Eat smart

Healthy eating and regular physical activity are keys to good health at any age. They may lower your risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, cancer and other chronic diseases. They may even help ward off depression and keep your mind sharp as you age. Talk to your health care provider for more specific advice if you have health problems or concerns. Remember, it’s never too late to make healthy changes in your life.

Fruits and veggies: More matters! Fruits and veggies provide the unrivaled combination of great taste and nutrition; they are nature’s perfect convenience food! Eating lots of fruits and veggies is the cornerstone of a healthy diet. Research shows that women who eat lots of fruits and veggies weigh less and have lower risks of some diseases.

Your most important nutritional needs are getting plenty of B vitamins, antioxidants, calcium and vitamin D. Some studies suggest that folic acid might help with Alzheimer’s disease, forgetfulness, cognitive decline and age-related hearing loss. Check out our folic acid section for more information on how folic acid helps women of all ages.

Tips for eating healthy

  • Don’t skip meals. Skipping may lead you to eat more high-calorie, high-fat foods at your next meal or snack.
  • Select high-fiber foods like whole-grain breads and cereals, beans, vegetables and fruits.
  • Choose lean beef, turkey breast, fish or chicken with the skin removed to lower the amount of fat and calories in your meals. As you age, your body needs fewer calories, especially if you aren’t very active.
  • Have three servings of vitamin D-fortified low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt or cheese every day. Milk products are high in calcium and vitamin D, and help keep your bones strong as you age. If you have trouble digesting milk products or simply don’t like them, try reduced-lactose milk products, soy-based beverages or tofu. You can also talk to your health care provider about taking a calcium and vitamin D supplement.
  • Choose foods fortified with vitamin B12. Many adults over the age of 50 have difficulty absorbing adequate amounts of this vitamin. Therefore, they should get this nutrient through fortified foods such as breakfast cereals or from a multivitamin. Talk with your health care provider to ensure that you are consuming enough vitamin B12.
  • Keep nutrient-rich snacks such as dried apricots, whole-wheat crackers, peanut butter, low-fat cheese and low-sodium soup on hand. Eat only small amounts of foods like dried apricots and peanut butter because they are high in calories. Limit how often you have high-fat and high-sugar snacks like cake, candy, chips and soda.
  • Drink plenty of water or water-based fluids. While you may feel less thirsty as you get older, your body still needs water to stay healthy. Examples of water-based fluids are caffeine-free tea and coffee, soup and low-fat or skim milk.

Ask your health care provider if you should take a daily multivitamin supplement. No pills have been proven to “stop aging” or “improve your memory.” Taking a “one-a-day” type, however, may help you meet your body’s nutrient needs every day.

What is a healthy weight?

Maintaining a healthy weight may reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. It may also help you move better and stay mentally sharp. If you know how tall you are and how much you weigh, you can learn your body mass index (BMI). Click here to access an online calculator. A healthy BMI means you have a reduced risk for health conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, breathing problems, arthritis, and some cancers.

Ask your health care provider what weight is right for you. If you start to gain or lose weight and don’t know why, your health care provider can tell you if this change is healthy for you.

Content courtesy of the Weight-control Information Network (WIN). The original content and additional information can be found at http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/young_heart.htm.

Revised: June 7, 2011

This web site is designed for informational use only; it is not designed to give advice, diagnose, cure or treat any medical condition you may have. If you have any questions about your health, please contact your health care provider.