In an earlier blog, I talked about the MIND diet (Mediterranean Intervention for Neurodegenerative delay) as it relates to the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. This is one of several healthy “diets,” but the truth is any healthy diet can add years to your life, and life to your years. We all can start now and reap the benefits today of aging well from the food choices that we make. It’s all about quality of life, right?
To become a nationally board certified health coach, (I take my national exam in September) a candidate must have a general understanding of good nutrition and how it plays a part in weight loss, healthy aging and preventing specific chronic diseases.
The basics of understanding a healthy diet includes knowledge of what is unprocessed or minimally processed whole foods, lean protein, adequate fiber, healthy fats and the recommended intake of fruits and vegetables. We understand the need for water intake, and the roles hunger and thirst play in maintaining weight balance.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) describe what healthy eating is all about for people over 50. These guidelines are flexible enough so you can choose a diet of nutritious foods that you like, are readily available and fit your budget.
They suggest people 50 and older choose these foods every day.
Fruit — 1½ to 2½ cups. What is the same as a half-cup of chopped fruit? A fresh two-inch-in- diameter peach or 16 grapes.
Vegetable — 2 to 3 1/2 cups. What is the same as a half-cup of chopped vegetables? Two cups of uncooked leafy vegetables.
Grains — 5 to 10 ounces. What is the same as an ounce of grains? A small bagel, a slice of whole grain bread, a cup of flaked, ready-to-eat cereal or a half-cup of cooked rice or pasta.
Protein foods — 5 to 7 ounces. What is the same as an ounce of meat, poultry or fish? One egg, one-quarter cup of cooked beans or tofu, a half-ounce of nuts or seeds or one tablespoon of peanut butter.
Dairy — 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk. What is the same as one cup of milk? One cup of plain yogurt or 1½ to 2 ounces of cheese. One cup of cottage cheese is the same a half-cup of milk.
Oils — 5 to 8 teaspoons. What is the same as oil added to cooking? Foods like olives, nuts and avocados have a lot of oil in them.
Keep fats solid at room temperature and added sugars and sodium small. If you eat too many foods containing these ingredients you will not have enough calories left in you daily allotment to get in the more nutritious foods you need.
So how much should you eat? It depends on how active you are. It’s calories in, calories out as determined by how active you are each day. If you eat more calories than you use, you will gain weight.
But don’t get obsessed with counting calories. Try to use your daily calories wisely and choose foods that have a lot of different nutrients but not a lot of calories. That way you can eat more food, and if you are like me, you love to eat.
Consider these foods as an example, which can be eaten together or separately: A medium banana, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and a glass of milk. The milk gives you more calcium than the peanut butter but the peanut butter gives you more protein. The banana gives you potassium. That’s why it is so important to eat a variety of healthy foods.
How many calories do people over 50 need each day?
A woman who is not physically active needs about 1,600 calories a day. One who is somewhat active needs about 1,800 calories. A woman with an active lifestyle needs 2,000 to 2,200 calories per day.
A man who is not physically active needs about 2,000 calories. One who is somewhat active needs 2,200 to 2,400. And a man with an active lifestyle needs 2,400 to 2,800 calories per day.
And one last tip: Aim for at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of physical activity each week.