We all know that getting older is not for sissies! There is also a thought in the back of our minds that getting older automatically leads to ill-health, starting with the minor aches and pains that we believe age brings.
Let’s ditch these mindsets and kickstart the new year with a plan for healthy eating and physical activity – it’s never too late to get on the road to healthy living and successful ageing in your later years. Let’s look at ways and means of reducing your risk for osteoporosis, heart disease and certain types of cancer and diabetes. Let’s look at a checklist that could make you feel on top of your day.
Please remember to consult your doctor/nutritionist/dietician before changing diets or starting physical activity, especially if you suffer from multiple conditions. The following are general guidelines as every person has different nutritional needs and unique health conditions.
Being moderately active on a daily basis (at least 30 minutes) leads to a feeling of well-being and sleeping better. Whether it’s a walk around the neighbourhood or a session at the gym, physical activity will energise you, and help keep blood pressure, cholesterol and weight right down. Once you start exercising, healthy eating become easier. To get your energy up prior to exercise, have a small healthy snack an hour or two before your activity, or exercise one to three hours after eating a meal.
Meal and snack times
Don’t skip meals –this will make you tired. To keep energized throughout the day, eat three small meals and two snacks mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Make smart choices by ensuring these meals and snacks are packed with nutrients, minerals and protein that are needed for optimal health. Stock your fridge with easy-to-make food items which will encourage you to eat at regular intervals.
The healthy balance that dieticians encourage is the plate model – 50% veggies, 25% carbohydrates and 25% lean protein (fish, skinless chicken, lean meat, beans and legumes, eggs and low fat or fat free dairy products) with a small amount of healthy added fats (e.g. olive or canola oil, avocado, olives, unsalted nuts.
Water, water and more water
Dehydration leads to fatigue and confusion. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, aim to drink about six to eight glasses of liquid a day. Water is great. Limit your intake of tea and coffee as caffeine-rich beverages can lead to your body producing extra urine. Drink water before, during and after exercise in order to stay hydrated.
Keep things moving with fibre
Fruit, veggies, dry beans, peas, lentils and soy products are good sources of fibre that will help prevent constipation.
A lack of iron could lead to a lack of energy. Get your daily dose of iron through foods such as oily fish (sardines, mackerel, tuna, salmon), lean red meat, peas, beans, lentils, green veggies, and eggs .
Bone up on calcium which can help prevent osteoporosis and maintain healthy bones. Get your daily dose of calcium in cheese, milk and yoghurt (fat-free or low-fat), soya beans, oily fish (with bones), cabbage, broccoli and tofu.
Vitamin D is needed to absorb the calcium. Dietary sources include oily fish, eggs and fortified foods, but don’t forget a little sunshine every day will assist in providing some of that daily dose of Vitamin D.
Being overweight leads to a myriad of problems. It increases the risk of serious health complications such as heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes. Being underweight increases your risk of osteoporosis, and can be an early warning sign of ill health. Speak to your doctor or nutritionist about your optimal weight and the ways and means of dealing with the problem.
The no-no foods are fatty meats, butter, lard, cream, hard cheese, pastries, cakes, biscuits as the fats that are found in these foods – saturated fats, trans fats, and artificial trans fats increase cholesterol. The good fats are found in oily fish, lean meats, poultry, nuts, seeds, olive oil.
Try and keep your blood pressure under control by reducing your sodium (salt) intake. Limit your intake of salt and salty foods and watch out for hidden salts in processed and convenience foods. Eating a balanced diet which includes around five to six portions of fruit and veg can also assist in managing blood pressure. .
Jenny Meyer, RD (SA) from MME Dietitians agrees that it is important to follow a healthy balanced diet that includes a wide range of good quality foods. Following a regular meal structure consisting of breakfast, lunch and supper with small snacks in-between from a wide range of nutritious foods is important for good blood sugar control, which will further assist with control over appetite and energy levels. Incorporating 5 servings of fresh fruit, salads and vegetables per day not only provides fibre to the diet, which can assist with preventing constipation, but also provides antioxidants and phytonutrients which are important in reducing risk of various chronic lifestyle diseases. Lutein and zeaxanthin found in fruit and vegetables may assist in preventing and delaying development of age related macular degeneration, which is a leading cause of loss of vision in adults over 65 years of age.
Increasing your intake of calcium rich foods such as low fat dairy products in combination with a sufficient vitamin D intake can help to reduce risk of osteoporosis. Low fat dairy also contributes to protein intake; it is important to include lean proteins such as fish, skinless chicken, lean cuts of red meat and low fat dairy products and legumes to ensure that protein requirements are met. The animal proteins also provide vitamin B12, an important nutrient in the elderly, and are also a source of iron. Reducing salt intake may help to lower blood pressure and reduce incidence of hypertension.
Maintaining a healthy body weight by meeting energy requirements is important. Exercise and activity will assist with weight management, as well as helping to prevent and control chronic diseases. Whilst cardio exercises add significant benefits, it is also recommended to try to include some muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week as well as exercises to maintain or improve balance and decrease risk of falls. And don’t forget to meet your fluids requirements during the day by drinking 1.5-2 litres of water of caffeine free beverages such as herbal and rooibos teas, to keep the body hydrated and further assist in preventing constipation.
Jenny Meyer is a registered dietitian working at MME Dietitians – www.mmedietitians.co.za.