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What to eat and not eat for better health
Hello @danlewis, Welcome to Connect. Thank you for starting such a great discussion for us seniors. A few years ago I started changing my eating habits to eat healthier, lose some weight and hopefully help with a couple of my autoimmune conditions. The National Council on Aging put out this information earlier this year that is a good start.
Healthy Eating Tips for Seniors: https://www.ncoa.org/article/healthy-eating-tips-for-seniors
I think part of your question of what not to eat may depend on certain health conditions if you have them. I try to stay away from all fast foods and limit my snacking as well as most processed foods. I think @avmcbellar and other members may also have some suggestions to share with you. @hopeful33250 started another discussion on breakfast that you might want to join also – Start Your Day Right: https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/start-your-day-right-1/
Do you mind sharing what prompted you to start looking for what to eat or not eat for better health?
Hi @danlewis, Great topic. I've added it the the Aging Well group too https://connect.mayoclinic.org/group/aging-well/
Naturally, with aging some people also have to consider diet relative to underlying conditions such as heart disease, chronic kidney disease, diabetes. And gut-related issues such as loose bowels or constipation. I'm sure that @kamama94 @dorisena @taraschmidt @contentandwell and others will have ideas to add.
Dan, I'm curious. What motivated you to gather ideas about healthy eating? Have you had health issues that are getting you to rethink your eating habits? Or have you always been a healthy eater?
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My family moved to the country just as WWII began. My father couldn't build houses so we had to learn to raise some food on our few acres. We did what others did, and my father bought a milk cow which my mother had to learn to milk. We learned to raise some food and my mother made jelly from wild berries and the neighbors' apples. In school we learned basic nutrition and I have been an avid nutritionist ever since. As I aged, I learned I had to quit baking so much dessert for my family and avoid junk food to control my weight. Getting diabetes was a shocker for me but I studied and am improving my diet daily. It is a permanent habit for me and my family as we age.
I try to eat healthily but I don't think of it as eating for my age as much as for my health. I am mildly diabetic but the last couple of times I went to my endocrinologist my diabetes was what he called in remission. My A1c is lower than some people who are not diabetic! I still don't eat many sweets except on special occasions, except for about an ounce of very dark chocolate a day. That's supposed to be good for your heart and I love dark chocolate.
I try to make sure we have fish twice a week and beef no more than once a week. My husband and I both like fruit so fruits are usually plentiful here. We like vegetables too. I personally rarely eat starches at dinner due to my diabetes but my husband does. I would love to have more cheese but because of my cholesterol I don't have it much. Sometimes I will cut a nice cheese into cubes so I can reach into the fridge for a quick snack of a cube of cheese.
Most mornings I have oatmeal for breakfast but about two times a week I will have an egg – just twice usually due to my cholesterol. When I have oatmeal I make it with Fairlife milk which has more protein and calcium than regular milk due to being ultra-filtered. Calcium and protein are important to me because I also have osteoporosis. I use skim and it tastes more like 2% than skim. I also always add some fruit to my oatmeal, often frozen blueberries, sometimes a cut up apple or peach, or strawberries. For lunch, I often have a salad with white meat chicken in it and either strawberries or grapes and a little goat cheese. The other lunch I rely on is plain fat-free Greek yogurt. I add a little low-carb granola and some fruit to that too.
For dinner, we eat a lot of chicken, some very lean pork (pork tenderloin) and that's about it. I track my food on myfitnesspal not only for calories but to make sure I am getting enough calcium and protein.
So much depends on the individual and how their body handles it. My husband is 86 and very healthy and can be active when he wants to be. He eats all of the wrong things but he is still very healthy and has no prescription medications. He takes ibuprofen occasionally for headaches or muscle aches but that's it. He has a croissant every morning for breakfast, often has roast beef for lunch with potato chips on the side, but he still is so healthy! I tell him I married him for his longevity genes. I hope our son and daughter get his genes, not mine.
Today I made a comment at a luncheon that it was nice to be able to get out and eat in a restaurant after cooking for myself during the pandemic, although I like to cook. I didn't mention my health needs. The man sitting next to me said his wife quit cooking when he retired. Evidently people don't appreciate all the good they do for themselves when they plan well and cook nutritious meals for their health. I watched a friend cook even though she was in a wheelchair and know that I want to take good care of myself for the good that it does during my declining years. I would not consider eating out of cans and boxes and ordering take out or fast food all the time. Sometimes it becomes a matter of self respect to do the best you can for your well being. I want my last years to be good ones, if possible.
I am 77 yrs old and find cooking for myself most of my food is organic and I can control what kind of oil and salt is in it.
@mercuryrose and @dorisena I prefer cooking most of the time so I can control what I have. My husband has gotten very used to eating low sodium even though that is not a need for him. We do get take-out occasionally, sometimes I just need a break from cooking every day.
A few years ago we went to Hawaii with my son and his wife. When he suggested we stay in a VRBO I was disappointed initially because eating out is fun but then I realized what an advantage it is to be able to prepare our own food. Now I prefer staying in VRBOs.
Hi @danlewis – The 2020-2025 US Dietary Guidelines call out these items of consideration specially for older adults: Vitamin B12, protein, and hydration. In general, (throughout the lifespan) Americans are also known to have lower-than-recommended intake of calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and dietary fiber. These would be the key nutrients I'd have you focus on. Of course, as Colleen mentioned, your specific health conditions play the largest role.
Here's an article about preventing poor nutrition with age: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/caregivers/in-depth/senior-health/art-20044699
Is there any specific meal you'd like to see some easy recipes for?
@taraschmidt B12 is a vitamin I haven't given any thought to. I guess I need to figure how much I should be getting and what I get it from.
This getting old stuff is a lot of work!
Hi @contentandwell, do you eat animal products? Animal proteins contain B12, therefore vegans are those most at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. Fortified breakfast cereals can also be a food source.
If you are blessed with good health, keep it up!
Yes, @taraschmidt Thanks, I do eat meats and fish. Good to know that’s probably not a problem and not another vitamin I need to be concerned about.
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