tips, news and advice

Managing your diet in retirement

Published: 12 January 2016

As you grow older your body will need different nutrients and may even require different eating patterns to those for when you were younger. Here’s what you need to know to stay healthy:

1. Listen to what your body is telling you

Instead of eating three big meals a day as you might have been used to doing in the past, for example, it may be that you start to prefer eating smaller meals and healthy snacks throughout the day instead. Or you may find that instead of having your main meal in the evening, you prefer to have it at lunchtime and just have a light meal in the evening to avoid going to sleep on a full stomach. The more you can tune into your body’s needs, the more you will reap the benefits.

2. Eat at least one portion of oily fish a week

Dr Rosalind Miller, nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, says: “Oily fish, such as herring, salmon and mackerel, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which may help protect against heart disease. “There is currently a lot of interest in the role of these fatty acids on many other age-related conditions. For example, some research suggests they may help to alleviate some of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.”

3. Reduce your intake of salt

Dr Miller says: “A high intake of salt can raise blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for stroke and heart disease. A decreasing sense of taste as we age can encourage us to add more salt to meals for flavour. “Watch the amount you add at the table and use herbs, spices and a variety of different foods to flavour meals instead of adding salt. Your taste will slowly adapt to eating food that is less salty.”

4. Take care of your bones

Make a conscious effort to eat foods which are rich in calcium because they will help maintain your bone density. This is particularly important for women who are at higher risk of osteoporosis – thinning bones – after the menopause. “Calcium-rich foods include dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt, but they also include fish with edible bones, for example salmon and sardines, and green leafy vegetables such as kale,” says Dr Miller.

5. Be careful with sweet treats

Tempting though it may be, avoid over-indulging on cakes and biscuits, and other fattening foods. That’s because carrying around excess weight, particularly around the waist, may increase your risk of developing heart disease, cancer and type-2 diabetes. Dr Miller says: “As we get older our energy needs can decrease so it can be easier to gain weight. Also, many people become less physically active as they age. If you’re using fewer calories and you haven’t changed your diet, this will lead to weight gain. Hormonal changes as we get older also mean we become more likely to lay fat around the middle which has adverse health consequences.” If you are unsure what you should weigh or measure at your age, go and see your doctor who will be able to advise you. They may also be able to refer you to a nutritionist for dietary guidance if needed.

6. Be experimental

Use the freedom provided by retirement as an opportunity to try out new recipes. The wonderful thing about moving into a modern purpose built retirement property is that it will have a well-laid-out modern kitchen fitted out with efficient appliances. No more coaxing the oven to work, persuading the grill to make an effort or kicking the fridge to make the light come on – with modern appliances at your fingertips it will be easy to experiment with new dishes. If cooking classes are part of the social programme offered to residents in the retirement property you are moving into, make sure you sign up for them. They can be a fantastic way to experiment with new ingredients and to discover new cooking styles. They can be a brilliant way to get to know your new neighbours too.

7. Share your food with friends

Don’t forget to invite your new neighbours round to sample your culinary efforts, either. With a whole group of new people of similar ages living just a few doors or corridors away, and no need for anyone to drive, or even get wet when coming round to see you, hosting social events at any time of day will suddenly become a whole lot easier, and a whole lot more fun.

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