Nutrition: Celebrating Older Americans Month
May is Older Americans Month and we know that healthy eating is important at every stage of life, including our senior years. As we age, there are several things we can do to ensure we’re meeting our nutrition needs and making the most of our food choices.
To consume enough nutrients, focus on eating nutrient-dense foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, protein, and dairy or fortified soy foods and beverages. Choose foods that are rich in calcium, vitamin D, potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin B12, and protein. Reading the Nutrition Facts label is an easy way to confirm you’re meeting these nutrient needs. Make sure to select foods that are low in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. Lastly, don’t forget to drink enough fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Focus on drinking water and incorporating other beverages such as coffee, tea, low- or fat-free milk, or 100% juice into your diet.
Seniors tend to have weaker immune systems, resulting in an increased risk of foodborne illness or food poisoning. Therefore, it’s important to prepare and store food correctly. Pay attention to “Use By” dates on packaged foods and ensure frozen and refrigerated foods are stored at the correct temperatures. Use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry, and seafood are cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature. Lastly, if a food has an “off” odor, flavor, or texture, discard it.
In our senior years, we often prepare meals for fewer people or just ourselves. To prevent food waste, save leftovers to eat throughout the week or freeze them for quick, easy meals. There are a variety of one serving recipes, which can also reduce cooking time and food waste.
You can make eating a social event by cooking with family and friends or inviting people over for potlucks. You can also make eating a more social activity by joining lunches or dinners that are available at community centers or senior centers.
Incorporating nutrient-rich foods into your diet, focusing on safe food preparation, and finding ways to enjoy meals together can positively affect health and well-being throughout our senior years.