Many of us have fallen into the trap of over-indulging around the holidays. With family gatherings and lots of food tied to traditions, it’s easy to have more than necessary that time of year.
A healthy diet is essential for people of all ages, especially older adults. Older adults often lack protein and vitamin B12, which can impact day-to-day functioning. A healthy diet can lead to:
- Increased energy
- Better mood
- Lower chance of chronic illness such as diabetes and osteoporosis
- Increase brain health
It’s essential to eat a well-balanced diet with all the nutrients the body needs. Avoid additions to your meals that can increase the risk of diseases such as unhealthy fats, sodium, and sugar. To learn about what a healthy meal should encompass, check out the USDA’s online MyPlate tool. Based on age, gender, and weight, this tool will show you an estimate of how much of each food type your body needs.
While we have some time before the holidays, now is the time to establish healthy eating habits that can carry us through the new year. Below are some tips to support a healthy diet throughout the year, especially during the holiday season.
Talk to Your Doctor
Before changing your diet, it’s essential to consult your healthcare provider. It's important to understand your own needs and what areas you should focus on. For example, you may need to decrease sodium, increase protein, or consume more fiber.
Your doctor can also help determine if you are on any medications that may impact your appetite or identify any food you should avoid. They can also recommend any supplements that you may need.
Maintaining a healthy eating program is always easier with a partner for accountability. Whether it’s a spouse, friend, or adult child, finding someone with similar health goals can help keep you on track with your efforts.
Consider preparing healthy meals together or taking part in healthy activities. Skip the after-dinner drinks for an afternoon walk. Another option would be to check out a museum instead of going to a film.
For many people, it’s less about what they eat and more about how much they eat. Journaling can help you be more mindful of your eating habits and identify potential triggers for overeating or eating unhealthy foods. It can also help you become more aware of how much food you're eating.
Consider using an app on your mobile device to track your food choices or simply a pen and notebook!
Look for Healthy Alternatives
Finding healthy alternatives is one of the most exciting and creative parts of eating a more nutritious diet. The holidays provide you with opportunities to try family favorites but with a more nutritional option without sacrificing taste.
Think about your favorite meals or treats and how they can be lightened up. Do your meals need less salt? Can you substitute lettuce wraps for hamburger rolls? Are banana-based cookies an option?
Pick up a healthy eating cookbook for quick and healthy options. Peruse the many recipes (including healthy dinner recipes) online to find a new favorite recipe of your own.
When at holiday events, it’s vital not to restrict yourself entirely; this might lead you to overeat later. Don’t be afraid to eat foods that look appealing, regardless of their health benefits. But also have plenty of water and fruits and vegetables to fill you up on “good stuff.”
Restricting foods, or making some foods totally off limits, can have the opposite effect of what you’re hoping for. Instead, think about how to have smaller portions and fill up on healthier options.
Especially with the holiday season approaching, planning is key. If you know you’ll be at an event, consider what foods might be available later. If possible, look ahead at a restaurant menu for dinner ideas before going out. Looking in advance can help decrease the chance of getting overwhelmed when making a quick decision.
Even during your regular routine, meal planning can lead you to make healthier choices and spend less on food. The NIH has a sample meal plan for older adults, including three meals daily plus snacks.
Drink Lots of Water
Above all else, water is key. Seniors are at great risk for dehydration which can lead to poor balance, dizziness, confusion, and more. Ensuring that you are drinking plenty of water will not only stave off dehydration but help keep you full and make healthier food options.
If water isn’t your favorite beverage, consider infusing it with fruit. Drink tea or flavored seltzer water as an alternative. All of these will help you stay hydrated.
Supplement Your Healthy Diet
An active lifestyle can supplement a healthy diet. Try finding new physical activities to add to your routine. No matter your level of physical activity, there are many options to stay physically active. For example, Pine Haven has a variety of walking trails and exercise programs to help you stay active and engaged.
Change isn’t always easy. Making small changes, a little at a time, can add to significant results. Thinking about these things before the pressures of the holiday season can help you be prepared and stay on track through the season.
Pine Haven Christian Communities offer a variety of nutritious meals to help you stay on track with your nutrition goals. Chat with us about how we can support you to live your best life.