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It’s Never Too Late For Realistic Healthy Habits


By Jordan McCoy, MS, RDN, LD—Outpatient Dietitian, Diabetes Educator at Sheridan Memorial Hospital’s Internal Medicine

As we progress through life, our food choices are formed and molded by many different factors. Food choices are dictated by habit, preferences, heritage, family dynamics, ability to obtain and cook certain foods, budget, social aspects, nutrition education, and the physical aspect of what we can taste and smell. Decreased appetite and thirst will also play a role in aging.

Each of us is different regarding our food preferences and choices; typically, they become more concrete as we grow. In other words, we tend to become stubborn and set in our ways as we get older! In all honesty, I hope my persistent behavior helps my husband, and I have longevity as we mature by keeping up with our nutrition, hydration, and physical activity. So how do we maneuver through these changes? We start early and begin making changes to develop those realistic healthy habits before it is too late.

Creating Healthy Habits

To maintain lean body mass and motor function, you have to create habits such as consuming adequate protein (primarily animal-based), appropriate hydration (mostly water), fiber in the forms of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and carbohydrates from foods in natural form (potato, rice, quinoa, fruits). Examples of a well-balanced meal include:

  • Meatloaf and a baked potato.
  • Salmon with rice and butter.
  • A piece of whole wheat toast with some scrambled eggs and cheese.

Age plays dirty tricks on our taste buds, and typically taste is diminished. Due to this, most of us add more sugar and salt to make foods taste better. Unfortunately, these usually aren’t the best sources of sugar and salt. Here are some of my favorite ways to add more natural flavors:

  • Use herbs and spices, such as garlic, onion, paprika, cumin, rosemary, and thyme, to add robust flavor!
  • Add good sources of salt like sea salt, Celtic salt, and pink Himalayan salt to keep your taste buds happy.
  • Utilize healthy fats from meats, olive oil, butter, dairy products, avocados, and nuts to increase fullness and flavor.
  • Sweeten your foods with whole fruits and small amounts of local honey or maple syrup.

Strengthen Your Appetite with Fitness

Along with a change in taste, age also diminishes appetite and our thirst mechanism. By staying active with activities of daily living and participating in physical fitness, your appetite will remain strong, and you will continue to consume the water you need. Locally, there are numerous opportunities to get involved with hikes and activities through The Hub, get a personalized therapy regimen based on your body’s needs through a Wyoming Rehab Free Screening, meet with local gyms, and find the right environment or classes for you. Regardless of your daily activity, it is pivotal to stay hydrated. Your intake of water and electrolytes impacts not only your organ functions, but can play a part in your overall sleep quality, cognition, and mood. A good check for hydration is if your urine is bright yellow, you need more water!

Local Options

These are all excellent ideas, as I say them out loud, but sometimes easier said than done. What about the ability or motivation to cook these foods?

Some excellent spots in our area provide well-balanced meals for when life gets busy. The Hub offers breakfast to order, lunches, Home Delivered Meals, and their coffee shop’s grab-and-go items. Sheridan Memorial Hospital is also an excellent place to grab a nourishing meal from the Sidewalk Cafe or the Cafeteria at breakfast or lunch. Other options like Designing Dinners have excellent soups and sandwiches that are portioned for those who don’t have big appetites. Make it a social event and bring your friends who also would benefit from a good home-cooked meal. Make it extra special and have a fun dessert when eating—just not every time.

Snacks & On-The-Go Options

It’s also important to keep convenient, healthy snacks on hand for when you’re on the go. Protein bars and shakes can be beneficial to keeping your energy high. When picking a bar, shake, or powder, look for high proteins and fiber and avoid sugars and carbohydrates. We all have different dietary restrictions when it comes to choosing what we consume. Try different things and ask for support when you need it.

In Conclusion

For success, make small changes first. Pick one meal that you prioritize and make sure it’s a well-balanced meal with protein, healthy fats, and good sources of carbohydrates. Focus on maintaining that lean body mass by eating regularly with nourishing foods, exercising, and drinking plenty of water.

If you are interested in meeting with a dietitian, please call your provider and ask for a referral. A dietitian can help troubleshoot the changes we all face, help with quality of life, and increase longevity. It’s still possible to make changes!