The Definitive Guide to Start Healthy Eating In Your 50’s and 60’s
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Turning 50 or 60 is a significant milestone. Changes in the body can affect your nutritional requirements.
Maintaining an optimal diet that focuses on key nutritional values increases the likelihood of healthy ageing. Having more energy allows you to continue living an active life.
Eating healthy foods, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk(s) of health issues such as poor heart health and heart disease, diabetes, poor immune function and more.
No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to start eating healthy.
In this guide, I’ll outline some tips for eating healthy in midlife. I’ll also provide some helpful resources for finding healthy recipes and meal ideas.
So, whether you’re just starting to focus on your health or you’ve been eating healthy for a while, this guide will help you take your diet to the next level. Let’s get started!
Make a New Start
Changes in your life from 50 to 70 — exercising more and consuming healthy food — will always have an impact. Using this guide to start eating healthy in your 50’s and 60’s can support you in reducing your risk of serious issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, thyroid issues and diabetes.
Importantly, this is not about suddenly ditching all the foods that you love. Good grief I’m not Nurse Hatchett.
Every Saturday morning I bike into some local markets and pick up a custard tart which is to die for. And I would die if I had to stop having them. It is one of the highlights of my week. That perfectly crunchy, buttery pastry… Sorry, a little distracted for a minute.
Eating healthy is not about giving up dishes you love and resorting to Kale salads and spinach and coconut smoothies.
[Insert cold shudder here]
When I say “healthy eating”, it’s not just about what we get to eat it’s a complete holistic healthy attitude towards food.
And while I’m on my soapbox, eating healthy is about what we get to eat not what we don’t get to eat. There is no deprivation. I’ll say that again in another way. You will not and should not be hungry.
Something else, (I’m on a roll).
Your body is an incredible thing, it’s hugely forgiving. If you succeed at saying yes to the foods that you know, give you energy, are full of nutrients and have fewer calories 80 to 90% of the time.
Your body’s not going to suddenly revert to giving you grief with poor digestion, bad skin, and extra weight just because you ate a custard tart or had ice cream. Enjoy it, then return to your healthy routine feeling smug because you, well, had your custard tart and ate it too.
So what should you do if you are watching your weight and for some reason overeat at breakfast? You should take note of the reasons you may have over eaten so that you are aware of them.
Forgive yourself with no judgement.
Carry on with your plan for eating healthy.
What will eating healthy get you?
This is a huge list but I’ll narrow it down to the things that maybe of some significance for you.
- You will more easily be able to shed weight
- You will improve your energy
- You will help balance your hormones which has many positive knock on effects.
- How about lowering your risk of various dementia’s including Alzheimer’s disease.
- Enjoy less brain fog and more clarity
- Lower your risk greatly of coronary disease
- Look younger with clear eyes and amazing skin.
- And many more…
How to start eating healthy over 50
If you’re deciding to eat foods that are healthy because you want to get to a healthy weight. Well good on you.
If you’ve done it before and struggled to lose weight it could be for several reasons but probably the most likely of them is that your energy output was less than what you last ate so your body was always burning the energy input from your last meal and never having to dip into the fat stores from around your body that you would love to lose.
TIP: Portion control is everything if you’re trying to lose weight. The more you eat of one thing the less you should eat of another. It’s a trade-off. That’s not to say that if you decide to say yes to an ice cream today you can’t lose weight. It will just take a little longer.
So here is where the foods we choose to eat become very important.
Foods to include in a healthy diet
Make sure you’re getting enough protein. Protein is an essential nutrient that plays a key role in maintaining muscle mass and promoting healthy brain function. It’s important to include protein in your diet every day, especially as you get older.
And bonus. Protein keeps you feeling fuller for longer.
Good sources of protein include lean meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products as well as these fabulous plant-based choices legumes, nuts, and seeds. Try to include a variety of protein sources in your diet to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need.
Vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other health-promoting nutrients. They’re also low in calories and high in fibre, making them a perfect choice for weight loss or eating for your health as you can fill up on them and be unlikely to overeat.
