Choosing a Healthy Eating Pattern

This is the fifth and final of a series of guest posts from our friends at  We think this is helpful information for both seniors and those who care for them.  Those under a physician’s care, especially seniors, should consult a physician before making significant changes in their diet.

Seniors struggle each day with how to stay healthy and age gracefully.  In order to provide you with more ideas to help you make choices about what to eat and what to avoid, we continue our discussion in this final chapter.

Together we have been exploring the newly revised Dietary Guidelines for Americans in previous weeks.  The USDA and HHS have completed their in-depth study based on the evidence of many research studies and have compiled their recommendations to help us improve our health.  These new recommendations will help seniors begin making changes to move towards better health.

In our previous articles, we have found out that there are foods seniors (and all of us) need to eat more of everyday to stay healthy and improve their wellness for the years to come.  We also discovered which foods are better to leave at the grocery store.  We have been reminded that getting our bodies back to a healthy weight through physical activity and diet changes will make a great impact on our senior’s health and their ability to either prevent or reduce the effects of chronic medical diseases.

Today we will wrap up our review with information about Building Healthy Eating Habits and Making Better Choices (chapter 5 and 6 of the new guidelines).  A healthy eating pattern is different for each person especially seniors.  It should take into account personal preferences, cultural and ethnic food desires, traditional food tastes and the cost and availability of food in their area. Making better choices is a goal for seniors as they age and all of us through our lifespan.

Key Recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for choosing a Healthy Eating Pattern:

  • Select an eating plan that includes nutrient dense foods from every food group meeting your nutritional needs without an excess of calories.
  • Examine all food and beverages and how they fit into your overall plan.
  • Reduce the risk of food borne illness by following food safety recommendations.

Tips to achieve these recommendations:

  • Limit the added fats in the foods you eat.  Grill, bake or roast all foods instead of frying. Cut fat from meat and choose the leanest cut of meat to start with the lowest saturated fat product.  Limit breaded and fried protein items.
  • Limit added sugar in the foods you eat. Reduce your choices of sugar added/frosted cereals.  Use unsweetened fruits and fresh fruits instead of pre-sweetened options.
  • Use low fat dairy products such as low fat/nonfat milk, part skim cheeses, and low fat yogurt.
  • Reduce non-nutritional beverages that supply excess calories such as soda, sport drinks, alcohol, and fruit flavored drinks.  Increase water as a beverage and drink to prevent thirst.
  • To maintain food safety in your kitchen (more info at
    • Clean your hands and all surfaces. Wash all fruits and vegetables.
    • Separate foods that are raw, cooked or ready to eat when you shop, store and prepare.
    • Cook foods thoroughly to the proper temperature.
    • Chill all foods promptly including leftovers.
  • Fortification or supplementation especially for seniors who are trying to stay within a lower calorie range for weight management may be necessary to meet specific needs for the nutrients we all need daily such as calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Caution: do not exceed recommended levels for vitamins/minerals to prevent harmful results.

Seniors need help to make better food choices every day as well as increasing physical activity.  They need opportunities to make these food choices including access to fresh, affordable healthy food.  They need guidance on keeping their food safe and how to handle their food to prevent food borne illness.  Seniors need safe places to participate in physical activities each day such as clear walking paths that are free from hazards, gyms that accommodate their specific needs, and encouragement to participate.   They need information to help guide their daily choices to optimize nutrition to prevent or manage chronic disease.  Information that is reliable and accurate, but also strategies that can help seniors meet their goals, is essential.  Seek out classes for cooking, nutrition, food safety and physical activity in your community that you and your senior can enjoy together.

Achieving the key recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines will help seniors age healthfully.  If you have any questions, tips and comments, please contact us.