Eat Well To Live Well

Posted on January 21, 2019.

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As we age, our bodies and our lifestyles undergo significant changes, which can in turn affect our appetite and nutritional intake. Despite these changes, it is important to maintain a healthy and nutritional diet later in life. The food we eat plays a crucial role in our overall health and wellbeing so let’s look at how we can eat well and therefore live well as we age.

What are the obstacles to eating well?

There are many different reasons why the quality of our nutritional intake can decrease as we get older. A decreased appetite, a reduced ability to absorb nutrients from the foods and liquids we consume and changes in personal living situations such as no longer needing to cook for others, are all factors contributing to poor nutrition in older adults.

The famous food groups

A National Nutrition survey conducted in 2012 revealed only about 4% of Australians are consuming the recommended minimum amount of vegetables. As we get older this can be particularly problematic as we become more vulnerable to chronic conditions and disease. A balanced diet will help you to get all the key nutrients you need and that means including foods from each of the five major food groups:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Grains and cereals including breads, pasta and noodles (wholegrain is best)
  • Lean meats, fish, poultry or alternatives
  • Dairy such as milk, yogurt and cheese

A healthy diet also means limiting your intake of unnecessary processed foods that are high in sugar and salt such as chocolates, potato chips, lollies and soft drinks.

While eating a balanced diet using each of the food groups is a great start, it’s a good idea to see a health professional such as an Accredited Practising Dietitian or your GP to determine the best diet for your individual health needs.

The importance of water

Water is a vital nutrient for our bodies and essential for most bodily functions. Older people are often at risk of dehydration for a number of reasons such as a reduced thirst, hormone changes, the effect of particular medications and changes to kidney function. Remember to take regular drinks of water throughout the day even though you may not feel thirsty. Australian tap water is an ideal and inexpensive choice for everyone.

Shopping tips

If you have mobility issues or live on your own, doing the grocery shopping can be a challenge. Try to maintain a well-stocked cupboard with foods that last a long time. To help reduce the number of times you need to shop during the week, take some time to plan your meals and consider preparing a week’s worth of meals ahead of time and freezing them. Seek help from family and friends or alternatively look at getting some professional help in the home to help you with the shopping. Government subsidised home care programs exist to help older people with daily living activities such as grocery shopping and meal preparation. Visit the My Aged Care website or Juniper's website for information on how to access this type of assistance.

Eating well on a budget

It can feel like healthy eating is more expensive but with a little planning and some handy tips, it doesn’t have to be.

  • Always make a shopping list before you hit the shops to stop you from buying more than you need.
  • Try to buy fresh fruit and vegetables that are in season. Not only will they be cheaper, they will be at their best in terms of flavour and nutrients.
  • Don’t shop when you are hungry – you will be tempted to buy more than you need!
  • Take time to look at the ‘junk mail” in your letterbox to pick up on the best supermarket bargains of the week.
  • Opt for the generic or home brands where you can.
  • Avoid buying pre-prepared foods such as grated cheese or chopped vegetables in a bag. You’ll save money by grating and chopping these items yourself.
  • Save money on meat by experimenting with a vegetarian dish each week. Eggs and lentils are cheaper and nutritious alternatives.

There are some more great tips on how to eat well without breaking you budget on the Dieticians Association of Australia website.

Seeking advice and other resources

If the idea of changing your diet is a little overwhelming or you are unsure of where to start, consider seeking some professional advice from a dietician. Dieticians can help you with understanding nutrition for older adults and changing your eating habits for the better. If you’re looking for inspiration on healthy and great tasting recipe ideas, check out the LiveLighter website and the links listed below offer great general information on eating well.