5 Ways That Your Diet Could Help You Age Healthily

We know that good nutrition supports healthy ageing and helps prevent illness and disease. But what should you be eating as you get older? We sat down with the lovely ElWell dietitian Victoria Mann to find out her top five ways that your diet can help you age well, and what you should be filling your plate with.

1. The four major food groups: Make sure you include a wide range of foods in your diet to ensure you are getting all of the nutrients your body needs. The ‘Eat Well Plate’ shows how we should aim to include all the major food groups in our diet:

  • Protein foods e.g. meat, fish, eggs

  • Dairy/dairy alternative foods e.g. milk, yoghurt

  • Starchy carbohydrates e.g. pasta, rice (try brown rice for extra fibre) 

  • Fruit & vegetables (choose seasonal. The cherries, nectarines and tomatoes around at the moment are fantastic)

2. Make each mouthful count: As we get older it can be common to have a decreased appetite and eat less - meaning we’re taking in fewer nutrients. The gut also becomes less efficient at absorbing nutrients, so we need to be aware of deficiencies and weight loss. If you notice a loved one is losing weight, speak to them about this. Left untreated, it could mean decreased mobility, strength and longer term problems. Ensuring each mouthful of food is packed full of nutrition can help combat this. Eating more can be difficult so making sure foods are ‘fortified’ to contain as much nutrition as possible is key. Try adding grated cheese to mash or letting it melt into soups for an extra boost of nutrition.  

3. Daily dose of vitamin D: Older adults often experience decreased mobility. If they don’t get outside much, or don’t have adequate exposure to the sun then they’re at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Plus, as we age, the skin is also less efficient at manufacturing vitamin D. What could this mean? Reduced bone health, muscle weakness and also low mood. A vitamin D supplement may be required, speak to your doctor or dietitian about this. Also try and include foods that are good for the bones like dairy and oily fish.

 4. Making your diet specific to you: Health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease can leave people requiring restricted diets and being uncertain around what food is best for them. Other health issues such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer or stroke can leave people requiring a texture modified diet which can then be tricky to ensure the individual is getting a good balance of nutrients. A dietitian can help tailor your diet to meet your needs e.g. making sure someone with heart disease is eating the right nutrients to prevent another heart attack.

5. A real mouthful: Changes to your teeth (also known as dentition) can make eating a range of foods difficult, particularly things like meat, higher fibre foods and fruit and vegetables. Try softer meats e.g. mince or meat that has been cooked for longer e.g. casseroles. Our sense of taste and smell can also reduce as we age so changes might be needed to make food more palatable and appealing. Simple spices and dried herbs can make all the difference here to enhance the flavour.

Eating a varied and balanced diet is key but often the nutritional recommendations for the general population need some tailoring to meet your specific needs. A dietitian will be able to assess your current nutritional intake and compare this to your individual nutritional needs. They will then be able to work with you and your family to help make improvement to your diet and address any deficiencies/excess. This can reduce your risk of disease, help you to live well for longer and help you to feel better in yourself.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the ElWell Nutrition package with Victoria, please take a look online or get in touch on 01865 238185.