Food For Thought, Energy & Strength

Nutritional Tips for Older Adults to maintain your energy, strength and keep your mind sharp.

Healthy eating is important all throughout your life but as people age, eating well can help prevent or even slow the progression of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes as well as help keep the brain healthy. The body naturally changes with age, but eating well, can help to maintain energy levels and youthfulness to have the energy and strength to enjoy spending time with grandchildren, volunteering or working, gardening and other hobbies.

Calorie or energy needs decrease but nutrient requirements increase and some vitamins and minerals become harder for the body to absorb. This means while less food is required and smaller portions overall, the food choices need to be nutrient dense. Nutrient dense foods include whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and lean sources of protein can help maintain a healthy body and mind.

Maintain your health with these important nutrients!

Prevent Muscle Loss: Protein Power

Losing muscle mass is a normal yet unfortunate part of aging and can start to happen as early as age 30! Everyone will experience muscle loss but to different degrees; there are a few factors that make muscle loss more severe such as weight loss, poor diet and being sedentary. To help preserve muscle mass and increase muscle synthesis, newer research is suggesting that it is important to consume adequate protein throughout the day. Many North Americans tend to get most of their protein at their evening meal and only small amounts of protein at breakfast and lunch, for example having cereal or toast with butter for breakfast or vegetable soup with a bread roll at lunch. Good sources of protein include meat, poultry, eggs, milk, Greek yogurt and beans and lentils, like those found in Chickapea pasta.

TIP: To help evenly spread your protein intake throughout the day and help preserve your muscle mass, try changing your morning routine a bit by having some Greek yogurt with berries at breakfast or having a scrambled egg or lean turkey sausage with your toast. At lunch, try adding protein to your salad, like tuna, salmon or enjoy a pasta salad like this easy-to-make Antipasto Platter full of veggies, protein and nutrients.
Resistance training a few times per week is also very important for building muscle mass and strength.

“Eating a high fiber diet can help prevent and manage constipation; men over the age of 51 should aim for 30g of fiber per day and women over 51 should aim for 21g per day.”

Keep It Regular: Fiber

Fiber is important at every age but as people age constipation becomes more likely. This may be due to side effects of medication, poor diet or limited activity. Eating a high-fiber diet can help prevent and manage constipation; men over the age of 51 should aim for 30g of fiber per day and women over 51 should aim for 21g per day. Fiber also helps manage blood sugar in people with diabetes and can help lower cholesterol. Fiber is found in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans, chickpeas, and lentils. A 3.5oz serving of Chickapea pasta contains 13g of fiber. If you are increasing your fiber intake, be sure to do it slowly and make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids to help prevent unpleasant side effects such as gas and bloating.

Don’t Feel Like Eating: It’s important to fuel your body!

Eating should be a pleasurable experience however as people age, sometimes they lose interest in eating and it begins to feel like a chore. Some medications may cause appetite changes (speak to your doctor if you think this may be the case for you) or you may be eating alone and preparing meals for yourself and it may not seem appealing. To help make meal times more appealing and to increase your appetite, try taking a walk or doing some exercise before a meal, try a new recipe like this super easy Veggie Marinara Pasta, choose a comfortable place to eat and enjoy.

Bone Health: Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium and Vitamin D needs increase as people get older. Vitamin D works together with calcium to help maintain strong bones and can help protect against osteoporosis. The main source of Vitamin D is the sun however as people get older, they do not synthesize Vitamin D as efficiently. Health Canada recommends that people over the age of 50 take a vitamin D supplement.* Calcium is found in dairy products and fortified milk alternatives, canned salmon with bones, almonds, and legumes such as chickpeas and lentils. To increase your intake of calcium, try making this Greek Pasta Skillet with Burst Cherry Tomatoes.

Drink Up: Hydration

Staying well hydrated is important at every age however as people get older, their thirst sensation may decline. It’s important to drink even if you do not feel thirsty. To help with hydration, try drinking a glass of water when you first wake up and keep a water bottle or glass near you during the day. A great tip is to always have a glass of water or milk with every meal. At lunch or dinner, enjoy a soup like this protein filled Turkey Soup.

No one can stop the aging process however getting older doesn’t have to mean becoming unwell. Many older adults find this time of their life to be of great joy as they get to spend more time with grandchildren and loved ones and pursue passions and dreams they didn’t have time for while working. Eating well and staying active can help you maintain your youthful energy levels and help prevent or manage chronic diseases.

*The US Department of Health and Human Services is an excellent resource regarding calcium intakes and foods to eat.

For more great recipes full of nutrients, fiber, calcium and protein try these easy Chickapea recipes.

Strawberry Spinach Caprese Salad 

5-Ingredient One Pot Pasta Dinner

Lentil Minestrone Soup Jars

Christina Zavaglia, MHSc, RD, CDE, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator practicing in downtown Toronto. She is also the founder of Cucina di Christina, a nutrition consulting and communications business. Follow her @cucina_di_christina or