Nutrition plays an important role in aging well, and eating a well-balanced diet fuels the body.
Well-balanced meals and snacks give your body the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients it needs to fight off diseases, according to Sunrise Senior Living, a senior living community.
The USDA’s MyPlate program was designed to help older adults develop meal plans that meet their unique nutritional needs. Seniors have different dietary needs – such as increased amounts of vitamin D and vitamin B – than younger adults.
For many seniors, two healthy snacks per day help stabilize blood sugar between meals, which helps prevent overeating and maintains energy levels. While they may be more convenient, store-bought snacks are often high in sodium, fat, sugar, and preservatives. A healthier option is to prepare your own snacks and keep them on hand at home or in a cooler when you travel.
Corey Tolbert, registered and licensed dietitian at Piedmont Newnan Hospital, said drinking water can help avoid unhealthy snacking.
“Thirst is often confused with hunger or food cravings,” Tolbert said. “Drinking plenty of water may have many health benefits. In middle-aged and older people, drinking water before meals can reduce appetite and help with weight loss.”
Tolbert said adding more protein may also prevent overeating.
“Protein helps you feel full and satisfied for longer,” the dietitian said.
Tolbert said in order to determine how many snacks a person may need a day, or if they need snacks at all, depends on their current weight, any significant weight changes, nutritional status and current activity level.
As far as overcoming the temptation of grabbing that extra cookie or doughnut, Tolbert said the best strategy is to “distance yourself from the craving.”
“When you feel a craving, try to distance yourself from it by chewing gum or going on a walk,” Tolbert said. “A change in thought or environment may stop the craving.”
Tolbert said planning meals weekly or daily “eliminates spontaneity and uncertainty, both of which can cause cravings.”
She said avoiding extreme hunger by having a healthy snack ready and fighting stress can help avoid those extra “snacking” pounds.
Tolbert said any foods that contain trans fat should be eaten sparingly, including:
- Baked goods. Most cakes, cookies, pie crusts and crackers contain shortening, which is usually made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Ready-made frosting is another source of trans fat.
- Snacks. Potato, corn and tortilla chips often contain trans fat. And while popcorn can be a healthy snack, many types of packaged or microwave popcorn use trans fat to help cook or flavor the popcorn.
- Fried food. Foods that require deep-frying like french fries, doughnuts and fried chicken can contain trans fat from the oil used in the cooking process.
- Refrigerator dough. Products such as canned biscuits and cinnamon rolls often contain trans fat, as do frozen pizza crusts.
Creamer and margarine. Non-dairy coffee creamer and stick margarines also may contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.