Every year around my birthday, I begin to reflect, probably more so than I do on Dec. 31 of each year. It didn’t seem to matter as much in my thirties, but now that I’m “over the hill,” my age seems to change how I’m feeling physically.
Does eating healthy matter more as we age? The quick answer is absolutely not, since good nutrition is important at every life stage.
However, we certainly can feel more of a difference when making changes later in life. There is, perhaps, more of a potential for improvement when cleaning up the diet at an older age. That’s the silver lining for the folks who think, “It’s too late for me.”
I’ve got your attention now, so here are the most important changes to make whatever life stage you're in, and the most important things to work on if you’re 40 and beyond.
This, of course, is my professional insight from years of working with clients. We can’t always generalize, as everyone has their own “stuff” and their own things to manage. But begin here .
This could include the twenty-something person, too, as nutrition can set a foundation for future behaviors and possibly in influencing a young family. Some areas to focus on include:
» Weekly grocery lists. Keep a running tally of things you need, and make a grocery trip one or two times a week.
» Meal planning. You can successfully make only one or two grocery trips a week if you have a plan for what you are eating a week at a time.
» Quick cooking methods. Consider purchasing an Instant Pot, or try a meal ingredient delivery service such as Hello Fresh or Blue Apron.
» Learn about your own intake. Keep track of what you eat on a site such as My Fitness Pal, so you can learn what is missing, or perhaps what you are overdoing.
» Stress management. This is important at all stages of life, but at these ages, life is typically full of chaos. So, learn how to manage by trying meditation, yoga or deep breathing.
40- to 60-year olds
With some life experience under our belts, we still struggle to find balance. Stress is always something to be dealt with, and slowing down becomes increasingly important. Some nutrition tips to help this age group include:
» Make goals for eating at home. It’s tempting to put less of a priority on cooking and give in to going out to eat, as kids get busier.
» Consider fasting. At older ages, people tend to graze more than eat regular meals, perhaps due to schedules and not having everyone around to eat at the table. Fasting for a meal every now and then can help reset blood sugars and help reduce insulin resistance.
» Eat lots of fruits and veggies. A goal for everyone, this one is important for those of us who want to continue to feel and look younger! Antioxidants from brightly colored produce help reduce the physical signs and symptoms of aging.
» Practice strength training. Make sure you continue to build muscle, which helps make bones more stable. Now that the bone growth stage of life is over, make sure you preserve as much as possible by adding resistance training.
» Place a priority on hydration. As a person ages, the thirst mechanism decreases. By the time an older person is thirsty, he or she may already be dehydrated. Keep a water bottle or cup full of water nearby, and sip from it regularly.
» Eat healthy fats. The Mediterranean style of eating suggests that brain health is improved with heart-healthy fat intake. This includes fats from fish, such as salmon and sardines, and fats from nuts, such as walnuts and almonds. Cooking with extra virgin olive oil is also a great way to nourish the joints, skin, eyes and brain.
» Focus on whole grains such as brown rice and quinoa, and brightly colored vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes, calcium in dairy foods and lean proteins such as chicken and fish. The need for nutrients is higher as we age, while our calorie needs decrease. This strengthens the reasons for eating a nutrient-dense diet full of healthy foods and indulging in treats only occasionally.