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Healthy Eating for Older People

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 3 Jun 2010 | comments*Discuss
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As we grow older, our dietary needs change. To stay healthy, you not only need a good, balanced diet, but also to be aware of your changing needs. In fact it's more important than ever to watch what you eat in order to maintain good health.

Conditions That Affect Diet

Living on a fixed income means being economical and watching what you spend. But it's often cheaper, and more nutritious, to cook from scratch than go out and buy ready meals. It doesn't have to be complicated, either. Try making some pasta and vegetables with low-fat margarine, for instance, or you can always do a simple sauce with a few tomatoes, onion and a bit of basil.

When your spouse dies, it can have a huge effect on your diet. After years of a couple eating together, the prospect of cooking for just one can seem bleak. It could even be that the survivor doesn't really know how to cook. But it's important, for your own health, to eat as well as you can.

What to Eat

We've all seen the ads for the five-a-day campaign, telling us to eat five servings of vegetables or fruit every day. It's not just for kids, everyone benefits by doing it. You can go even further by using cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, for instance), which are good in the fight against cancer.

Bread, or grain or cereal is important too - the complex carbohydrates, anywhere between six and eleven servings each day (don't worry; a serving isn't a huge amount). Try porridge for breakfast. It's excellent because it releases its energy slowly, helping keep you alert all day, and it's easy to make (try it with honey or fruit).

Bones grow brittle as you age, particularly in women, and osteoporosis can be a big problem. You still need calcium; in fact it can be more important than ever, so try to drink more low fat milk, for example, or eat more dairy products (there are calcium tablets for the lactose intolerant). You can even find plenty of calcium in canned fish.

You might well find you don't have the appetite you once did. That's natural if you're less active. You could eat less, but the best answer is to exercise more. It not only stops you gaining weight, you'll also feel better.

What Not To Eat

Salt can be a problem. We often take in far more than we need, and it's bad for your blood pressure. But it's actually easy to cook without it - simply don't put it in the water when you're cooking vegetables or pasta. Or you could use spices or herbs instead with food. You need to be especially careful with processed food, which is often salt-heavy. However, we do need some salt in our diet, so don't abandon it completely - just be very moderate.

You should also steer clear of too much fat, since it increases your risk of heart disease (not to mention raising your blood pressure). There are many ways to lower fat and cholesterol in your diet. Some things you can do include steaming or baking your food instead of frying it, picking leaner cuts of meat and trimming off the fat, and moving to low fat milk. But you should try and make sure you get plenty of Omega 3 fatty acids, which helps stop your arteries from hardening.

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