Tips for the elderly on shopping and eating healthy

February 14, 2014
Kitty Clark
UT San Diego

We spend much of our lives being reminded to eat more fruits and vegetables yet 15 to 50 percent of the elderly population suffers from poor nutrition and malnutrition.

Eating healthily is not just a thing to do; it's a way to live. Maintaining healthy eating habits is crucial for living a long and healthy life, especially when it comes to preventing and managing major chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension. It is never too late to make adjustments to your eating habits.

Below are some tips for healthy eating for any age, but especially for seniors that you may not have heard before:

"Your nutrition is your medicine: The impact of proper nutrition can be as effective as some of the medications you take. Americans significantly rely on medications and often overlook the value of healthy eating. Many complain about the number of medications they are prescribed, yet they don't take the time to start with their plate.

"Put down the salt shaker: While some doctors advise you to remove the salt shaker from your diet they mostly likely failed to explain that high levels of sodium are already present in convenience items like ham, American cheese, soy sauce, ramen noodle packets and fast food it's not just what you add at the table that adds up.

"Love thy label: Many who are overweight and/or have diabetes do not read food labels to see how much sodium and calories they are consuming. When shopping, it is important to look at the labels and compare. If you buy luncheon meats or cheeses, opt for lower-sodium options. Start small - don't spend 10 hours in the grocery store looking at every label. That can become overwhelming. Instead, focus on one group of food each time you go shopping.

"Don't let it get out of hand: Many people with hypertension or diabetes who don't monitor their diet can eventually experience kidney failure and could end up on dialysis. Once things progress to this level, the stringent diet necessary to stabilize this medical condition is one of the most difficult to handle: low sodium, low potassium, low phosphorous and fluid restrictions. This can be extremely difficult, especially when complicated by diabetes. This becomes a big challenge not just for the patients but also for their families - don't let it get to this point.

"Concentrate on what you can have, not what you can't: Many people understand what they need to do to lose weight or to eat healthy but get frustrated when they think of all the things they can't have. Change your frame of mind to think about all the options that are now available to you. There are many options for low fat, low sodium, lactose free and whole grain foods. The evidence that now exists that supports the need for a healthy diet is unprecedented. Take the time to investigate the contents of what you eat. Your health depends on it!

Something as routine as choosing what and what not to eat may have a lasting impact on your health. Keep these tips in mind next time you're scanning the isles at the grocery store and remember that it's never too late to change your eating habits.

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