Tips for Healthy Eating as You Get Older

With all that’s going on in the world today, there’s some good news: According to the National Centers for Health Statistics, life expectancy in 2019 was 78.8 years[1] for the total U.S. population, an increase of 0.1 year from 78.7 years in 2018. And life expectancy for people age 65 was 19.6 years, an increase of 0.1 year from 2018.

While people with diabetes are living longer, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says that diabetes is the seventh most common cause of death[2] in the United States; much of this is due to complications[3] linked with diabetes, such as heart disease[4], kidney disease[5], and nerve damage[6]. Taking good care of yourself, especially if you have diabetes, play a huge role in your health, your quality of life, and your life expectancy.

One area, in particular, that deserves special attention is nutrition and healthy eating. As we get older, it can become harder to purchase and prepare healthy meals; physical changes, as well as certain conditions and diseases, can make eating difficult and less pleasurable. Here are some tips to get you started with eating right to help you feel better, manage your blood sugars[7], and prevent or delay the onset of diabetes complications.

To get cutting-edge diabetes news, strategies for blood glucose management, nutrition tips, healthy recipes, and more delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our free newsletters[8]!

Fill half of your plate with vegetables

Vegetables[9], especially non-starchy (lower-carbohydrate) vegetables, are packed with a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that support good health and ward off certain diseases. Other reasons to eat more veggies are that they are low in calories and carbs, and they’re high in fiber[10].

Tip: If fresh vegetables aren’t an option for you, go for frozen vegetables (minus butter or cheese sauce), or no-salt-added canned vegetables (you can also rinse canned vegetables under running water to remove much of the sodium[11]).

Go for the (whole) grain

As much as possible choose 100% whole-grain foods[12], such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice, corn tortillas, and oats. Whole grains often have more fiber and other important nutrients such as B vitamins, iron[13], potassium[14], and magnesium[15]. Plus, whole-grain foods can make it easier to prevent a blood sugar “spike”[16] after your meals.

Tip: Read the ingredient list to find whole-grain foods. Choose foods with the word “whole” or “whole grain” as the first ingredient. For example, “whole wheat” or “whole rye flour.”

Switch to fat-free or lower-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese

Older adults need more[17] calcium and vitamin D[18] to keep bones healthy, says the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Aim to include three servings of dairy foods each day. Lactose-free milk is an option if you are lactose intolerant, as are calcium-fortified plant-based milks.

Tip: If you like yogurt[19], choose a plain, Greek-style yogurt rather than sweetened fruited yogurts that are higher in carbohydrate. Greek-style yogurt is higher in protein, and you can add some fresh or frozen fruit (not packed in syrup) for a bit of sweetness.

Get enough vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 deficiency[20] is more common in older adults due to a lack of intrinsic factor from the stomach or not enough acid in the stomach. These factors can result in an inability to absorb B12 from foods and beverages. Vitamin B12 is necessary for keeping blood and nerve cells healthy and to make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. This vitamin also helps prevent megaloblastic anemia, a condition that can make you feel weak and tired. It’s recommended that people over the age of 50 get most of their vitamin B12 from fortified foods or dietary supplements, as the body can absorb vitamin B12 from these sources. Talk with your health care provider about taking a supplement. Food sources of B12 include fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, cereals fortified with B12, and some types of nutritional yeast.

Tip: Metformin, a common medicine used to help manage type 2 diabetes[21], might reduce B12 absorption[22] and lower blood levels of B12. If you have been taking metformin for a while, ask your provider about getting your vitamin B12 blood level checked.

Stay hydrated[23]

As we get older, our sense of feeling thirsty decreases. So, even if you’ve been out in the sun or busy doing household chores, you may not feel thirsty, and you may not drink enough fluids during the day. Dehydration[24] is more common in older adults than in younger people, and dehydration is a common cause of hospitalization in elderly people. Plus, some medicines make it more likely to become dehydrated, such as diuretics and laxatives. Making a point to drink water[25] during the day (even if you don’t feel thirsty) is important not only to prevent dehydration, but to help with digestion and other bodily functions.

Tip: Sipping on water may be easier than downing a whole glass at one time. Keep a pretty glass or water bottle by your side throughout the day to remind you to drink! Flavor it with some lemon or lime juice if plain water doesn’t taste good to you.

Eat the right kinds of fats

We all need fat in our diets for energy, and to maintain healthy organs, skin, and hair. Fat also helps your body absorb vitamins A, D, E and K. But some types of fats are healthier than others when it comes to your heart health. These include vegetable oils, such as olive, canola, safflower, and peanut oils. Other healthy fats are found in fatty fish, like salmon and sardines, as well as avocado[26], nuts, and seeds[27]. Go easy on fats that are solid at room temperature, such as butter, stick margarine, shortening, and lard.

Tip: Eating healthy fat foods can help you gain or maintain your weight. Try snacking on a handful of nuts, a few slices of cheese, or peanut butter spread on a few apple slices. These snacks are also pretty low in carb, too!

Want to learn more about eating well with diabetes? Read “Strategies for Healthy Eating,”[28] “Improving Your Recipes: One Step at a Time,”[29] and “What Is the Best Diet for Diabetes?”[30]

  1. life expectancy in 2019 was 78.8 years:
  2. seventh most common cause of death:,diabetes%20has%20more%20than%20doubled.
  3. complications:
  4. heart disease:
  5. kidney disease:
  6. nerve damage:
  7. manage your blood sugars:
  8. sign up for our free newsletters:
  9. Vegetables:
  10. fiber:
  11. sodium:
  12. whole-grain foods:
  13. iron:
  14. potassium:
  15. magnesium:
  16. blood sugar “spike”:
  17. Older adults need more:,free%20dairy%20products%20each%20day.
  18. vitamin D:
  19. yogurt:
  20. Vitamin B12 deficiency:
  21. type 2 diabetes:
  22. reduce B12 absorption:
  23. hydrated:
  24. Dehydration:
  25. drink water:
  26. avocado:
  27. nuts, and seeds:
  28. “Strategies for Healthy Eating,”:
  29. “Improving Your Recipes: One Step at a Time,”:
  30. “What Is the Best Diet for Diabetes?”:

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