At this point in our lives, we’ve heard multiple messages about eating right and we’ve probably had every intention of following that sage advice. But the truth is – according to research from National Institute on Aging – most of us can and should try harder.1
A recent review of research for the agency shows “consistent evidence indicating that healthy dietary patterns and maintenance of a healthy weight in the years leading to old age are associated with broad prevention of all the archetypal diseases and impairments associated with aging,” including:
- Age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy
- Cognitive decline and dementia
- Hearing loss
- Noncommunicable diseases
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Urinary incontinence and constipation
The paper also found that a good diet tailored to specific aging-associated conditions can slow progression and, in some cases, treat them. Learn more about disease-associated nutrition issues.
Healthy Eating for Seniors: Avoid Fads
Maintaining a healthy weight prompts many of us to diet. It seems that every few months a new fad diet becomes popular.
Research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found that “fad diets effectively simplify the individual’s decision by turning a complex, multi-faceted decision taking into account the values of a range of nutrients into a binary decision, such as ‘does this have gluten?’,” wrote Christopher Gustafson, associate professor of behavioral economics and health disparities at UNL.
Another reason fads like keto, gluten-free, paleo and other specialty diets are popular, the researchers found was a “health halo” – a sense that these approaches are healthier than a standard well-balanced diet and may lead to an under-estimate of negative characteristics such as calories.
For example, the research shows that the most common belief among survey respondents following a gluten-free diet was that it was a good way to lose weight, despite a lack of evidence supporting that conclusion. Additionally, the research shows, gluten-free foods are typically less nutritious and more expensive than their gluten-containing variants.2
Not all dietary trends are bad, but even the most reasonable-sounding approach may not be suitable, especially if you or your loved on have a chronic illness or take prescription medication. That’s why it’s crucial to go over any new diet with your healthcare provider.
Weight Management Tips for Seniors
Instead of tapping into the latest fad, reacquaint yourself with the components of a healthy diet, as outlined in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–20253:
- Favor fruits, vegetables, whole grains
- Emphasize fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
- Includes a variety of proteins, like seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, nuts and seeds.
- Consume minimal saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars
- Stay within your daily calorie needs
We can achieve these dietary goals with meals featuring fresh ingredients that are in season. Here are four ideas:
- Seasonal Eating: Summer Recipes for Seniors
- 3 Heart-Healthy Winter Recipes: Comfort Food Revisited
- Easter Treats for Diabetics
- The Farmer's Market: Good for the Planet and for You
It’s fun to try new foods. Putting our energy into pursuing new cuisines instead of new fads is a healthier way to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Don’t disregard professional medical advice, or delay seeking it, because of what you read here. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional consultation, diagnosis or treatment; it is provided “as is” without any representations or warranties, express or implied. Always consult a healthcare provider if you have specific questions about any medical matter and seek professional attention immediately if you think you or someone in your care may be experiencing a healthcare condition or medical emergency.
1Roberts SB, Silver RE, Das SK, Fielding RA, Gilhooly CH, Jacques PF, Kelly JM, Mason JB, McKeown NM, Reardon MA, Rowan S, Saltzman E, Shukitt-Hale B, Smith CE, Taylor AA, Wu D, Zhang FF, Panetta K, Booth S. Healthy Aging-Nutrition Matters: Start Early and Screen Often. Adv Nutr. 2021 Apr 10:nmab032. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmab032. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33838032.
2Kristina Arslain, Christopher R. Gustafson, Pratiksha Baishya, Devin J. Rose,
Determinants of gluten-free diet adoption among individuals without celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Appetite, Volume 156, 2021, 104958; ISSN 0195-6663,
3USDA - Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025