Health / Healthy Eating

Rewind the Clock by Eating Right: 10 Nutrition Tips for Seniors

"Rewind the Clock by Eating Right: 10 Nutrition Tips for Seniors"While there’s no way to magically subtract several decades from your age, you can rewind the clock in terms of how old you feel and how well your body functions. In addition to remaining active, eating a nutritious diet is essential for seniors who want to improve their health. Here are 10 tips to keep in mind:

Eat the rainbow. If a food’s natural color can be found in a rainbow, it’s a great choice to put in your shopping cart. Here’s a quick color-by-color (though certainly not all-inclusive) guide:

  • Red: apples, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, cranberries, watermelon, tomatoes, beets, red peppers
  • Orange: oranges, sweet potatoes, carrots, tangerines, nectarines
  • Yellow: cantaloupe, pineapple, bananas, yellow apples, lemons, pears, squash, yellow peppers, apricots
  • Green: green apples, green grapes, honeydew, green peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green beans, zucchini, lettuce, cabbage, green peppers, asparagus
  • Blue: blueberries, blue plums, Concord grapes
  • Purple: blackberries, raisins, plums

Look for foods made by nature. A good rule of thumb is, “If man makes it, don’t eat it.” In other words, cook with foods that are in their natural state—like fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, honey, meat, fish, milk, and eggs. Following this guideline will help you avoid most unhealthy processed foods and those with a lot of additives.

Don’t take food packaging at face value. Remember that marketers’ jobs are to make you buy their products, not to safeguard your health. Just because a package says “all natural” or “whole grain,” for instance, doesn’t mean it’s not still loaded with sugar or calories. For instance, one popular cereal that’s generally reckoned to be healthy has 11 grams of sugar per serving! If you want to get an accurate picture of what you’re buying, read the nutrition facts and ingredients, not just claims on the box front.

Don’t skip breakfast. Turns out, Mom was right. There is now plenty of evidence to back her up. Breakfast revs up the metabolism, increases blood flow to the brain (which helps you think better), and makes you more energetic. Don’t have time to put together a healthy breakfast spread? Keep healthy snacks like low-carb protein bars and nuts on hand, and incorporate options like toast with peanut butter and honey into your rotation. All these and thousands more foods are quick, healthy, and EASY!

Eat six or seven times per day. Eating six or seven times a day is better than waiting for the three traditional meals. (This is great news if you often find yourself snacking between meals.) This strategy will help you lose weight by boosting your metabolism and will keep your blood sugar levels stable so that you don’t get hungry and overeat. So go ahead—indulge in those healthy mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks!

Know that not all calories are created equal. The only place where a “calorie is a calorie” is the dictionary. In reality, the body digests and metabolizes different foods very differently. For example, if you eat 100 calories of simple carbohydrates, they will be digested quickly—and if you don’t burn them almost immediately, they will be stored as fat. However, 100 calories of protein will be digested much more slowly and can be burned over the course of several hours. (This is just one example of why it’s so important to seek out a basic nutritional education!)

Do your homework before eating out. If you’re both retired and an empty nester, you might find yourself indulging in your favorite restaurant meals more often than you once did. But before you place your order, do your homework on its nutritional value. (Many restaurants will provide this information on request and also publish it online.) What you think is a healthy option might not be! For instance, the quesadilla explosion salad at Chili’s has 1,430 calories. Compare that to the grilled chicken sandwich, which has 1,100 calories, the chipotle steak bowl with 970 calories, or the ancho salmon with 600 calories.

Keep a food diary. When you’re starting a new nutrition plan, it really does help to write down everything you eat and drink, right down to the smallest snack and sip. That’s because at any age, we tend to remember selectively. It’s so easy to forget about the sample (or three) you ate at the grocery store, or to tell yourself that you didn’t eat that many French fries. But when you get into the habit of writing everything down, you’re forced to pay attention, and you make better decisions. The good news is, after the first month or two, you really can rely on your memory, because healthy habits will be second nature.

Clean out your pantry. Here’s a good retirement project to move to the top of your list: Rid your pantry and fridge of all unhealthy foods. And no, don’t wait to eat what you already have in the house before you start buying healthier items. Throwing out all of your unhealthy food in one fell swoop sends a pretty powerful psychological message. You may be surprised by how big the pile is and how empty your pantry is afterward! Plus, if you’re going to start eating healthy, it’s best to just do it—torturing yourself with the last remaining bag of potato chips doesn’t do your motivation any favors. And the good news is, you don’t have to trash everything. Take any unopened and unused items to a local food pantry.

Plan ahead. If you think about it, you’ll probably admit that you tend to make your least healthy dining choices (think drive-thrus and “junk food”) when you just aren’t sure what else to eat. Taking a half hour every Sunday (for example) to plan out your meals and snacks for the week, and to make out an appropriate grocery list, can be a real game changer. If you know you have the ingredients for spaghetti squash with marinara sauce in your fridge, for instance, you’ll be much less likely to pick up a pizza on the way home from running errands.

About the Author: Warren Honeycutt is the author of Get Lean for Life: 7 Keys to Lasting Weight Loss. An expert in weight loss, fitness, and nutrition, he is a championship bodybuilder who has been a Southern Classic Physique Champion, two-time Mr. Tennessee, and six-time Mr. America finalist. Now, at age 62, he enjoys perfect health without any prescription medications and a physique that is the envy of most 25-year-olds. To learn more, please visit www.getlean.guru.

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