Wondering If Seniors Should Avoid Eating Certain Foods? The Answer May Surprise You.

January 26, 2022

“Have you heard the latest food sensitivity news? There are now eight foods older adults should avoid eating.” 

“I read that there are good reasons why seniors should avoid eating ten otherwise healthy foods.” 

“Yes, my son told me there are healthy foods that elderly people should never eat. He said, Mom, I’m sending you a list of foods to avoid after 60.” 

“You’re lucky! My daughter sent me a diet plan for 70 year olds!”

“Hahaha! Well, I heard from Pete that Bella and Wayne were in Madrid last week and ate calamari sandwiches. Calamari! With their blood pressure?” 

Sitting around the breakfast table this morning I began to wonder if I should be eating anything anymore. Being an older adult and all. Whether it’s on the news, social media, front page at the checkout line, or talked about around the morning coffee, food seems to always be on our tongues.

You Will Spend $500,000 on Food and Drink. Make it Count.

It’s no surprise that eating is so interesting. We read about food, photograph it, shop for it, prepare it, eat it, clean up after it. We raise it in our gardens and on our farms. We sit in restaurants surrounded by food. Sometimes we dress up as food! Whether it be chocolate, ice cream, burgers, sushi, pizza, tacos, or fruit salad pudding cups, we simply adore food! 

It might surprise you to know that we spend a little less than five years of our entire lives eating. Just eating! We also spend a lot of time exercising to get rid of the food we just ate too much of, right? It’s all about keeping a healthy balance

“Balancing physical activity and a healthful diet is the best recipe for health and fitness. Set a goal to be physically active at least 30 minutes every day — this even can be broken into three 10-minute sessions throughout the day.” Eat Right

Are you still sitting down? Good. The average American also spends half a million dollars on food and drink in their lifetime. (Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2018 Consumer Expenditure Survey) I was shocked, but now I know where all my money went!

Anything we do so often should be done correctly. We stretch before we exercise. We choose the perfect mattress. We consider carefully who we marry. It makes sense that if we spend so much of our time and money eating, we do that correctly, too. At the very least that we don’t hurt ourselves in the process. 

When we were kids, adults kept sweets and snacks above the refrigerator. It was only Auntie Mae or Uncle Rick that actually had an open candy dish in their living room. Probably because they didn’t have kids, right? As we grew up we looked to low-calorie, salt-free items. We thought about organic foods. We tried to drink less and exercise more. We’re pretty smart cookies after all. Our entire lives we’ve battled the bulge, and tried to find a balance between too much, and too little.

Good Advice About Eating isn’t Just for Seniors; it’s Good Advice for Everyone.

So, what foods should Seniors eat? What does a sample meal plan for Seniors look like? Honestly, I love potato chips. I can’t get enough of them. Are they good for me? Were they ever any good for me? No, but they make me happy. Everyone probably has a favorite food that’s not so healthy for them. If we’re not happy, then how healthy will we be? Right? Food really does affect our mental health. Avocados, broccoli, salmon, walnuts, dark chocolate – there are many foods that provide a "good mood" and are good for you! I just don’t see potato chips in this list, sadly.

Regardless of age, sensible eating is always a good idea. As the CDC National Guidelines for all Americans tells us:

“Focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages, and stay within calorie limits. (Be careful to) limit foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and limit alcoholic beverages.” Dietary Guidelines

We may not need to race along at one hundred miles per hour anymore, we do need to keep on trucking! Nutrients, vitamins, minerals – they’ve always been important for us. A balanced, healthful diet for everyone should include plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and sources of vitamin D as described by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

As The National Council on Aging advises us: 

“The definition of healthy eating does change a little as you age. For example, as you grow older, your metabolism slows down, so you need fewer calories than before. Your body also needs more of certain nutrients. That means it’s more important than ever to choose foods that give you the best nutritional value.” NCOA

Good Food Means a Good Mood

“Eat good food, and you’ll be in a good mood!” Did you ever hear that? People tell you that a lot? No, me neither. I just made it up. It’s true though. I don’t know how often I’ve felt down and reached for an apple and afterward felt better. It must be the tartness. Any time I’ve eaten a fast food meal though I feel physically worn out! So, there must be something true in the saying “garbage in, garbage out.” I didn’t make up that one!

As the doctor says, if you eat less, you can dance longer. Dancing will make us happy, for sure. Taking the time and enjoying the process. Whether baking your own bread, making lasagna, or a simple soup, spending time in the kitchen does your soul a favor. Turn on some music, relax, and prepare a meal in peace. Food can feed the soul.

I don’t mean you need to pretzel yourself into a yoga pose unpracticed. If you are more digitally inclined, there are many cooking and nutrition apps for your smartphone that will make healthy eating more to your liking.

Your Body Changes. Stay Attuned to What it Needs.

Of course, when we think about what we eat, it’s not always about nutrition. Our bodies are finely tuned machines. Even a grain of sand can put the brakes on a fine sports car! Food sensitivity can become an issue, even if it wasn’t when we were younger. Throughout our lives, we need to be careful about how certain foods might affect our individual needs. As our bodies change, so do our fuel requirements. Not to take the matter lightly, you talk with your mechanic about your car, right? Talk with your doctor and nutritionist about your nutritional and food requirements. Listen to them!

“While eating a healthy diet is important at any age, seniors need to be particularly cautious about their food choices. Older adults often have weakened immune systems, which makes it more difficult to fight off foodborne illnesses. (There are also) foods that can interact with medications or exacerbate health conditions among seniors.”  Home Care Assistance

Alert! Be Aware of These Foods

Some foods do contain elements that can be disruptive to our systems – especially if we are on medication, or suffer from a specific ailment. Your doctor has probably already talked with you about your intake of caffeine and salt, and you probably already know how much dairy, raw vegetables, and beans you can happily consume. Be aware of anything that can turn your meal into an unpleasant experience.

  • Grapefruit Juice – if you take medicine for high blood pressure, anxiety, or insomnia, the juice may interact with your drugs.

  • Alcohol –  can disrupt sleep and can raise your blood pressure. It can also cause hypoglycemia in people with diabetes. It even affects the way medicines work.

  • Raw Sprouts – can pose a health threat to seniors and anyone with a weakened immune system. They are grown in warm, humid conditions, and are more likely to harbor bacteria than other fresh produce.

Soft cheese, undercooked eggs, raw meat, undercooked shellfish, raw fish, unpasteurized milk, processed foods, salted meats – these are just some of the items we hear are bad for us as senior adults. I sometimes enjoy a nice salami and brie as much as the next person, but I think we can all agree that undercooked eggs and shellfish should stay away from our stomachs. We’re pretty smart when we try to be! 

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