The basics of a good diet, nutritionists say, are the same for everyone: Eat lots of “nutrient-dense’’ foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and lean protein sources; avoid nutrient-poor, highly processed, fatty or sugary foods—“empty calories.’’ But older people do have special needs. Some targeted tips:
Expect to eat a lot less. As you age, your metabolism slows and your appetite should adjust. You still need lots of nutrients, though—so make every bite count.
Don’t skip meals. If you’re not very hungry, eat smaller servings at closer intervals, but don’t let yourself get malnourished or weak from low blood sugar.
Drink, drink, drink. Aging reduces your sense of thirst, so it becomes easy to get dehydrated. You can keep track of your water intake by filling a pitcher every morning to drink from all day.
Get your fiber. Constipation is common in older age, and a bowl of high-fiber cereal—perhaps with added flaxseed—or oatmeal for breakfast can help. Or take a supplement such as Metamucil.
Get your protein. As you age, you tend to lose muscle mass, so you need enough protein in your diet to compensate. Choose lean, nutrient-rich sources: Greek-style yogurt, fish, beans.
If you don’t feel like cooking every day, find ways to make it easier. Make extra food and freeze the leftovers for another meal. Make a big pot of beans to last you a week. Stock up on frozen fruit and make smoothies.
If someone else is cooking for you, make sure it’s healthful food. Make your wishes known. If needed, provide recipes. The American Heart Association is a good resource.
Enjoy your meals. Food is one of life’s pleasures, so treat it accordingly—make it tasty, make it nice, set your table, play some music, and take your time to savor the meal.