Many people believe good health and fitness begins in the gym, but according to nutrition and fitness experts, it actually begins in the kitchen.
A well-balanced diet paired with physical activity is the ideal lifestyle for people at any age, but according to health experts, senior citizens are more prone to health risks and diseases due to age and should pay careful attention to what’s in their refrigerators and pantries.
“It is important for us to eat healthy and live a healthy lifestyle,” says Megan Schutte, RD/LD, St. John Healthy Lifestyles. “Weight is important if there are health issues associated with your weight, but overall we want to be at a weight that is healthy to us, and that may not be our ideal body weight.”
Dietitians stress the importance of diet in maintaining a healthy weight and overall health, specifically for older adults, who naturally become more sedentary as they age and face obstacles like cooking for only one or two people in the home.
Having a well-balanced diet also helps prevent chronic diseases, says Karen Massey, RD/LD and Community Wellness Educator with Integris Health.
“Some of the major diseases, and the number one problems are heart disease, stroke and diabetes, and eating choices play a role in that risk,” Massey says. “Eating healthy foods and having a nutritious diet decreases the risk of these diseases.”
Diet is at the center of lifestyle choices, and based on poor lifestyle choices, diet becomes one of the big obstacles, Massey adds.
Senior citizens do have resources available to them when planning meals, grocery shopping and even eating on a budget.
“The most important thing in overall health is to eat a well-balanced diet and everything in moderation,” Schutte says. “Following the MyPlate plan is a great way to do this.”
The website, www.choosemyplate.gov, is the current nutrition guide published by the US Department of Agriculture.
The website includes videos, physical activity planning, calorie charts, tips on healthy eating when on a budget, sample menus and recipes and information on weight management.
“It gives us foods from every food group and helps keep our portions under control,” Schutte says. “We need all of the food groups. Again, everything should be eaten in moderation. Protein is key in weight loss. Making sure you have protein at every meal and with each of your snacks is important.”
Schutte says some good snack protein examples include non-fat Greek yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, two percent string cheese or a mini, low-carb protein bar.
When stocking the cabinet and refrigerator for the week, Schutte says lean protein and vegetables are a must.
“Always have lean protein sources like chicken, lean beef and fish – frozen is fine,” Schutte says. “Frozen or fresh veggies are important to always have on hand, as well as whole wheat breads or starches to complete your meal. Also, olive or canola oil is a good tool for cooking.”
In many instances, senior citizens are cooking for one or two, which is sometimes hard because they are used to cooking for families, Schutte says.
“Getting in the habit of cooking smaller meals may be hard for some people,” she says. “Also, consuming adequate portions sometimes becomes difficult for senior citizens. Healthy frozen meals that are low in sodium can be an excellent tool to help with these issues.”