Healthy eating pyramid

Growing older brings many major life adjustments - not just accepting a few extra laugh lines or grey hairs. Along with physical differences and changes comes retirement, children leaving home or the busy arrival of grandkids - all of these things impact on lifestyle and can make it harder to eat healthily.

A healthy lifestyle, spearheaded by good nutrition, is the key to making the most of our later years. Older Australians are more active and living longer than ever, therefore, it’s never too late or indeed too early to start and it’s easier than you think.

The importance of eating healthily as we grow older

It’s crucial as we age to sustain a healthy weight. A healthy weight can make being active easier and assists in lowering the risk of chronic health issues and problems that can plague us in later years – such as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Achieving a healthy weight helps you feel good about yourself and ultimately; the better you feel, the more energy you’ll have to enjoy life.  

Nutrition Australia’s senior dietitian Beth Scholes understands the importance of staying nourished. “There are a host of reasons why our lifestyles change during our later years. From health problems to budgets; any type of change – big or small – can affect our diets as we age”, says Beth.

Many people may think that as we get older we don’t need the same amount of nutrients as when we’re younger. “Not true” explains Beth. “We absolutely do, sometimes even more so; for example increasing calcium is a fundamental one. It’s also crucial to consume healthy fats to help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol - just a few of their many benefits”. Healthy fats are the unrefined polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats from plant sources, such as extra virgin olive oil, nut and seed oils.

Protecting yourself

So what can you do to protect yourself? The best thing you can do is consume a variety of foods from all five food groups. “Eat plenty of vegetables, fruit, lean meats, chicken or fish, low fat dairy, healthy fats and wholegrains,” advises Beth “This ensures our bodies get all the essential nutrients they need and it keeps your diet interesting. Cut back on chocolates, biscuits, cakes, chips and soft drinks as, though tempting, they are high in kilojoules and low in nutrients. They won’t keep you full or energised for long, making you eat more to curb the hunger pangs leading you to gain weight.”

To help achieve good health, a Mediterranean-style diet that includes loads of vegetables, legumes and healthy fats is recommended. Nutrition Australia has great recipe tips and ideas that help follow these principles on their website, with the Healthy Eating Pyramid a simple, visual guide to the types and proportions of foods we should eat every day. With benefits ranging from aiding in the prevention of heart attacks to reducing the risk of dementia, a diet rich in these foods is well worth the investment. In fact, latest research has shown daily use of extra virgin olive oil could decrease the risk of cancer.  

“If you are over 65 it’s actually okay to carry a couple of extra kilos rather than be underweight. You don’t want to put yourself in danger of malnutrition, so it’s about finding that balance. If you are concerned about your weight, chat to your doctor or an Accredited Practicing Dietitian,” advises Beth.

For more great tips, recipes and ideas for getting more vegetables in your diet everyday visit Nutrition Australia’s Try for 5 website.

Visit Nutrition Australia’s website for more information.