It’s difficult to get all the nutrients we need to stay healthy. Learning what foods are rich in vitamins, which foods we should be eating more, and how to cook healthy and appetizing meals can feel like a chore. As we age, we often face even more barriers to getting all the nutrients we need. Eating well has a lot of benefits. It can help us prevent disease and injury, give us the energy to enjoy life, and help us keep our independence.
Since March is Nutrition Month, make it your goal to incorporate some of the healthy habits in this article into your routine.
Cooking can be time consuming and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There’s a myth that fresh fruits and vegetables are more nutritious than frozen and canned, but that’s simply untrue. Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious and tasty as fresh. Plus, frozen foods have the added bonus of not going bad as quickly, being pre-chopped, easier to prepare, and they’re usually less expensive.
As we age, sometimes our appetite and taste declines. This can make it difficult to eat three full meals a day. If you’ve been eating less than usual or unintentionally losing weight, you may be missing out on vital nutrients. Try adding healthy, high calorie foods on top of meals. For example, if you’re making scrambled eggs, try adding shredded cheese for calcium. Adding nuts or sunflower seeds to your salad adds protein and healthy fats. You can also make smoothies or milkshakes with flax seed oil to increase your intake of omega 3 fats.
Fruits and vegetables are delicious and full of nutrients. You likely have already heard you should have around seven servings of fruit and vegetables per day, but what does that actually look like? You can get your servings of fruit and vegetables by: adding half a cup of fruit to yogurt or oatmeal, drinking ½ cup of fruit or vegetable juice, or 1 cup of salad. Adding vegetables to pizza, omelettes, and pasta is also a great way to increase your servings and add more vitamins and minerals into your diet.
Even when you don’t feel thirsty, it’s important to make sure you’re hydrated. According to Statistics Canada, dehydration is one of the most common reasons seniors are hospitalized. Make sure to choose water or milk over pop or fruit juice as sugar can be extremely dehydrating. Sip water throughout the day and with every meal. You can try filling up a large water bottle and making it your goal to finish off the bottle by the end of the day to make sure you are drinking enough each day. If you don’t love the taste of water, try adding slices of fruit for a refreshing flavor.
Unfortunately, you can’t always get every nutrient you need from your diet alone. According to the Government of Canada, both adult men and women are lacking in calcium intake. This can be a problem, especially as we get older and are more susceptible to osteoporosis or just breaking bones after falls. For seniors, aim for at least 1200 mg of Calcium. Since Vitamin D can help your body absorb calcium as well, try to get 800 IU of Vitamin D every day. If your health care provider recommends it, supplements can help you get the extra nutrients you need. Many health care professionals recommend everyone over 50 take a daily Vitamin D supplement of 400 IU. Talk to your doctor about other supplements that might be beneficial to you.
By taking a few steps to make sure we are getting the nutrients we need, we can greatly enhance our quality of life. Use Nutrition Month as a reason to get started taking those steps!
Allyn Lyons is the Communications & Public Relations Coordinator at Victoria General Hospital Foundation. This article is meant to be informational in nature and should not replace the advice of a trained healthcare professional.