Figuring out the appropriate amount of food to eat while aiming to achieve or maintain a healthy weight can be challenging.
Obtaining the necessary nutrients and consuming the correct quantity based on your weight and activity level can contribute to healthy aging.
This article offers suggestions on how older adults can acquire the essential nutrients they need while adhering to a recommended daily calorie intake.
How many calories do you require?
A calorie is a unit of measurement that indicates the amount of energy released when your body breaks down food.
Although the number of calories alone does not determine the nutritional value of a food, considering your calorie needs can help guide healthy eating habits.
If you are over 60 years old and wish to maintain your current weight, how many calories should you consume each day? The Dietary Guidelines provide the following recommendation:
|For a Woman||Calories|
|Not physically active||1,600|
|For a Man||Calories|
|Not physically active||2,000-2,200|
Uncertain about which activity category you belong to? Consult the Dietary Guidelines for definitions of each level.
You can elevate your physical activity level by incorporating activities such as walking, jogging, dancing, participating in recreational sports, and adopting similar approaches throughout your day.
Serving and Portion Sizes
A “serving size” refers to a standardized amount of food, typically measured in cups or ounces. Serving sizes can assist you in making food choices and comparing similar items while shopping.
However, it is important to note that they do not represent recommendations for the amount of a specific food you should consume.
The term “portion” describes the amount of food you are served or choose to eat. Portion sizes can vary from one meal to another.
For instance, when having breakfast at home, you might serve yourself two small pancakes in one portion.
In contrast, at a restaurant, you could receive a stack of four pancakes as a single portion. It’s worth mentioning that a portion size may exceed the standard serving size.
For example, while the nutrition label of your favorite cereal states that one serving is 1 cup, you may pour yourself 1½ cups into a bowl.
Portion sizes can become problematic when dining out. To control your portions, you can opt for smaller appetizers instead of ordering a full entrée for your meal.
Sharing an entrée with a friend is another strategy to manage portion sizes effectively. Alternatively, you can consume only half of an entrée and take the remaining portion home to enjoy as a meal on the following day.
Healthy food shifts
Eating the right amount is important, but so is ensuring that you’re obtaining all the necessary nutrients.
Older adults often require fewer calories but more nutrients, making it essential to consume nutrient-dense foods.
To incorporate nutrient-dense foods from all food groups into your diet, you may need to make certain adjustments in your food and beverage selections.
Over time, you can transition to a healthier eating pattern by gradually shifting your food choices.
Healthy beverage shifts
It is often overlooked that the calories consumed from beverages can easily be forgotten.
If you regularly consume sodas, creamy and sweet coffee drinks, or alcohol, making the switch to healthier alternatives can have a significant impact.
Fortunately, there are numerous beverage options available that are low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium.
Another way to consider the concept of nutrient-dense and calorie-dense foods is by examining a range of food options that yield the same number of calories.
Let’s suppose you are looking for a light snack. You might opt for:
- A 7- or 8-inch banana
- 20 peanuts
- 3 cups of low-fat popcorn
- Two regular chocolate sandwich cookies
- 1/2 cup of low-fat ice cream
- One scrambled large egg cooked with oil
- 2 ounces of baked chicken breast without the skin
Although these choices contain approximately 100 calories each, they provide varying amounts of nutrients. The most suitable option for you may depend on the other foods you consume throughout the day.
Maintaining a healthy diet is not solely determined by the quantity of food consumed but also by the selection of foods.
Older adults should strive to consume nutrient-packed foods while limiting their intake of high-calorie options that offer few nutrients.
Substituting snacks and beverages with nutrient-dense alternatives can help you meet your nutritional requirements while adhering to your recommended calorie intake.