Try to include a variety of vegetables in your diet;
- Brussel sprouts
- Mushrooms (if we’re splitting hairs, not a vegetable)
- red, green or yellow peppers
If your struggling to find new ways to cook veg aside of throwing them in the microwave Pinterest is a great place to check out simple recipes.
This website will soon be a good source as I continue to add plant-based recipes every couple of weeks so take some time to check out some of my recipes.
Wow, I got so tied up talking about veg I almost forgot the carbohydrates.
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Carbohydrates are an important source of energy, especially for athletes and people who exercise regularly.
Complex carbohydrates (found in starchy vegetables, legumes, and whole grains) are slowly broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream, which helps regulate blood sugar levels and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Simple carbohydrates (found in sugary foods and drinks, as well as white bread and pasta) are quickly broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream, which can cause blood sugar levels to spike and then crash. These should be avoided.
Here are some complex carbohydrate-rich foods to include in your diet:
- starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn, and pumpkin
- legumes such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas
- whole grains such as whole-wheat bread, quinoa, and oats
Carbohydrates are great for filling the gaps but not too much. A portion of cooked carbs is as much as one cupped hand.
That’s not much so be thoughtful and present when serving up.
I found it sometimes better to get my partner to serve up for me. He is a bit stingy but it’s usually a more realistic amount that once eaten leaves me satisfied.
If you’re hungry it’s less likely you’ll give yourself too much.
Let’s not forget healthy fats
My whole life I was bought up to think that fat was bad. I’m so so happy that it’s not the case.
The fats we were used to way back then were saturated fats which although considered okay should be included in your diet in moderate amounts only.
My favourite of these is organic grass-fed butter but you can also include full-fat milk, greek yoghurt, and coconut oil.
When we talk about good fat we mean polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats.
Polyunsaturated fats are found in sunflower seed oil and soyabean oil. Also in
- sunflower seeds
- pumpkin seeds
Omega 3 fatty acids can also be included in the healthy list and are found in fatty fish such as salmon, herring and sardines.
Monounsaturated fats include:
- olive oil
- canola oil
- peanut oil
- sesame oil
- safflower oil
- peanut butter
- nuts and seeds
What should you drink?
Low-calorie drinks such as
- zero carb drinks. But check out the label. If you want fizzy or slightly fizzy, Kombucha is great. Probiotics wrapped up in a delicious drink. Perfect.
Want something that costs less than 2 coffees to make this easy for you?
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Where does fruit fit into the healthy lifestyle equation?
As with any of the nutrients we’ve mentioned so far. Fruit can be part of a healthy diet. This is where knowing what you’re eating help. Some fruits are high in carbs and low in fibre.
Fruit contains fructose which unlike other sugars is metabolised solely by the liver. This is why some nutritionists will caution you against too much fruit. But fruit is packed with nutrients and fibre and can easily be part of a low-carb diet if in moderation.
Raspberries are an excellent choice for fruit – per cup, they come in at a low 14.7 grams of carbs with a whopping 8 grams of fibre which lowers their net carb value to just under 7 according to USDA data.
These are my favourite and usually make their way onto my breakfast most mornings.
Other great options for fruit include:
- strawberries 53 calories per cup, 3g fibre, 9 g of net carbs
- blackberries 31 calories per 1/2 cup, 4g of fibre, 3 g of carbs
- watermelon has 46 calories per diced cup, no fibre, 12 g of carbs
- peaches 62 calories per piece, 2.2 g fibre, 12.3 g of carbs
These stats are all according to USDA data.
Fruit juice is high in calories and low in fibre. It’s pretty much sugar water. And it’s easy to consume a lot of it without realizing it because it doesn’t fill you up. A cup of apple juice has 115 calories and 26 grams of sugar. That’s over 6 sugar cubes! And there’s no fibre to help offset the sugar hit.
I’m not a big fan of fruit juice and it’s something I would cut out if trying to lose weight.
Dried fruit is a concentrated source of sugar and calories. A half-cup of raisins has about 220 calories and 42 grams of sugar. That’s the equivalent of 10 sugar cubes!
