It's always important to pay attention to what you're eating, especially as you age. But how do you figure out what's good and not good for your body?
Brooke Aschidamini, a registered dietitian and nutrition therapist for Florida Aetna Community Care, cuts through all the noise with these straightforward do's and don'ts for eating healthy:
Do: Eat intuitively
It's easy to overeat. But the consequences of overeating as an older adult can go beyond feeling full and uncomfortable. Your metabolism slows down as you age, so overeating can lead to weight gain and other health problems. That's why it's important to eat intuitively.
"Intuitive eating helps you reconnect to your mind and body to know what your body really needs versus what it doesn't need," says Aschidamini. Eating intuitively can be as simple as paying attention to your hunger and fullness cues to avoid mindless eating and/or overeating.
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Don't: Eat trans fat
"You don't want any trans fat in your diet. It's the unhealthiest type of fat we can eat because it's man-made. It can raise our cholesterol levels and cause inflammation, so it's best to consume zero grams of trans fat, if possible," says Aschidamini.
Trans fat can be found in margarine, vegetable shortening, frosting, fried fast foods, some varieties of microwaveable popcorn, and some other prepacked processed foods. So it's important to read nutrition labels and do your research to make sure the foods you're eating don't contain trans fat.
Do: Keep your diet balanced
It's important to eat a balanced diet to make sure you're getting all the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. But there's more that goes into a balanced diet than just eating enough fruits and veggies. According to Aschidamini, you also want to make sure you're eating enough protein and complex carbs. "One-fourth of your plate should have protein, plus one-fourth of a vegetable, one-fourth of a fruit, and one-fourth of complex carbohydrates for all three meals of the day," she says.
You read that last part right. You do want to include carbs in your diet. You just want to make sure they're the right ones. "You'll want to eat complex carbohydrates as opposed to the simple, more processed and refined carbohydrates," says Aschidamini. Complex carbs include whole-grain foods and starchy vegetables like peas and potatoes. Simple, processed, and refined carbohydrates include sugars and sweets like cake and candy.
Don't: Fast intermittently
Wait, isn't this the new miracle way to lose weight? Not so much, says Aschidamini. "If someone fasts for 16 hours, their metabolism is slowing down during that fasting period because the body is trying to hold onto nutrient stores. So when you go to eat a big meal after fasting, you're consuming a lot of calories on top of a slowed metabolism," she says.
Aschidamini also says that intermittent fasting can lead to unhealthy eating behaviors, like disordered eating, because it involves restricting yourself of food. "Many people end up binging during the time they finally give themselves permission to eat, which can turn into a problem," she says.
Do: Get your vitamin C and omega-3's
"As you get older, it gets hard to get all the nutrients your body needs through food," says Aschidamini. Her recommendation? Add vitamins to your daily routine, particularly vitamin C and omega-3 supplements.
"Taking a vitamin C supplement on a daily basis can keep your immunity strong. And if you're looking to reduce inflammation, an omega-3 supplement like fish oil can help." Just make sure the omega-3 supplement you're taking has EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in them, as these are the acids that help with inflammation.
Don't: Restrict food groups
"I would warn against restricting any food group or going on any fad diets that really limit or completely exclude food groups," says Aschidamini. Why? It all goes back to eating a balanced diet. If you restrict a food group, you risk eliminating important nutrients from your diet.
Eating healthy can be a challenge. But keeping these guidelines in mind as you make food choices each day can go a long way for your health.
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