The holidays are right around the corner, and the first thing that comes to mind is all that food! You don’t want to look like a Santa at the start of the New Year! Well, don’t feel guilty about consuming the goodies; just get smart! If you have an understanding of what it takes to properly fuel your body, specifically as you age, the healthy eating process doesn’t seem so daunting. Older adults have different needs, and there are some key nutrients that are really important to maintain.
Let’s get back to the word SMART. Here’s a simple way to eat healthy using this acronym for healthy eating during the holidays.
When you put food on your plate, divide that plate into four serving sections:
- The first section is whole grains (wheat bread, brown rice, fortified whole-grain cereals).
- The second section is protein (lean meats, eggs, fish, beans, cheese, tofu, peanut butter).
- The third section is vegetables (fresh, frozen, dried, low-sugar canned).
- The fourth section is fruits (fresh, frozen, dried, low-sugar canned).
This is true for every plate at every meal. Eliminate processed foods as much as possible. If you must open a package or can, be sure to check the ingredients. Examples of things to look for are words such as “whole” for grains and “low sugar” for canned fruits. Remember to also control salt intake and instead flavor your food with herbs and spices. Think of the holiday lights and create a colorful plate! The more color found in veggies and fruits, the more nutrients to fuel the body!
Maintain Important Nutrition
Here is a list of the key nutrients (and examples of foods that provide them) an older adult needs:
- Calcium and Vitamin D (leafy greens, cheese, milk, yogurt, seafood)
- Vitamin B12 (lean meats, eggs ,fish)
- Fiber (beans, cereals, fruits and vegetables)
- Potassium (bananas, prune juice, mangos, pears)
The majority of these nutrients are found in the above foods. Supplements are also important to ensure that we obtain them, but the word is supplement, meaning “in addition to”; therefore, take supplements in addition to getting these nutrients through food.
Allow Some Fun Food
It’s fine to eat a slice of cake or have a cookie, but be mindful of how many. Remember to lower your intake of saturated fat and sugary treats that can lead to heart disease and unwanted pounds (and here are some healthful baking substitution tips). When you think of your plate, consider that 90% is the food that will provide your nutrients and 10% can be that “occasional” brownie or piece of pumpkin pie.
Reach for Water
Drink plenty of fluids! No, the holiday punch doesn’t count, so limit your alcohol intake. Drink water and realize that you can also obtain your fluids from juice, low-fat milk, and even soups.
Take the Time to Exercise
Physical activity is also important in maintaining a good digestive system, and the good fuel from food will be used to restore muscle and burn fat for weight loss. Get your body moving after those holiday meals.
Be SMART this holiday season! Happy holiday eating!