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Elder Nutrition
Our nutritional needs can change as we get older. Anyone who has lived a long time already knows something about staying healthy. As your body ages, you have to make more of an effort to eat wisely and stay physically active. Here are some suggestions:

Eat foods high in fiber/Prevent constipation

Constipation can be a problem for many seniors as they age. Getting enough fiber, water and exercise can help in trying to overcome constipation. Some foods that contain fiber are fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, lentils, peas, 100% whole wheat bread, and whole grain, high fiber cereals. Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. Before starting to exercise, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may want you to have a physical exam and he or she can suggest exercises that are best for you. If you have a constipation problem that becomes serious, contact your doctor for further advice, on this issue as well.

Drink plenty of fluids

Drinking enough liquids can help prevent constipation. Also, if you take in less water than you need, your body can become dehydrated. When you are dehydrated, you can feel tired and can have headaches, dry mouth and eyes, difficulty swallowing and suffer from loss of appetite and muscle cramps. To prevent dehydration, we need to drink fluids.

Water brings nutrients to all of our cells and removes wastes. It helps regulate our body temperature too. Most elders need 6 to 8 cups of liquid each day.

Drink several glasses of water each day. The rest can come from other beverages like juice, lemonade, milk and soup. Drinking water or liquids at mealtime can make chewing and swallowing easier. You need to drink water every day.

Prevent bone loss

People who are less active are more likely to break their bones if they fall. Some seniors suffer from a disease called osteoporosis. Osteoporosis causes your bones to break easily and take a longer time to heal than normal. The people who are most likely to get osteoporosis are older white or Asian women, thin people, and smokers, but it can develop in any man or woman.

You can protect your bones by trying to exercise every day and by getting enough calcium and vitamin D. Your body can make vitamin D by going out in the sunshine a few times a week and you can also drink milk, which contains and provides vitamin D. Getting enough calcium is important for strong bones. Keep your calcium intake high by drinking milk and by eating yogurt, custards, puddings and cheeses. Choose lower fat dairy products if you are watching your weight and are trying to control your cholesterol. You can also get calcium from green, leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, and turnip greens. If you don't eat many high calcium foods and/or if you are lactose intolerant, check with you doctor to see if a calcium supplement is right for you.

Eat fresh fruits and vegetables

For good health, you should eat at least two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables every day. Fruits and vegetables contain some important vitamins. Fresh produce is an important source of fiber and can help prevent constipation.

Some Americans eat less fresh fruits and vegetables when they get older because chewing becomes more difficult. Try some of the softer choices like ripe bananas, sliced fresh pears and peaches and baked potatoes. Many canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are excellent choices. Always read the label for serving size and nutrient content.

Maintain a healthy weight and eat a wide variety of foods

Eating a wide variety of foods may help protect you from nutritional deficiencies. Be sure to know your BMI (body mass index). Watch portion size! Regular physical activity at any age is important for burning calories and improving your overall health. Enjoy a variety of foods from each food group every day.

Here are some other suggestions: Choose fresh fruit over high calorie desserts. Select fat free milk over whole milk. Remove the skin from chicken and turkey before eating. Choose lean meats and trim off all the fat before cooking.

Food Safety

Everyone's health is different, including one's ability to fight off disease. Immune systems weaken as we age. Illnesses such as diabetes, some forms of cancer, and kidney disease may increase a person's risk of food borne illness.

Just follow four basic rules:

  1. Clean--Wash your hands and cooking surfaces often.
  2. Separate--Don't spread bacteria from one food to another. Keep cooked foods separate from raw foods.
  3. Cook --Cook food to the proper temperature.
  4. Chill--Refrigerate foods quickly. Cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying and you will fight off bacteria that can cause food borne illness.

Make sure your friends and family, including your grandchildren follow these practices. The Food and Drug Administration Hotline can answer questions about safe handling of seafood, fruits and vegetables. You can reach them by calling: 1-888-SAFEFOOD. The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline can answer questions about safe handling of meat and poultry. Call them at 1-800-535-4555.

Here are some websites you may find helpful:

These websites/links are provided for your general information. The site information provided does not necessarily constitute an endorsement of any organization, nor is disapproval implied of sites not mentioned. The reference links provided are maintained by their organizations and they are solely responsible for their content, update, maintenance and policies and procedures.