Nutrition for life's next stage
9/2/2021 by Carly Herr
Eating well is important for all stages of life. Special considerations that affect eating as you age include living situations, routines, appetites and food preferences. As you approach life's next stage, it's important to make sure your body gets the essential vitamins and minerals recommended to promote optimal health and aging.
Different foods provide different vitamins and minerals, so picking a variety of foods at mealtimes will help ensure a proper balance of important nutrients. To meet nutritional needs, aim to pick foods from at least three food groups at each meal.
Here are some the nutrients especially important in healthy aging:
Vitamin D helps maintain bone health as you age. Your body needs more than it did when you were younger. Sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, like salmon, as well as eggs and fortified foods and beverages, like milk and yogurt.
Try to include a fatty fish once or twice per week in place of red meat. Make your soup or oatmeal with low-fat milk instead of water.
Calcium helps the body maintain healthy bones and teeth. Try to aim for three servings of calcium-rich foods per day. Sources include low-fat or fat-free dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, soybeans, and calcium-fortified foods.
Add a cup of low-fat or fat-free milk as a beverage at lunch or dinner. Consider yogurt or a low-fat cheese as an afternoon snack.
Vitamin B12 is important for healthy nerves and helps prevent a type of anemia that can lead to weakness and fatigue. Good sources of vitamin B12 include meat, fish, poultry, milk and fortified breakfast cereals.
Shop for a cereal that has been fortified with vitamin B12. Include a serving of meat at least once per day.
Potassium helps support proper kidney and heart function, muscle contraction and nerve function. Getting enough potassium helps support a healthy blood pressure.
Potassium is found in many foods, and it is especially high in plant foods. Good sources include fruits, vegetables, lentils, kidney beans, nuts, milk, yogurt and meat.
Aim to include a side of fruit or vegetables at every meal. Include a plant-based protein like lentils or kidney beans once or twice per week in place of meat.
Fiber helps support regular bowel movements and lowers the risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Good sources of fiber include whole-grain breads and cereals, beans, lentils, and whole varieties of fruits and vegetables.
Make it a goal to chew your fruits and veggies whole instead of drinking them in the form of juice. Look for the whole-grain labeling on the front of the packaging and choices that offer at least 2-3 grams of fiber per serving.
A nutritionist can offer additional guidance specific to your needs and preferences. It may seem challenging, but it can be fun and inviting to consider changing up your food choices in the next stage of life.
Carly Herr is a dietetic intern at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. She is from Pittsburgh, and she attended The Pennsylvania State University and University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Her areas of interest include wellness and weight management.