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Health Tips

Building meals for healthy aging

February 22, 2024
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An image of an older woman cooking a meal with her grandson.

Tips for older adults

Eating a balanced diet improves your sleep and gives you more energy. It may also help fight off certain cancers and prevent or better manage conditions like heart disease or diabetes. Healthy eating becomes even more important with age as it can help you stay healthier, longer. Below are some tips to consider.

How to build a balanced meal

For a healthy, well-balanced meal, follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “MyPlate” guidelines.

TIP! Foods with fiber help us stay full for longer and are good for digestion.

Sample healthy meals

Tips for making healthy meals

A bag of healthy groceries, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and milk.
  1. Add protein to give you more energy. Try using peanut butter on toast instead of butter or jelly. Add some lentils or black beans to your sauce. This will add protein, vegetables, and extra flavor to your pasta dish.
  2. Get creative with your meals. For instance, tuna has many uses beyond that traditional tuna salad on toast. You can try adding some to a garden salad or a grilled cheese. Vegetables have many uses, too. Roast a batch for a side dish, and then you can use leftovers in a salad. You can also add some to scrambled eggs for extra flavor and nutrition, or to pasta with a little cheese for a balanced meal.
  3. Plan for leftovers. You can save time by making a large batch of food and planning additional meals with leftovers. For instance, enjoy a roasted chicken dinner with vegetables, and then toss leftovers on a salad for another tasty, balanced meal the next day. Plus, sliced chicken always makes for a great sandwich on some wheat or whole grain bread.
  4. Don’t throw away stale bread. You can use it for croutons on a salad. Or crush the bread to use as breadcrumbs in a meatloaf or on top of a casserole. Stale bread is also great for dipping into soup.
  5. Tap into the many uses for applesauce! Applesauce is good on its own, but you could kick it up a notch by adding in some nuts to get extra protein and healthy fat. It’s also the perfect ingredient to add sweetness to plain yogurt, cottage cheese, or oatmeal.

Read the labels

SALT: The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day for most adults. This is especially true for those with high blood pressure. Other names for salt: baking soda, sodium, nitrates, nitrites, monosodium glutamate.

FAT: Reducing saturated and trans fats can help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. The AHA recommends that no more than 5–6% of your daily calories should come from saturated fats (for a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s less than 120 calories). The AHA recommends that adults who would benefit from lowering cholesterol should eliminate trans fat from their diet. Other names for fat: butter, carob, coconut oil, palm oil, tallow, hydrogenated oils, lard, margarine, milk solids, monoglycerides, shortening, vegetable fat, cream, ghee.

SUGAR: For most adults, the AHA recommends no more than 9 added teaspoons of sugar per day for men, and no more than 6 per day for women. Other names for sugar: brown sugar, cane sugar, concentrated fruit juice, corn syrup, dextrose, treacle, fructose, glucose, golden syrup, honey, lactose, malt, malt extract, maltose, isomaltose, maltodextrin, maple syrup, molasses, sucrose.

These are general guidelines. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your specific needs. And don’t forget, physical activity is important for healthy aging, too.

Click here to download and print this guide!

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