woman cutting vegetables

You are what you eat! This timeless phrase has been muttered by the mouths of millions for years. If we are what we eat then we should be doing our best to eat healthy. This week, Healthy Weight Network is hosting “Healthy Weight Week.” Their goal is to encourage people to find confidence through creating lasting, healthy habits like eating well without being on a diet and being active.

Nutrition is an important issue for everyone, regardless of age, but most especially for the elderly. Because there are so many benefits to eating healthy, it’s critical to know what your body specifically needs. Last year my grandmother told me she wasn’t seeing the results she wanted from the fad diets she had tried. She would lose weight at first, but quickly gained it back after “completing” the plans. I explained to her that these diets are only temporary fixes, and what she needed was a realistic, lasting lifestyle change.

Eating well is more than counting calories and cutting out food groups. It is getting your body the nutrients it needs to function properly. By getting your daily servings from each of food groups, your body will function better.  Here are the daily servings for seniors from the Food Pyramid for Adults over Fifty.

Fruit: 1 ½ – 2 cups daily

When choosing which fruits to eat, pick whole or cut-up fruits rather than juice to get the best value. Having a variety of fruits will give your body the different nutrients such as potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, and folic acid, without all the added sugar found in many fruit juices. Eating fruits like bananas, prunes, peaches and apricots will give your body the potassium it needs. Raspberries and apples are high in fiber, and kiwis and oranges have loads of Vitamin C.

Vegetables: 2-2 ½ cups daily

Like fruits, vegetables are full of potassium, fiber, folic acid, vitamin a, and vitamin c. When buying vegetables, be sure to buy a variety. This not only keeps vegetables interesting, but also provides your body with a greater range of necessary vitamins and minerals. Canned vegetables are okay every so often, but try to avoid those with added salt. Look for “reduced sodium” and “no salt added” options.

Grains: 6-7 ounces daily

One slice of bread has about one ounce of protein. When deciding which grains to eat, choose a whole-grain product rather than a refined product. Eat whole-wheat bread instead of white bread and try brown rice and whole-wheat pasta. Grains are full of many of the nutrients needed to keep your nervous and immune system healthy, such as fiber, B vitamins, iron and magnesium.

Protein: 5 ounces daily

The protein foods are meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, nuts and seeds. These foods are full of protein, B vitamins, vitamin E, and zinc. They are the building blocks for bones, muscles, blood and skin. When selecting protein, go lean and light-colored, such as turkey, chicken or fish. Trim away the visible fat and boil, grill, or roast meat instead of frying it. By doing this you help keep your bad cholesterol down.

Dairy: 3 cups daily

Milk, yogurt and cheese may be higher in fats than other foods, but they also provide valuable nutrients the body needs, and there are many fat-free or low-fat options. Some dairy products, such as cream cheese, provide little calcium, if any. By consuming dairy products you are giving your body the calcium it needs for its bone health and mass.

Being healthy is key to living a long life. Good eating habits provide your body with nutrients and give you the strength you need to really enjoy your life. And keep in mind, not everyone’s body is the same. If you have any questions about what your body specifically needs, please consult a nutrition specialist or ask your doctor.