Healthy eating is important for everyone. But it can be even more critical as you age, especially if you’re living with a chronic condition.
Evidence shows that good nutrition gives you more energy and endurance and plays a critical role in preventing and managing conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity.
Unfortunately, nearly 4 million older adults today are food insecure — meaning they lack the means to purchase nutritious food. Here are some tips that can help you know what food you need and how to pay for it.
Make Your Calories Count
How many calories your body needs as you get older depends on both your age and your level of activity.
According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a moderately active woman over age 50 should consume about 1,800 calories a day to stay at her current weight. For an older man, that number is 2,200 to 2,400. Examples of moderate activity include walking, dancing and swimming.
Just like at younger ages, it’s important to get your calories by eating a variety of foods from the five food groups — including whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean protein and dairy — and limit solid fats and added sugars.
How do you know what’s in your food and how much is the right amount? NIA provides great examples for older adults, including tips on how to read the Nutrition Facts on your favorite foods.
Find Help Paying for Food
For some seniors, especially those who live alone on a fixed limited income, it can be difficult to shop for and afford fresh food on a regular basis. The good news is that there are many programs that can help:
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps people with limited incomes afford nutritious food, but very few older adults take advantage of it. In fact, only two out of three seniors who are eligible for SNAP actually get the benefit. See what’s available in your state.
Older Americans Act Nutrition Programs provide millions of meals each year to older adults at senior centers and in their own homes. Visit Meals on Wheels to locate home-delivered meals in your area, or Eldercare Locator to find a local meal site.
The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program provides coupons to buy fresh produce at farmers’ markets, roadside stands and community gardening programs. Call 1-866-348-6479 to see if your state provides the program.
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program provides some vegetables, fruits, grains, beans and canned meats to older adults to supplement their own food. Learn more from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Learn more about healthy eating by answering these 5 questions.
- True or False: As you become older and less active, you need fewer nutrients.
- True or False: Getting enough fluid can be a problem as you grow older because you may not be able to tell as easily when you’re thirsty.
- True or False: Only women need calcium and vitamin D to protect bone strength.
- True or False: Your sense of taste and smell can change with age.
- True or False: You should let hot foods cool before putting them in the refrigerator.
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