A focus on healthy eating is one of the best gifts you can give yourself in your golden years, says Vanessa DiPaolo, Director of Sales at The Terraces at Bonita Springs, the only Life Plan Community for senior living in the Bonita Springs area.
“A healthy diet is important at any age, but it becomes even more essential in our senior years,” says Vanessa. “Eating the right things can improve your cognitive functioning, decrease your health risk for a variety of ailments, boost your mood and strengthen your immune system.”
It’s important for people to recognize that healthy eating doesn’t mean a diet, says Vanessa. “Eating well doesn’t have to mean only eating bland, boring foods. In fact, that’s the worst type of ‘diet’ you can have,” she says. “It’s also not about losing a ton of weight or reaching a certain number. Instead, it’s about feeling well inside and out. A healthy lifestyle should include fresh, tasty food with delicious and nutritious ingredients as well as enjoying meals – emphasis on enjoyment – with friends and family.”
The good thing about healthy eating is that it’s never too late to change your habits. Vanessa says that it’s all about baby steps. “You want to make small changes over time so that you can sustain this way of life,” she says. “We’ve all had the experience of completely trying to reinvent ourselves through exercise or a particular diet, only to fall off the wagon a few weeks in and go back to our old habits like nothing ever changed. Instead, focus on doing one thing at a time, and adding additional habits as the others become routine. Slow and steady is definitely the way to win this race.”
How Healthy Eating Improves Your Life
So what’s the why? Why is healthy eating so important, if it’s not necessarily about losing weight or reaching a certain fitness goal? For most of us, the idea of “healthy eating” has had to do with one of those two factors. By reshaping how you think about healthy eating, you’ll reap a variety of benefits, including:
- Living longer. A healthy diet improves your lifespan, sure – but it also helps ensure that those extra years are healthy, happy ones. It’s no fun being miserable if you’re alive but in bad shape. However, if you’re staying healthy and feeling fine, the world is your oyster, no matter how old you are.
- Sharpening your mind. Cognitive decline is a real issue for seniors, and it’s expected that the incidence of people who develop dementia like Alzheimer’s will increase greatly over the next decade. Healthy eating can help improve your focus and potentially reduce your risk of developing cognitive issues.
- Feeling better. As we said earlier, living longer isn’t any good if you don’t feel good. Eating wholesome, healthy meals
In short, there are no downsides to eating well – and so many upsides.
Your Roadmap For a Healthy Diet
You don’t have to follow some fad diet or purchase expensive supplements in order to eat healthy. It’s actually very simple: focus on whole, minimally processed foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. Here’s how you do that:
- Eat lots of fruit and vegetables. Apples, bananas and green beans are okay, but go ahead and branch out. Choose colorful options like berries, melons, leafy greens like kale, squash, carrots…don’t be afraid to try new things. If the thought of eating veggies leaves you feeling cold, spruce them up by roasting them with olive oil, tossing them with goat cheese, or adding delicious seasonings like balsamic vinegar or exotic spices. Aim for 2-3 cups per day, and make sure that it takes up the biggest spot on your plate (literally).
- Focus on bone health. Maintaining bone health will help you stay healthy as you age because it will help prevent bone fractures and avoid osteoporosis. Choose foods that are naturally chock-full of calcium, like milk, cheese, yogurt and non-dairy sources like almonds, tofu, broccoli and kale.
- Remember that fat is your friend. This may come as a shocker to those of us who grew up on low-fat diets, but today’s rule of thumb is that fat – healthy fats – play an incredibly important role in maintaining optimal health. Fatty fish, avocados, nuts and other healthy options are good additions to your diet. Not only do they protect your body against disease, but it also helps you stay satiated longer. However, this only applies to good fats – limit your intake of things like fatty red meats, butter, soybean and other less-than-healthy fats.
- All proteins are not created equal. Protein is a building block of healthy eating, and it’s necessary for a diet that helps you age well. However, make sure you’re eating “good” protein. Processed meats like sausages, bacon, hot dogs and salami can increase your risk of heart disease and certain forms of cancer. Instead, choose lean proteins and non-meat proteins like beans, eggs, peas and nuts.
- Fill up on fiber. Fiber doesn’t just keep you regular – it lowers your risk for stroke, diabetes and heart disease. Since our digestion slows down as we age, be sure to include enough fiber in your diet. Stick with foods that are naturally high in fiber like whole grains. Supplements are okay, but whole foods will give you a much bigger benefit.
- Carb it up within reason. The keto diet is very popular right now, but you don’t need to eschew bread and rice in order to live healthily. Just opt for whole grains over processed white flour, and eat it in moderation. These forms of carbs also have lots of dietary fiber – a two-for-one punch when it comes to good health.
Discover A Recipe for Exquisite and Versatile Dining at The Terraces
“The dining experience at the Terraces has been designed to help senior residents meet and exceed their expectations for what healthy food can be,” says Vanessa. “Our award-winning Executive Chef and culinary team carefully prepare an ever-changing menu filled with equal parts variety, freshness and quality. Our residents feel like they have their own personal chef, and have the freedom to recommend or suggest changes that better fit their preferences and dietary requirements. Our culinary team is always happy to address any specific nutritional needs, and it’s always our pleasure to serve you.”
About The Terraces at Bonita Springs
Recreation, special events, holiday celebrations, educational programs, guest speakers, and a variety of inspiring activities take place throughout the year at The Terraces at Bonita Springs (www.TheTerracesatBonitaSprings.com) as part of the community’s active lifestyle programs. The Terraces is the only Life Plan Community for senior living in the Bonita Springs area. Living choices include independent living, assisted living, memory support, skilled nursing and rehabilitation. All levels of care, including assisted living, skilled nursing, and memory support are open for direct admittance, with no entrance fee.
For more information, visit TheTerracesatBonitaSprings.com or call 239.221.8907.