This post was written by Nick Patterson, RD, LD, CNSC, clinical dietitian, Parkview Regional Medical Center.
It’s no secret that nutrition can play a vital role in our overall health and longevity. The challenging part is navigating the boundless sea of information available today. People want to know what the best diet is, when is reality, the focus should be on adopting beneficial habits. This article will give you better direction and allow you to focus on the key areas that will keep you healthy and feeling good for a lifetime.
Nutrition habit No. 1 – Staying hydrated
Consuming enough fluid daily helps keep joints feeling good, skin healthy, muscles feeling strong and our brain running smoothly. With our busy lifestyles, it can be challenging to get enough liquids, and we often need a reminder. One way to keep the habit top of mind, is to keep a bottle of water with you.
While water should ideally be your main fluid source, other beverages can count toward your overall daily fluid intake, such as 100% fruit and vegetable juices, tea and milk. Some foods, including fruits and vegetables, also contain fluids that help meet your needs.
Aim for 2-3 liters of fluid per day (roughly 67 to 101 ounces), which is a good range for most. Keep in mind that vigorous activity, hot climates and other factors can further increase your hydration needs.
Nutrition habit No. 2 – Getting enough protein
As we age, we are at a greater risk of muscle loss. This can lead to difficulty moving and completing tasks that we were once able to do with ease. One way to combat this is to ensure that we are getting adequate protein throughout the day.
Strive to include high-protein foods with most meals and snacks throughout the day. Some options that fall into this category include:
- Lean chicken
- Low-fat yogurt and Greek yogurt
- Smoothies with protein powder
Nutrition habit No. 3 – Prioritizing fiber, and key vitamins and minerals
Getting enough fiber in your diet is important, especially as we age. Fiber aids digestion, helps stabilize glucose levels, keeps you feeling full longer, and certain fiber (soluble fiber) can even decrease your risk of heart disease. As a good starting point, you should strive to consume 25-30 grams of total fiber daily.
While eating a healthy diet with a variety of food groups helps us meet our overall vitamin and mineral needs, the importance of certain nutrients becomes more apparent as we age. Getting enough calcium and vitamin D throughout our lives can ensure strong bones, help prevent fractures later in life and improve other areas of health. Good sources of calcium include:
- Dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt
- Calcium-fortified breads and orange juice
- Dark green vegetables
- Certain fish (sardines are at the top of the list)
While our bodies can make vitamin D from sun exposure, dietary sources are important, as many have difficulty getting enough vitamin D solely from sunlight. Good sources include:
- Fortified orange juice
- Breakfast cereals
- Fatty fish
Further supplementation may be needed in some cases. Check with your healthcare provider to explore checking your vitamin D level.
Nutrition habit No. 4 – Healthy weight and lifestyle
Aiming to maintain a healthy weight can help decrease your risk for many diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke. Choosing healthier food options and increasing daily activity are beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight. If you want further guidance and assistance planning, a registered dietitian can help you reach your goals and ensure you are on the right path. In addition to aiming for a healthy weight, limiting added sugar, saturated fat and alcoholic beverages can have a long-term beneficial effect on your health.
At times, leading a healthy lifestyle can seem overwhelming. Focusing on some key habits can make a tremendous difference for our health and how we feel. Just remember that even small changes can add up over time and set you up for a vibrant life for years to come.
U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020.