As we get older, our bodies experience many changes. While it’s different for everyone, there are some common effects of ageing such as changes in our digestive system, weaker bones, impaired eyesight among other things.
By staying healthy and eating lots of nutritious foods, we could potentially help reduce the impact of ageing on our bodies. You don’t have to be an expert to know that when we get enough nutrients and vitamins in our diet, it can have positive effects on our digestion, our energy levels, even our mood.
Eat plenty of fruit and veg
We’ve probably all had a doctor, a parent or a teacher recommended that we get our ‘5 fruit and veg a day’. It doesn’t matter if this fruit and veg is fresh or frozen, canned or dried, even juice can help contribute to your 5-a-day, but you should choose a ‘not from concentrate’ option when buying fruit juice. Drinks that are from concentrate can be high in sugar and aren’t great for your teeth, so try to keep to a glass a day.
Try to get into the habit of adding something extra like berries to your porridge or an apple for a snack instead of a chocolate bar. A portion of vegetables is considered to be 80g. Try to add some extra vegetables to your diet.* Homemade soups and smoothies are a tasty way to get more fruit and veg each day.
For more information on this, here’s a guide to fruit and veg for older people.
Eat plenty of starchy carbs
Bread, rice, pasta, cereal and potatoes are all examples of starchy carbohydrates. This kind of food should make up about a third of your diet**. When shopping for these foods, choose a high fiber option or a whole grain variety such as brown rice or pasta. Even eating potatoes with the skin on can help you increase your fibre intake. These higher fibre carbs will help you feel full for longer (preventing unnecessary snacking)*.
Include a starchy food with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Just be wary that by adding foods that are high in fat to your meal can increase the calorie count. So, for example, adding butter or cheese to your bread or a creamy sauce on your pasta dish.
Reduce your sugar intake
Anyone with a sweet tooth might cringe at the idea of giving up sugary treats. The good news is, there’s no reason why you should have to give them up entirely. You should be able to enjoy the occasional sweet treat as part of a balanced diet.
The bad news is, eating and drinking too much sugar can result in an increased risk of obesity. Sugary foods are known for contributing to weight gain**. The type of sugar you should be concerned about can be found in sugary fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits, pastries, sugary breakfast cereals, sweets, chocolate and alcoholic beverages.
There are plenty of benefits that come with cutting down on sugar. When shopping, you can use food labels to find out how much sugar a food or drink contains. As a general rule, anything more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g means that the food is high in sugar. 5g of total sugars or less per 100g means the food is low in sugar.*
Introduce more fish to your diet
Fish is an excellent source of protein and can help you get more vitamins and minerals. Try to eat at least two portions of fish every week including one portion of oily fish. This can be good for getting omega-3 fats into your diet and helping to reduce the risk of heart disease***. Oily fish include trout, herring, sardines, salmon, pilchards, and mackerel.
Reduce your intake of saturated fat
Some fat is good for us but it’s important to watch your intake and be aware of the type of fat you’re consuming. Saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood which can, in turn, increase your risk of developing heart disease.* It’s important to be aware of the differences between saturated and unsaturated fats.
It’s recommended that men shouldn’t have more than 30g of saturated fat a day while women should have no more than 20g a day.* Saturated fat can be found in sausages, butter, fatty cuts of meat, hard cheeses, cream, cakes, biscuits and pies.
Switch out some foods that are high in saturated fat with other healthier foods that contain unsaturated fats (vegetable oil, oily fish, avocados). Choose leaner cuts of meat or cut off any visible fat to help reduce your intake.
Eat less salt
When we eat too much salt, it can raise our blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to developing heart disease or stroke. What’s more is you could be unknowingly consuming too much salt. You might think that avoiding adding salt to your food is enough, however, around three-quarters of the salt you consume is already in food products when you buy it*. Soups, bread, sauces and breakfast cereals can all be high in salt.
Once again, food labels can be used to determine the salt level in a food product. More than 1.5g of salt per 100g means that the food is very high in salt.*
Always eat breakfast
Sitting down and eating a balanced breakfast can have many benefits. A healthy breakfast should consist of high fibre foods that are low in salt and sugar. A whole-grain, low-sugar cereal with some milk and fruit is a great example of a balanced breakfast. Or a slice of toasted brown bread with a low-fat spread and a banana.
Look after your gut
Your gut bacteria is extremely important to your general health but certain types of bacteria found in your gut could contribute to some diseases. Oh, and by the way, your gut health can affect your mental health too! The food we eat can alter the type of bacteria that live inside our gut. If you’re trying to improve your diet, consider looking into how to improve your gut health.
Plan meals and use a shopping list
Planning your meals for the week can help to ensure that you’re getting the right balance of healthy foods. Have a think about where you can make changes to your regular meals based on what you’ve learned in this article. If you’re stuck for inspiration, here are some cheap and healthy recipes from BBC Good Food.
Be aware of what vitamins and minerals are best for seniors
You should aim to get the right amount of vitamins and minerals in your diet. The NHS have an extensive guide to healthy eating for older adults, which discusses which vitamins and supplements can be most beneficial to seniors.
If you feel like you’re lacking in certain vitamins, you can browse Holland & Barrett’s multivitamins for seniors. They’ve put together supplement options for seniors, all of which are available to order online through their website. If you would like to find out more about taking multivitamins, speak to your GP about your options.
Cook from scratch and avoid ready meals and takeaways
Not everyone is a regular Gordon Ramsey in the kitchen but buying pre-made meals, sauces, takeaways and frozen dinners can severely increase your salt and sugar intake. Not to mention they’re more often than not lacking in the nutrients and minerals you can get from freshly made food.
Eating well doesn’t mean you need to skill up in the kitchen. It’s all about finding easy recipes. To get you started, here are 39 quick and healthy recipes ready in under 30 minutes.
If you’re cooking for one, you might also be interested in these meal-for-one recipes. There are lots of quick and easy recipes to choose from like the two-step leek and sage risotto with crisp bacon or tangy trout with a simple garden salad.
*The NHS, 8 Tips for Healthy Eating
**The NHS, Eatwell Guide
***Mayo Clinic, Omega-3 in Fish: How Eating Fish Helps Your Heart