And, like juice, there’s no fibre to help offset the sugar. I would recommend avoiding dried fruit if you’re trying to lose weight or eat healthier.
How easy is it to eat 6 or 7 dried apricots in one go? When would you ever sit down and eat that many fresh apricots all at once? Fresh fruit comes ready-packed with fibre and water content which makes us feel fuller.
Can Dairy be part of a healthy diet?
Write a paragraph on how dairy fits into a healthy diet
Dairy can be part of a healthy diet, but it’s important to choose wisely. The healthiest option is to go for full-fat, organic dairy products. These contain more beneficial nutrients than their low-fat counterparts, and the fat content helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Greek yoghurt is a great choice for a healthy snack or breakfast, and cottage cheese is a good option for lunch or dinner. Just be sure to watch your portion sizes, as dairy can be high in calories which makes it easy to tip the calories over the line if you’re trying to lose weight
Cheese is the same some cheeses are high in saturated fat, while others are lower in fat and calories.
How to build a healthy plate
Should you cut gluten out of your diet if you want to be healthy?
If you want to eat healthily, you don’t necessarily need to cut wheat out of your diet. However, some people find that they feel better when they avoid gluten, which is a protein found in wheat.
If you’re considering cutting gluten out of your diet, it’s important to talk to your doctor first, as you may be at risk for nutrient deficiencies.
If you are celiac or have a gluten intolerance of course it’s important to remove all gluten-containing foods from your diet.
FOLATE / FOLIC ACID / VITAMIN B9
Often bread and cereals are fortified with this vitamin. To get it naturally, make sure you’re eating plenty of leafy greens. And if you’re pregnant talk to your healthcare professional about this critical nutrient.
The dietary fibre helps keep your bowels but also lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. The fibre many of us get from eating whole wheat can be replaced with gluten-free foods such as brown rice, quinoa, flax seeds, chia seeds, beans/legumes, and fruits and veggies. These foods are important for good gut health.
For more in gluten related illnesses and whether you should include it in your diet go to: Should You Be On A Gluten-Free Diet?
“I couldn’t give up my coffee”
Don’t worry you don’t have to.
If you are struggling with any of these symptoms then may you do need to give up your coffee, or maybe cut back one in the morning.
- Restlessness and anxious feelings;
- Irregular heartbeat;
- Increased blood pressure;
- Difficulty sleeping;
- Increase in anxious feelings;
- Headaches or migraines.
If none of these bothers you, you’re good to go but keep it within reason. The guidelines say 3-5 cups of brewed coffee a day is safe. For me, if I drank that much I would be on high vibration.
If you have any of the common side effects consider reducing your intake.
For more on including caffeine in you diet go to: Is Caffeine Good Or Bad For You?
Water is our lifeblood. For our bodies to function optimally well we need water need plenty of it. We lose water every day when we breathe, sweat, go to the bathroom, and even blink. Dehydration can cause serious health issues.
If you drink more than you need for daily function, your skin condition and digestion will improve. Your joints will be lubricated, and waste will be properly eliminated from your system. We require 2 to 3 litres of water each day for these things to happen.
Dehydration can cause tiredness, decreased attention and concentration, and a dry mouth. It shows itself in the form of headaches and/or a parched mouth.
For more on dehydration and drinking enough water go to:Are You Getting Enough Water? The Effects Of Dehydration On Your Health
Do I need to take supplements?
Some of the most essential vitamins and minerals for people over 50 are vitamin D, vitamin B12, folate, and calcium. It is preferable to fulfil your requirements through diet, but these vitamins are so crucial that you should obtain supplements if necessary.
Healthy shopping, planning, prepping, and cooking of meals
My strategies for trouble-free shopping for healthy foods are:
Remember that the perimeter of the supermarket is where you’ll find fresh foods and those without labels.
Do a rapid week-by-week meal plan before going shopping to prevent overspending. It will just take a few minutes and save time running back to the shop for components. To make this step easier, keep a record of your favourite recipes on your phone.
