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How Small Changes to Improve Your Nutrition Lead to Better Mental and Physical Health for Seniors

By Jennifer McGregor, PublicHealthLibrary.org

Adjusting to change is a challenge that all seniors face. Your body’s nutritional needs are different now, and you’re also fighting the loss of muscle mass. These are some of the realities of aging that we can’t avoid, but what you can do is confront them with a plan. Developing healthy habits, including strategies to get the nutrients you need, can help combat these issues.

Aim for a Healthy Lifestyle

Getting the right nutrients is critical to staying healthy, but you’ll get the best results by eating a nutritious diet in combination with an active lifestyle. For example, eating plenty of lean protein will help fight the loss of muscle, but you also need physical activity to build up those muscles. The National Institute on Aging reports that the combination of nutrition and exercise can reduce your risk of diabetes, reduce stress and sleep problems, and improve your balance.

If you’re new to exercise or have physical limitations, it’s always wise to get guidance from a professional. Many seniors who have a Medicare Advantage plan also have access to wellness programs. One example is UnitedHealthcare, which has multiple Medicare Advantage plans that cover fitness and wellness services. Look into whether something like this is covered by your plan, but don’t worry if you don’t have this type of plan. You can take the time now to search for a plan that includes these benefits and make the switch at your next opportunity for enrollment.

Don’t Be Afraid to Supplement

It isn’t healthy to rely on supplements alone to meet your nutritional needs, but even when you eat a balanced diet, there may still be some nutrients you’re lacking. This is why seniors should consider taking a multivitamin. One thing to keep in mind is that not all multivitamins include the right amount of everything you need. We recommend finding one that has the most crucial vitamins and nutrients — including vitamin A, vitamin K, riboflavin, biotin, and calcium — and making sure you’re getting these in at least 100 percent of the daily recommended amount.

And while fluids aren’t exactly supplements, they’re another vital part of your health. Fluids can come from any nutritious source, but it’s best to limit caffeine and added sugars when you can. If you get tired of the taste of water, you may want to try flavored sparkling water or infusing your water with fresh fruit. Some people also have a hard time remembering to drink enough water. To make this easier, try keeping a water bottle with you.

Fill Up on Superfoods

Whether you hope to lose weight or you’re trying to eat healthier in general, Verywell Fit cautions against “dieting” in the traditional sense. This is important because if you cut out certain foods, you may end up cutting out a source of nutrients that you need. Instead of eliminating foods, a good rule of thumb for complete nutrition is to focus on easy and affordable ways to eat whole foods. U.S. News & World Report shared the updated MyPlate guide designed for seniors. As you may guess, fruits and vegetables take up a good portion of the plate. It can be challenging to get as many of these as you need, but there are a few tricks that can help.

One tip is to look at your regular snack choices and swap some with fresh fruit. Fresh fruits are easy because they don’t require preparation, but another good choice is dried fruits that don’t have added sugar. Another trick is to add fruits and veggies to meals you’re already making. Oatmeal is a very healthy breakfast, and you can easily add in some berries or banana slices.

You may find yourself wondering if doing something small like adding fruit to your oatmeal really makes a difference. The answer is yes! Even the smallest changes to your nutrition add up. The result of your effort is that you will stay healthier, happier, and get more out of your senior years.

Image courtesy of Pexels. The author may be contacted via email at mcgregor_jennifer@publichealthlibrary.org.

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