How times have changed. No longer does growing older mean falling into a ‘That’s just old age, isn’t it?’ state of mind about our health. Instead, so many of us are aiming to maximise our wellbeing into our later years. Hobbies and leisure activities, learning ‘just for the pleasure of it’, volunteering and travel are all top of our post-retirement wish lists, according to figures collated by Age UK. But many of us are also working longer, looking after grandchildren and may be caring for a loved one. And for all of this, we need the strength and resilience provided by good nourishment.
Eating well or feeding someone nutritious food can be such a pleasure, and it’s my strong belief that being able to enjoy delicious meals that we know are good for us is an essential right at every age. However, our bodies, diet and lifestyle tend to change significantly as enter our 60s and 70s and we need to ensure we meet these new needs – whether that’s maintaining good health, coping with the challenges of specific conditions or finding ways to eat well in a care setting (I’m determined to campaign for better food in hospitals and care homes).
I’ve been thrilled to be working with Gransnet answering questions from their community about how to eat to help issues such as osteoporosis, arthritis, insomnia and vision loss. Undernourishment is a major cause and consequence of poor health, so it’s frightening to discover that 75% of people don’t worry about unintentional weight loss in themselves or another older person, according to the Malnutrition Task Force. So, I’d ask everyone in their later years to add one more thing to their bucket list – a determination to discover the foods that will help you thrive in the years ahead. It’s never too late to try new tastes (kale crisps, anyone?), experiment with new ways of eating favourite foods (how about a fruit smoothie for breakfast?) or bring home some of the delicious dishes you’ve tried on your travels (a warming bowl of Vietnamese pho noodle soup is guaranteed to make anyone feel better).
Don’t get stuck in a rut
Some of the challenges that arise as we age are because old habits die hard. The temptation is to eat what we have always done but some of the health niggles that we associate with aging – constipation, low energy, heart disease, diabetes – can be made manageable by eating better. Do have a look at our tempting Nourish recipes to find fresh ideas for every meal, plus healthy snacks.
Watch your weight
It’s best to catch weight loss early, rather than deal with health difficulties arising from it. Some medication cause loss of appetite so talk to your GP if you’re worried. Weight gain can also be an issue, especially if your lifestyle becomes more sedentary, as it increases risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, and can aggravate joint problems. Try to stay active and keep an eye on the treats, such as biscuits, that add unwanted extra calories to your diet. Get your sweet fix from fresh fruit, a delicious slice of fruit cake made with wholemeal flour, or a sticky medjool date eaten with a walnut to slow sugar absorption. Watch out for the extra calories from saturated fats, found in butter and other rich dairy products, that can increase cholesterol levels.
Keep things moving
Increasing your fibre and water intake, and doing some exercise, will help to prevent uncomfortable constipation. Make sure that you eat plenty of fibre-rich foods, such as wholegrain bread, brown rice, oats and cereals, plus beans, lentils, fruit and vegetables. Certain herbal teas can help. Try tamarind, yellow dock or dandelion, or an infusion of fresh ginger in hot water (you can grate a fresh root into an ice cube tray and keep it in the freezer for when you need it).
Get your daily boost of freshness
Eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables will provide fibre that keep your bowels moving, as well as the vitamin C that boosts immunity and helps our bodies to absorb iron. You don’t have to spend a fortune on fresh organic produce. Frozen veg is packed with nutrients and ready for you to use at any time. Try throwing a handful of sweetcorn into a pasta sauce, or make an omelette with peas and a slice of chopped ham for a quick nutritious dinner.
Drink more water
A lack of fluid can make you feel shattered, fed up, constipated and affect your concentration. Try to drink around 2.5 litres a day. It sounds a lot but, although tea is mildly diuretic, it can count towards your intake. Herbal teas and cordials can help, too, but be careful not to have too much sugar with your drinks.
Try this Cheese Fluff recipe for a light, nutritious meal