Often, our health takes a back seat to our work-a-day mindset, and choosing healthy foods and preparing foods at home sometimes requires more time and effort than we can devote while working full-time, raising our children, and most likely, taking care of our own elderly parents.
Getting into the weight loss mindset as a senior can really be quite easy if we choose to shake hands with healthy food choices and make consciously health-giving decisions on a daily basis. Retirement doesn’t mean we let go of all our inhibitions and self-discipline. Senior living is the best time to learn a new life skill. A crucial time to focus our attention on our health, and to learn how to best care for our bodies. The weight loss mindset is similar to the mindset required to save money, comprised of small daily decisions that add up to major wins. Just like the age-old adage: “Slow and steady wins the race”.
Once your mind is set, the day-to-day begins.
Some of the best ways to eat healthy and lose weight include learning what foods are healthy for seniors. Nutrients of concern in our age group of 55-90+ years include vitamin D, calcium, potassium, and fiber, according to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015. These are the primary nutrients that government surveys reveal Americans are just not consuming in the amounts needed to maintain health.
Making sure we eat foods that contain plenty of these essential nutrients is the very first step toward eating healthy and losing weight. Foods rich in Vitamin D and calcium include eggs, low-fat milk, low-fat cheese, and fatty fish like salmon and mackerel. Plant-based foods like kale, broccoli, spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, soy products, almonds, sesame seeds, and hemp seeds are also rich in calcium, though vitamin D is only present in animal foods. Potassium and fiber are easily sourced from a variety of plant foods, including melons, grapes, berries, sweet potato, tomatoes, beets, carrots, onions, avocado, spinach, bananas and beans and legumes such as kidney beans, lentils, pinto beans, and navy beans.
Another method to begin to eat healthy and lose weight involves making smart choices at restaurants. Getting into the weight loss mindset as a senior starts with how your order at restaurants. Choose main-dish items that are baked, broiled, steamed, or grilled. Avoid heavy-carb entrees like lasagna, pasta, fried rice entrees and bread bowls. Always start with a salad, eat slowly, and try to take half your meal home to avoid gaining weight from over-large portions common to most restaurants.
If you haven’t already, stop drinking sugar-sweetened beverages, and reduce the number of sweets, candies, cupcakes, doughnuts, muffins, pies, cakes, crackers, chips, French fries and high-carbohydrate foods each day. Research shows these sugar and starch-laden foods are prime culprits for weight gain, and make it very difficult to lose weight, especially as a senior.
Ensuring that the backbone of your meal begins with a healthy, lean protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, lean pork, lean beef, shrimp, lobster, scallops and low-fat dairy products is essential to ensure weight loss in seniors. Other sources vegetarian sources of heathy proteins include nuts, seeds, soy, tempeh, and plant-based protein powders that are low in sugar and carbohydrates.
Getting into the weight loss mindset as a senior includes making healthy beverage choices. Unsweetened tea and coffee, club soda, the occasional coconut water, and loads of pure, clean water should make up majority of your fluid intake with the occasional diet drink as an option. In order to ensure weight loss as a senior, it’s essential that you eliminate sugary sodas, energy drinks, juices, milkshakes, and sweetened teas or sugary coffee beverages from your day.
Last but certainly not least, any weight loss mindset must include physical activity and movement. If your joints are problematic, water aerobics or cycling may be an option. Walking just 30 minutes each day can help lower your blood pressure and reduce stress – both excellent for weight loss. Joining an exercise class that you enjoy, such as a dance class or group training sessions are a good start – and these classes become even better when you go with a friend. Walk the golf course instead of riding the cart, or walk every other hole. Sign up for 1-mile fun run/walk and support your community at the same time. Make up your mind and go do it!
Ford C, Chang S, Vitolins MZ, Fenton JI, Howard BV, Rhee JJ, Stefanick M7, Chen B, Snetselaar L, Urrutia R, Frazier-Wood AC. Evaluation of diet pattern and weight gain in postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. Br J Nutr. 2017 May 16:1-10. doi: 10.1017/S0007114517000952. [Epub ahead of print]