruits and vegetables and enough starchy foods for energy (grainy or brown carbohydrate foods are particularly healthy). It also means having some calcium-rich foods such as dairy foods (or calcium-fortified soya products) and protein foods, such as meat, fish, eggs or vegetarian protein foods such as lentils/beans or meat substitute products. A balanced diet does not mean all of these food groups at every meal, rather all of these over most days.
3. The advice to try to reduce salt applies to the whole population, so try to become 'salt aware' and cautious with the amount added during cooking or at the table. If food seems to taste a bit bland, there are lots of ways to add flavour: adding spices or dried/fresh herbs during cooking, or using a dash of lemon juice or vinegar adds interest to meals. Watch out for some of the pre-mix seasoning packets: many of these also contain a lot of salt. Many products have information about salt content on the front of the packet (either as a traffic light guide or as a flash with the percentage of salt in a portion of the product): try to choose products that contain less salt.
4. Drink adequate amounts – this does not just need to be water, although the stuff out the tap really is the best way to hydrate. Cups of tea or coffee or well-diluted squash are all excellent ways to get enough fluid. Fruit juice/smoothies are fine in small amounts, but they can be a concentrated source of sugars and calories, and are not always as hydrating. It is important to drink a bit more in hot weather. If your urine is a pale-straw colour, then you are drinking enough.
5.Vitamin D is a really important nutrient for bone health. Many people get vitamin D from exposure of skin to sun, so getting out-and-about on a sunny day is good advice. However, skin becomes less efficient at producing vitamin D as you get older, and official advice states that everyone over the age of 65 should take a daily supplement of vitamin D (10 micrograms per day). Fortified margarine, oily fish and eggs are among the few foods that contain vitamin D, so try to eat some of these regularly.
6. Fibre, fibre, fibre. The best way to increase your fibre intake is to have oats/grainy-brown cereals for breakfast, and then lots of fruits and vegetables/salads throughout the day in any way you like. Fruits can be tinned, stewed, mashed or baked; vegetables can be tinned or from frozen, in soups/stews or as sides. Drinking enough helps fibre to fill out. If being constipated is a problem, choosing a bran cereal for breakfast is helpful, as is choosing wholemeal bread.
7. It's a good idea to keep a stock of basic food items so that you can eat well even if you can't get to the shops. It is helpful to have foods in the cupboard that are easy to open and quick to prepare; tinned and long life foods are especially useful. Keep a list of usual favourite foods to allow family members/carers to more easily buy foods you like, if you are feeling unwell. Local grocery stores may also be able to deliver food to you, if you are unable to get to the shops.
8. Try not to skip meals. It is a good idea to have breakfast, and if appetite is low, to have light snack meals later in the day (rather than eating late at night and then not being able to face morning food). The tea-and-biscuits diet is not a good way to develop good health: if you cannot face a cooked meal, then snack on small portions of nutritious foods such as tinned fruit, custard, egg and toast or a small portion of plain rice/pasta/cous-cous (with a few beans/tomatoes for colour and flavour). This is especially true if you are underweight – being a healthy weight (not overweight or underweight) can help to keep you well.
9. Alcohol is a friend and a foe. Small amounts of wine with meals can add to enjoyment of the food, and also help slumber and relaxation. However larger amounts of alcoholic drink depresses appetite and depresses mood, and regularly drinking to excess leads to many health problems. If you enjoy alcohol with meals, try to keep to the safe drinking limits, and try to have a least several days a week without booze.

10. Supplements can be helpful, but these products do only 'supplement' nutrients in the diet; they do not replace many of the essential components found in a variety of foods. A vitamin D supplement is highly recommended, and if appetite is poor, or getting enough of some food groups is a challenge, then a general one-a-day multivitamin product gives some reassurance of adequate intakes of some nutrients. Fish oil supplements are popular, and are also a useful additional source of omega 3 fatty acids (especially for people who are not keen on the one-a-week portion of oily fish recommended for good health).

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