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How should older adults plan their meals to promote healthy aging?

Healthy older adults should make sure that they receive nutrients from all the essential food groups and plan their meals as follows:

  • Starch/Carbohydrates: This should take up ¼ or 25% of your plate for every meal. Carbohydrates provides you with energy, but too much of it can cause undesirable weight gain. As a result, it is crucial that older adults eat the right portions of carbohydrates everyday and focus on avoiding unhealthy carbohydrates. These include complex carbohydrates which are low in fiber and nutrients, such as white rice, white potatoes, white bread. They should also avoid sugars which give empty calories without any nutrients. Instead, older adults should try to eat healthy carbohydrates high in fiber when they can, since fiber can aid with digestion, constipation, and can keep you full longer. Healthy carbohydrates include brown rice, whole wheat bread or whole wheat pasta.
  • Protein: This should take up ¼ or 25% of your plate for every meal. Protein is essential in building and repairing tissues in your body. Older adults should avoid unhealthy sources of protein, such as red meat (i.e. pork, beef, lamb) or fatty meat. Instead, they should focus on tofu or fish, which are easy to chew or digest, and are low in unhealthy fats. Legumes and beans also provide a great source of fibers along with protein. If you have high cholesterol, try eating only egg whites and avoid egg yolk.
  • Vegetables: This should take up ½ or 50% of your plate for every meal, since they provide necessary vitamins as well as fibers that aid digestion and keep you full longer. Older adults should choose vegetables that can be steamed or ones that are soft and easy to chew.
  • Fruits: Although fruits are a great source of vitamins, their high sugar content makes them less desirable than vegetables, which can deliver similar nutrients without the high amounts of sugar. If one wants fruits, older adults should choose ones that are soft, easy to chew, not very sweet, and high in nutrients. Examples include bananas, strawberries, or peeled grapefruits.
  • Fats/Oil: Fats provide energy and are essential in absorbing fat-soluble vitamins. Older adults should choose foods that are low in saturated/trans fats and high in unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are often found in butter, cheese, and animal fats, while trans fats are often found in fast foods, packaged foods, or snack foods such as potato chips. Healthy unsaturated fats often come from vegetables, such as olive oil or grapeseed oil.

Moreover, older adults should avoid foods that are heavily seasoned since it can upset their stomach, or the salt content may put them at higher risk of high blood pressure. Their foods should be freshly made to avoid food-related illness. Soft foods can aid with chewing, swallowing and digestion.

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