As we normally age, it is increasingly important to be smart about our diet (what we eat). There are a number of factors that account for diet being especially important as one gets older. For starters, we do not generally have the same caloric needs as when we were young, because we are not as active, and if we continue to eat the same old foods then we inevitably store the extra calories as fat. Below is a table from the NIH that compares caloric requirements as we age in relation to our activity.
As you may recall from your science class days, a calorie is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree centigrade. You do not need to be a scientist to find out how many calories are in the food you eat, however. Most foods are now labeled on the packaging. One thing you already know, or should know, is that there are very different foods with very different caloric value. One can eat a lot of lettuce (with no salad dressing) before getting the number of calories in a small piece of chocolate. So, it is important to be aware of the caloric content of food to avoid the consequence of ingesting too many calories.
Balancing the Diet
Since growing up and being instructed by our parents to “eat everything on your plate,” we have been educated about the concept of balanced diet. Simply put, this means that it is best to get our calories from a variety of foods where each has something highly desirable to our bodies. All foods are not alike and likewise all calories are different according to the food that generates them. Foods are grouped and the ideal diet is made up of a mixture of foods daily from each group. Below are NIH recommendations concerning the 6 food groups:
Milk group (dairy products)
Meat and beans group
Grain group (breads and cereals)
Back to the dinner table, when preparing and putting food on a plate it is recommended that you divide your food plate into quarters. Fill up two quarters (half) with fruits and vegetables. Fill the other two quarters with whole grains and meat. And, remember to eat breakfast as part of a smart eating plan – this is a good time to get milk and grain. Milk is good for the calcium it contains, but the fluid content is very important, and it is crucial that you drink all during the day since older people tend to lose thirst as a guide to staying hydrated.
If you eat a balanced diet and if you exercise and if you are careful to supplement the diet with some vitamins that are age-adjusted for daily consumption, then you are not going to lose the battle of the bulge and you will be warding off certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. However, with all the fried, prepared foods around us it is not that easy to eat smart.
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