Healthy Eating After 50

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How Many Calories Do People over Age 50 Need Each Day?

A woman:

  • Who is not physically active needs about 1,600 calories
  • Who is somewhat active needs about 1,800 calories
  • Who has an active lifestyle needs about 2,000-2,200 calories

A man:

  • Who is not physically active needs about 2,000 calories
  • Who is somewhat active needs about 2,200-2,400 calories
  • Who has an active lifestyle needs about 2,400-2,800 calories

Here’s a tip: Aim for at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of physical activityeach week. Ten-minute sessions several times a day on most days are fine.

How Much Is on My Plate?

How does the food on your plate compare with how much you should be eating?

Here are some ways to see how the food on your plate measures up:

  • 1 deck of cards = 3 ounces of meat or poultry
  • Half baseball = half cup of fruit, rice, or pasta
  • 1 baseball = 1 cup of salad greens
  • 4 dice = 1½ ounces of cheese
  • Tip of your first finger = 1 teaspoon of butter or margarine
  • 1 ping-pong ball = 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
  • 1 fist = 1 cup of flaked cereal or a baked potato

Common Problems Older Adults Have with Eating

Does your favorite chicken dish taste different? As you age, your sense of taste and smell may change, and foods may seem to lose flavor. Try extra spices or herbs to add flavor. Also, medicines may change how food tastes. They can also make you feel less hungry. Talk to your doctor if this is a problem.

Maybe some of the foods you used to eat no longer agree with you. For example, some people become lactose intolerant. They have stomach pain, gas, or diarrhea after eating or drinking something with milk in it. Your doctor can test to see if you are lactose intolerant.

Is it harder to chew your food? Maybe your dentures do not fit, or your gums are sore. If so, a dentist can help you. Until then, you might want to eat softer foods that are easier to chew.

Do Older Adults Need to Drink Water?

With age, you may lose some of your sense of thirst. Drink plenty of liquids like water, milk, or broth. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty.

Try to add liquids throughout the day. You could try soup for a snack, or drink a glass of water before exercising or working in the yard. Don’t forget to take sips of water, milk, or juice during a meal.

What about Fiber?

Fiber is found in foods from plants— fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Eating more fiber might prevent stomach or intestine problems, like constipation. It might also help lower cholesterol, as well as blood sugar.

It is better to get fiber from food than dietary supplements. Start adding fiber slowly. That will help avoid gas. Here are some tips for adding fiber:

  • Eat cooked dry beans, peas, and lentils often.
  • Leave skins on your fruit and vegetables if possible, but wash them first.
  • Choose whole fruit over fruit juice.
  • Eat whole grain breads and cereals.

Drink plenty of liquids to help fiber move through your intestines.

Should I Cut Back on Salt?

The usual way people get sodium is by eating salt. The body needs sodium, but too much can make blood pressure go up in some people. Many fresh foods contain some sodium, especially those high in protein. However, most unprocessed fruits and vegetables do not have much sodium. Salt is added to many canned and prepared foods.

People tend to eat more salt than they need. If you are 51 or older, about two thirds of a teaspoon of table salt—1,500 milligrams (mg) sodium—is all you need each day. That includes all the sodium in your food and drink, not just the salt you add.

Try to avoid adding salt during cooking or at the table. Talk to your doctor before using salt substitutes. Some contain sodium. And most have potassium, which some people also need to limit. Eat fewer salty snacks and processed foods, such as lunch meats.

Look for the word sodium, not salt, on the Nutrition Facts panel. Choose foods labeled “low sodium.” The amount of sodium in the same kind of food can vary greatly among brands, so check the label.

Here’s a tip: Spices, herbs, and lemon juice add flavor to your food, so you won’t miss the salt.

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