Besides exercising regularly, healthy eating plays a crucial role in maintaining your quality of life and preventing disease as you age. Adults who are over 50 have a higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, cognitive decline, and losing bone density. By eating healthily, you can lower your risk of contracting such illnesses. If you already have at least one of these medical conditions, having a healthy eating plan is of paramount importance. Here are some tips on how to plan healthy meals if you are over 50.
Eat Foods from Every Food Group
You should have a balanced diet at any age, especially if you are over 50. The five main food groups to include in your meals are vegetables, fruits, grains, protein foods, and dairy.
Have Enough Fruits and Vegetables
Vegetables contain carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. They are also an essential source of fiber. Not only does fiber help with digestion, but it also helps to keep blood sugar in check. As you age, metabolism slows down and you may naturally gain weight. According to the Institute of Medicine, men above 50 need 28 grams of fiber a day, whereas women above 50 need 21 grams daily. Aim to eat between two and a half and 3 and a half cups of vegetables a day. Half a cup of vegetables is equivalent to one cup of uncooked spinach, six baby carrots, or half a cup of broccoli florets.
Focus on Protein
Muscle mass tends to decrease with age. Protein is important for building and repairing tissues, as well as helping to fight infections. Choose lean proteins which are low in saturated fat. Lean meats include skinless poultry, fish, and lean cuts of red meat. You can also get protein from seafood and plant sources such as nuts, beans, eggs, and soy products. Plant-based proteins tend to be lower in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol. The Institute of Aging recommends that you eat at least 5 to 7 ounces of lean protein every day. An ounce of protein is equivalent to one egg, a quarter cup of tofu, or two tablespoons of hummus.
Stay Away from Fatty and Sugary Foods
Oils provide important nutrients like vitamin E and unsaturated fats. While you can have up to 8 teaspoons of oil a day, you should stay away from foods that are high in saturated fat. This means avoiding solid fats like butter or lard and going for low-fat dairy products. Also, avoid foods high in added sugar, which includes most junk food like cookies, cakes, and sweetened beverages. Remember, food can be healthy and tasty at the same time. You can try using healthy ingredient substitutes for foods that are high in fat or added sugar.
Don’t Forget Your Dairy Intake
Dairy is important for bone health and provides essential nutrients like potassium, vitamin D, and calcium. Remember to choose fat-free or low-fat options. One cup of dairy is equivalent to one cup of yogurt, one cup of milk, or two cups of cottage cheese. Fortified soy milk with added vitamin A, vitamin D, and calcium can be consumed as alternatives to dairy products too.
Healthy eating cannot be over-emphasized for those over 50. Remember to consume foods from every food group and stay away from unhealthy foods that are high in saturated fat or sugar. Also, what you eat and how much you eat matter too. Do you know that eating less can slow down the aging process? The trick is to eat less but focus on consuming foods that are high in nutritional value.