Nutrition for the New Year: Top 10 Tips for 2014
As we enter another new year, resolutions to eat healthier and take better care of ourselves always top the list. Whether these resolutions are set in hopes of losing weight, avoiding sickness, or staying strong and healthy they are important goals to work toward the whole year through.
Nutrition plays a vital role no matter what your age but as we get older, our bodies have different needs, making eating healthy especially important for good health.
Focus on these top 10 nutrition tips throughout the New Year to reach your resolutions with ease:
As you age; the body does not require as many calories as it did when you were younger. The rate at which you burn energy (calories) naturally slows and you are likely not as physically active as you were in years prior. Make sure you are keeping an eye on portion sizes and staying active to keep your metabolism going!
Choose whole grain bread, pasta, rice and cereals. Make sure ½ of your plate is filled with vegetables. Fiber causes your blood sugar to rise more slowly and makes you feel more satisfied after a meal. You will find that you get to eat more when you make high-fiber choices. Most high-fiber foods are quite low in calories and fat making it something you should definitely be adding to your plate!
Ensure you include a lean protein source with each meal and snack. Protein helps keep your blood sugar stable so you are less likely to feel hungry between meals. Eat a variety of protein foods such as seafood, beans, nuts, lean meats, poultry, and eggs to ensure you are meeting your needs.
Calcium & Vitamin D
Bone health is very important for older adults. Include low-fat or fat-free dairy products each day to keep your bones strong. Other calcium-rich foods include fortified cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, and canned fish with soft bones such as sardines. Talk to your doctor or registered dietitian about whether or not a supplement is recommended.
If you use the salt shaker, put it away! One teaspoon of salt contains more sodium than is required for a full day. Sodium can contribute to high blood pressure. Most of the sodium in your diet is likely found in prepared or canned foods. Read your food labels for sodium and try to limit to no more than 1500mg per day. If you must use canned products, look for “no-salt added” items. Limit processed foods – by keeping your food as close as possible to its natural, fresh state, you will naturally lower your sodium intake.
Just as sodium usually causes blood pressure to increase, potassium tends to have a blood pressure lowering effect. Potatoes, avocados, spinach, bananas, beans and low-fat milk and yogurt are good sources of potassium.
Our bodies need fat for many body processes but make sure you are choosing the healthy sources. Include unsaturated sources of fat and try to include more monounsaturated fats from sources such as olive oil, avocados, salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed. These fats can help you lower your LDL, or bad, cholesterol without harming your good cholesterol. Choosing foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids such as nuts and fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, and albacore tuna) may help increase mental focus and decrease risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
As you age, it becomes more difficult to absorb vitamin B12 which is important to keep blood and nerves healthy. Lack of vitamin B12 is linked to higher rates of memory loss and depression. Make sure to include fortified cereal, lean meat, cheese, eggs, fish and low-fat milk and yogurt in your diet.
Your sense of thirst tends to decline with age. Many medications increase the risk of becoming dehydrated. Water is especially important as you increase your fiber intake as it absorbs water. Aim to include 8 glasses of non-caffeinated fluids per day. Check the color of your urine to ensure you are drinking enough – it should be pale yellow. If it is dark yellow, you may need to drink more water. Remember that caffeine is dehydrating so you may need to include more water if you are a coffee drinker.
Vitamins A & C
These vitamins might help you strengthen your immune system as you are exposed to more colds and viruses throughout the winter. Make sure to include sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, red bell peppers, milk and eggs to boost your Vitamin A intake. Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit, strawberries, red bell peppers, and foods fortified with Vitamin C should be on your shopping list each week.
Start your new year off with a goal to make small changes in your meal plan – including just 1-2 of these tips to get started is a good goal. Each small step is a step in the right direction to improve and maintain your overall health!
By Gretchen Broecker MS RD CDE
Registered Dietitian/Certified Diabetes Educator
New West Physicians