Good eating habits – 10 ways to keep it simple
We are all looking for ways to be healthier eaters. The first step to success with any behaviour change is to be ready and willing to try it. Small steps add up to real changes over time.
There is so much information out there about what to eat and what not to eat. These 10 simple ideas will put you on the road to healthier eating:
- Enjoy a variety of food from each of the four food groups:
- vegetables & fruits
- grain products
- milk and alternatives
- meat and alternatives.
- Choose lower-fat dairy products and lean meats, fish, and poultry.
- Limit foods high in fat such as fried foods, chips, and pastries.
- Prepare foods with little or no fat, and reduce salt.
- Limit processed foods.
- Choose fruit and vegetables more often.
- Limit sweets such as desserts, candies, jam, honey, and regular pop.
- Avoid large portions and second servings.
- Choose foods high in fibre, such as:
- whole grain breads and cereals
- lentils and beans
- brown rice
- fruits and vegetables.
- Drink plain water throughout the day.
Even with good intentions, sometimes it is hard to stick with a healthy diet. We all know what it’s like to ‘relapse’ into bad eating habits. Just start again and keep on going. It is far better to fall short sometimes than to take no action at all.
Just try one idea at a time until it becomes part of your lifestyle. Then add in another one. If you don’t like something, try something else, until you find what works best for you. Be patient with yourself and celebrate your successes along the way.
You will be amazed at how these small changes can add up to big successes.
This information is taken from Your Personal Passport to Healthy Living, published by Active Aging Canada in 2012, revised 2017, 2021. Download the full document: https://www.activeagingcanada.ca/practitioners/resources/healthy-living-workshop.htm.
Healthy Eating and Regular Physical Activity: A Winning Combination for Older Adults
by Shanthi Johnson, PhD, RD, FDC, FACSM
Sometimes people assume that falls and injuries, cancer, and chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are a natural part of growing older. But research tells us that these conditions might occur because we are not active enough or are not eating a healthy diet. If we choose to be active and eat a healthy diet, in combination, we can slow down the progress of diabetes, heart diseases and some cancers. They also help to prevent falls and injuries.
Healthy eating as we age
As we get older, we need fewer calories, but our need for nutrients remains the same and even increases in some cases. This makes meal planning important. Here are some tips on eating well:
Eat a variety of healthy foods each day
Have plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Eat protein foods.
Chose whole grain foods.
For instance, eat different kinds of grain products such as whole grain breads, rice, pasta, bagels, and so on. You should also think variety in terms of type of food (fresh, canned, frozen) colour, flavour, texture, and method of preparation.
Enjoy breakfast every day. It may help control hunger cravings later in the day.
Eat less sugar.
Try to limit foods like granola bars, cakes, pastries, cookies, chocolates, doughnuts, ice-cream, frozen desserts, sports and energy drinks. Some of these items are marketed as healthful, but they are loaded with sugar.
Eat less fat and salt.
- Choose lower-fat milk products.
- Choose leaner meats, poultry, and fish.
- Choose meat alternatives such as peas, beans, and lentils.
Choose whole grain and fresh fruit and vegetables.
Whole grain foods are good as they provide many nutrients. Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients (generally low in fat). Choose dark green and orange vegetables.
Active living as we age
The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults 65 Years and Older recommends that older adults:
- take part in endurance (aerobic) activities, such as brisk walking and cycling) at least 150 minutes per week, in sessions of 10 minutes or more
- do activities that improve strength at least two days per week
- do exercises or activities that enhance balance and flexibility.
Being active every day is a step towards better health and a desirable body weight. Be active in a way that suits you. This will help ensure that you are active on a regular basis. Here are some more tips:
- Your aerobic (endurance) activities should be moderate to vigorous in intensity. Examples are brisk walking, swimming, dancing, aerobics, bicycling, and cross-country skiing. Try to take the stairs or walk whenever and wherever possible.
- Do activities that increase strength and involve the major muscle groups at least twice each week. Examples are lifting weights or household items such as laundry or groceries, climbing stairs, and doing wall push-ups.
- Do activities to improve your balance every day, to help prevent falls. Examples include reaching and bending, Yoga, and Tai Chi.
How do diet and exercise affect bones and muscles?
As we get older we lose bone strength and muscle mass. Here are some ways to keep bones and muscles strong:
- Eat enough protein.
- Include calcium in your diet. The recommendation is that you get 1,200 mg calcium a day, either through your diet or supplements or both.
- Include vitamin D in your diet. You need 800 to 2,000 IU vitamin D from your diet, supplements, or both. Dietary sources of vitamin D include fortified milk and fish (salmon, mackerel, and herring).
- Do weight-bearing activities like walking or lifting.
- Do exercises that help build muscles.
See your health professional
If you are an older adult who is planning to make changes to your present level of physical activity, it is important to get good advice. Talk over the benefits and any health concerns with a qualified health practitioner.
Learn more about healthy eating and active living:
Active Aging Canada:
Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide: https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/ or call 1-866-225-0709
Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults aged 65 years and older: https://csepguidelines.ca/guidelines/adults-65/
Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging: https://www.uwo.ca/ccaa/
Osteoporosis Canada: www.osteoporosis.ca
Dietitians of Canada: www.dietitians.ca
Public Health Agency of Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/aging-seniors.html
For advice on diet and nutrition, please consult a registered dietitian.
About the Author
Shanthi Johnson is Professor & Associate Dean (Graduate Studies & Research), Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies & Research Faculty, Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit, University of Regina, Saskatchewan.