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Nutrition

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Seniors can help maintain their independence and slow the progression of chronic illnesses by combining healthy eating habits with regular physical activity. As we grow older, our bodies have significant needs for vitamins, minerals, and protein, but require fewer calories. Therefore it is important to choose nutrient-rich foods and reduce our intake of foods high in fat and calories.

Good eating habits: Never too old to start

Seniors can help maintain their independence and slow the progression of chronic illnesses by combining healthy eating habits with regular physical activity. As we grow older, our bodies have significant needs for vitamins, minerals, and protein, but require fewer calories. Therefore it is important to choose nutrient-rich foods and reduce our intake of foods high in fat and calories.

Meals should be planned around fibre-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Vegetables and fruits that are dark green or bright orange and yellow (for example, broccoli, squash, spinach, carrots, cantaloupe, peaches, and oranges) contain the most nutrients. Whole grains such as brown rice and whole-wheat pasta provide not only energy and fibre but also important vitamins and minerals, including niacin, vitamin B6, magnesium, selenium, and some vitamin E.

We also need to drink regularly whether we are thirsty or not. Although our sense of thirst declines as we age, six to eight glasses of fluid are needed daily. They might include water, juice, milk, soup, herbal tea, and decaffeinated coffee.

While we know that energy needs decrease with age, researchers are still debating by how much. An in-depth study on eating habits and their impact on aging is being conducted with men and women (aged 68 to 82) in Quebec, under the direction of Dr. Helene Payette of the University of Sherbrooke. This study is expected to teach us more about the role nutrition plays in healthy aging.

Breaking the fast: Try this nutrient-rich meal on the go

It can be a challenge breaking the overnight fast with a nutritious meal when our brains are already buzzing with all the things we need to get done in a day.

But if we don't eat within two hours of waking, our energy level and brain activity won't keep up with our to-do list. Breakfast eaters tend to eat less throughout the rest of the day. They also tend to take in more fibre, minerals, and vitamins than non-breakfast eaters do.

According to dietitians, breakfast should include food from three of the four food groups. One of my personal favourites is the banana dog. Ever tried it? Just spread a slice of whole-grain bread with 2 Tbsp (30 mL) natural peanut butter and wrap it around an organic banana. Team that with a glass of organic milk or milk substitute, and you've jump-started your day.


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