If you want to gauge how well are you aging, you may want to look at your diet. Eating a low-salt, low-fat diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and fiber can actually reduce your age-related risks of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis, and other chronic diseases.
“Good nutrition plays an increasingly important role in how well you age, and at times it can be a challenge, particularly if we’ve been ill or must adjust to cooking for just one or two. It’s vital that we eat well to live well,” said Jill Kilhefner, Registered Dietitian at Porter.
Are you getting enough vitamins?
Early on in the senior years, it’s particularly important to take in adequate calcium and vitamin D to maintain strong bones, according to Kilhefner. Many seniors also lack Vitamin B12, important in maintaining healthy nerve cells and red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is found in fortified cereal, lean meat and some fish or seafood. Kilhefner recommends adding a vitamin supplement designed for seniors if you struggle with getting your nutrients.
Do you limit your sodium?
“Limiting sodium is another challenge, especially if you’re eating a lot of processed foods,” said Kilhefner, who advocates making your own foods so you can control the salt content.
Are you getting regular exercise?
Kilhefner also warns that seniors need to match their activity level to their eating. “Weight gain can creep up on you if you maintain the same eating habits while becoming more sedentary,” said Kilhefner. She advises increasing the activity level rather than reducing the calories. “Active seniors are generally healthier seniors. Exercise maintains muscle mass, maintains metabolism, helps to keep your G.I. system in tune and reduces your risk for diabetes and other problems.”
Cooking meals at home saves money and allows you to control the salt and calories. Porter Dietitian Jill Kilhefner offers some tips on cooking and eating well:
Create a Supper Club
Share the work and the rewards by sharing a meal. Rotating homes (and cooks!) adds variety and visiting adds to the fun.
Use your freezer
Many foods freeze well, making it easy to grab just a handful of what you need. Consider freezing breads, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts and seeds. Cooking ahead and freezing healthy meals in small portions means you can cook once and eat for several days.
Hit the books
Porter County libraries have a number of excellent cookbooks specializing in healthful recipes for one or two. Or if you’re computer savvy, go to www.porterhealth.com and check out our Health eCooking site for healthy recipes.
Try a gadget
Small slow cookers and rice cookers are an efficient way to make smaller meals simple and nutritious.
Visit the Porter Health System website
814 LaPorte Avenue
Valparaiso, IN 46383