By Erik J. Martin | CTW Features
If you’re over age 50, you know by now that you can’t eat whatever you want without some consequences. But just because experts increasingly recommend curbing junk foods and high-calorie indulgences as you get older doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice flavor, fun or food variety. It’s possible to change your diet for the better without punishing your taste buds or going hungry after meals.
Case in point: Consider these eight healthy and appetizing edibles that can easily be added to your diet.
Leafy green vegetables
Amanda Kostro Miller, RD, LDN, a Chicago-based registered dietician, says veggies like kale, spinach, fennel, collard greens, cabbage, watercress and endive are superfoods that can make a big difference.
“Increasing your fiber intake from these vegetables can help with bowel movement regularity and making stools easier to pass. Green leafies can also help with calorie control for weight loss or weight management. They’re relatively low in calories, so you can eat a lot of them without exceeding daily calorie recommendations,” she says.
The best way to up your quotient of leafy greens is by using them in different salads, “but try to keep dressing, cheese, meat and nuts to a minimum.”
Beans and legumes
Peas, lentils, chickpeas, black beans, navy beans, kidney beans and their ilk can provide your body with plenty of protein — which is especially important if you’re a vegetarian.
“Legumes and beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein and heart-healthy fiber. As we get older, it’s important to keep up our intake of both,” explains Jen Hernandez, RDN, CSR, LDN, a registered dietitian in Kailua, Hawaii. “Chickpeas can be a great substitute for chicken or eggs. Try swapping your mayo for some hummus to add fiber, protein, and a boost in flavor.”
Another protein-rich and tasty choice—particularly as a snack—are nuts, although they need to be eaten in moderation for the best effect.
“Eating nuts is associated with less risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Every kind of nut has a different array of health-boosting nutrients and phytonutrients,” says Jill Weisenberger, RDN, A Yorktown, Virginia-located author and nutritionist. She recommends eating a handful of almonds a day to boost your vitamin E levels, consuming a single Brazil nut daily to prevent selenium deficiency, munching on pistachios for eye- and brain-protecting lutein and zeaxanthin, and choosing walnuts for their omega-3 fatty acid benefits.
Fishing for more nutritional fare? Opt for salmon, which delivers protein, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, vitamins D and B, and more, suggests Rima Kleiner MS, RD, a Greensboro, North Carolina-based registered/licensed dietitian and nutritionist.
“Salmon has been shown to boost brain, heart, immune, skin and eye health. And, when eaten at least two to three times weekly, it can help lower chronic inflammation in the body and reduce the risk of chronic disease.”
Kleiner advises making grilled salmon entrees and salads, salmon tacos, salmon burgers and salmon salad sandwiches.
From oatmeal to granola to oat milk, this whole grain is the main ingredient in many good-for-you foods and plentiful in properties designed to benefit the body.
“Oats offer a great source of important vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. The main fiber in oats can help promote fullness, support digestion, and maintain healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels,” Steve Hertzler, Ph.D., RD, a nutrition scientist in Columbus, Ohio with Abbott, a global health care company.
Hertzler’s favorite oat approach is probably the most popular: Simply enjoy a warm bowl of oatmeal at breakfast, “but add fresh blueberries, too,” he says.
Rich in protein, which helps maintain lean muscle mass, and probiotics, which improves gut health, yogurt is an easy-to-eat treat that can serve as a good substitute for dessert.
“I recommend choosing plain nonfat Greek yogurt, which tends to have far more protein and a firmer consistency; that makes it a good replacement for sour cream,” Miller says. “With plain yogurt, you can add your own flavorings like fruit, walnuts, granola or honey — better for you than pre-flavored yogurt that can have lots of added sugar. Yogurt can also be added to smoothies and used as a dip.”
Few foods pack as much flavor and nutrition into each bite as berries, which are another must during and between meals, per Rebecca Shenkman, MPH, RDN, LDN, director of Villanova Fitzpatrick College of Nursing’s MacDonald Center for Obesity Prevention and Education in Villanova, Pennsylvania.
“Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries are versatile, delicious, and loaded with vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and water for rehydration. Plus, their phytochemicals provide antioxidant protection,” says Shenkman, who adds that a 2013 Harvard study found that women who ate more than three servings of blueberries and strawberries weekly had a 32 percent lower risk of a heart attack. Her berry binging mode of choice is to drop some atop a favorite breakfast cereal or dessert.
Not to be overlooked, flaxseed is another superfood garnering greater attention lately.
“Flaxseed is a great source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants that may reduce your risk of cancer,” notes Hernandez, who recommends flaxseed meal or ground flaxseed for easier digestion. “Add flaxseed to your oatmeal and smoothies or use it in baking as an egg substitute.”