I’m sure most of you are aware of this. DON’T BUY ON AN EMPTY STOMACH! I did it once, and I came home with all of aisle 4. But speaking practically, this is when pictures of delectable meals will entice you into purchasing pre-packaged foods with a negative nutritional value.
Check the label when purchasing processed products. Are the calorie, fat, sugar, and salt counts appropriate? These are the components that you’re most familiar with.
Labels on the front of the package like ‘natural’ do not necessarily mean equate to healthy. Often they can contain ridiculous amounts of sugar and processed oils. The only way to know this is to check the nutrition facts.
Try and keep to in-season fruits and vegetables. They will be higher in nutrition and cheaper.
Learn to read nutrition labels so you can make good choices.
For a more in-depth look at how to grocery shop read: How To Choose Healthy When Grocery Shopping
Healthy Meal Prep
If you’re keen to commit to eating healthy but you’re super-busy and just can’t find the time to research healthy recipes bulk meal prep may be the way to go.
This will save you resorting to takeaways or Uber Eats and blowing your newfound healthy lifestyle before you’ve seen the benefits.
Tips for Bulk Meal Prep
Trawl somewhere like Pinterest for simple batch cooking ideas and gather up a collection of them
Work out what you need and shop for it – write a list of what you want to make for the week ahead then head to the grocery store and grab your ingredients.
Get your storage containers ready. Have a good stock of one meal glass storage containers with lids.
Now cook your food, portion it out and you’re set.
Of course, there’s a little more to it than that but I’ve got your back.
Go take a look at Simple Ways to Plan and Prep Meals When You’re Busy
There is one meal that is easiest to plan and prepare in advance. It’s also often the most difficult to eat at home if you’re busy.
Planning some overnight oatmeal is a great start to any day.
Banana Bread Overnight Oats
An easy grab and go breakfast that is as delicious as it is healthy. Make in bulk and change it up each day with different fruits and toppings.
- 1 cup (90g) rolled oats
- 1 cup (240ml) almond milk,
- ½ cup (112g) natural soy yogurt
- 2 tbsp. chia seeds
- 2 tbsp. maple syrup
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 tsp. ground flax seeds
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 banana, mashed
- ¼ cup (30g) walnuts, chopped
- 1 banana, sliced, to garnish
- Add all the ingredients (except for the sliced banana) into a large bowl and stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2hours, or overnight.
- When ready to serve, divide the oats between 2 glasses or jars and top with sliced banana
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 414Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 71mgCarbohydrates: 75gFiber: 11gSugar: 39gProtein: 11g
Nutrition information isn't always accurate.
If you can’t eat oats make a chia pudding and do the same. Top with berries, chopped fruit, nuts, or seeds, and enjoy.
With a little planning, you’ll be able to eat healthier while you save money and calories.
An Easy Midweek Meal
Easily my favourite. I lay out a heap of containers and fill them with all sorts of cooked and uncooked ingredients.
Ideas for your bowl are:
- beetroot hummus
- cooked enoki mushrooms (flash-fried with olive oil and pepper and salt)
- baby dill pickles
- pumpkin puree
- roasted cauliflower ( florets, oven-baked for 20mins with olive oil, salt and pepper
- crispy chickpeas (just roast in the oven dusted with your fave spices, salt, and pepper and drizzled with olive oil)
- lentil salad
- bean sprouts
- chopped tomato
- and leafy greens
Some great midweek recipes for you to try
Plant-Based And Vegan Rolled Zucchini Pasta Bake
Grain-Free Zucchini and Sweet Potato Fritters Recipe
Low Carb Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken Breasts
What do you do with all this Nutrition Information?
You don’t get overwhelmed and throw your hands in the air saying “This is all too hard”
It doesn’t have to be hard. Keep it simple and take it in small steps.
Add one healthy thing per week. This week start making sure you drink enough water each day. Done.
Next week start adding a few healthy vegetables. Check out the Food Swap freebie earlier in this post that lists some great swaps with vegetables.
Add 10 minutes of movement for 5 days a week. The next week up it to 15. You don’t have to hurry. You just have to do it.