“Wow, that’s a lot of food!” commented my husband when the waiter put a plate in front of me.
We went to a small town cafe in Minnesota. I ordered the “special”. It contained two heaping scoops of mashed potatoes and sauce, at least a cup of corn, and enough roast beef to support my family. A large bun accompanied the meal.
My husband ordered the crispy chicken tortilla roll up sandwich. He received an equally generous serving of two large half sandwiches. The sandwich was accompanied by a pile of fries.
By the way, the food was homemade and delicious. If I was going to chop wood or throw bales of hay, I might have used that many calories. After lunch, I was asked to get up and answer questions that were straining my brain but not my muscles.
“Maybe we can take a nap in the car after dinner,” he commented. “We’ll probably have to order small portions as we get older.”
Eating smaller portions was actually a good idea. If the Robinsons ate so much food at each meal, we’d probably need bigger clothes and maybe a bigger vehicle.
However, my husband ate his entire sandwich and some of my roast beef. Although I don’t like to waste food, I was only able to eat half the serving. If I had a cool box, I would have taken half of my meal home with me.
I thought I might nod off during my own conversation. This is not a good practice.
What are some of the special food recommendations as we get older?
The U.S. Nutrition Guidelines 2020-2025 include a section on eating as you age. I haven’t reached the Older Adult (60-plus) category yet, but in fact adults of all ages could benefit from the lessons in these new guidelines.
The guidelines form the basis for recommendations in all federal nutrition programs, from childcare to school lunch to home meals.
Here are three points from the Guidelines for Healthy Eating in Old Age.
We all need to get enough protein to avoid losing muscle mass. When people are 71 years old, many researchers are not consuming enough protein, according to some researchers. Try consuming a variety of lean proteins like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, peas, and lentils.
Most adults need about 5 to 7 “ounce equivalents” of protein per day, depending on whether we are male or female, as well as our age and activity level. An egg; 1 ounce of meat, poultry, or fish; 1/4 cup cooked beans; or 1 tablespoon of peanut butter counts as an ounce equivalent.
Make sure you get enough vitamin B-12. As we get older, our ability to absorb this nutrient can decrease. Deficiency can lead to a type of anemia that requires medical evaluation. It also makes you tired.
Vitamin B-12 is found in animal foods such as meat, milk, and eggs, as well as in fortified foods such as breakfast cereals. Some people may need a supplement, but discuss this with a doctor.
Stay hydrated with plenty of water and other healthy beverages like 100% fruit or vegetable juice, milk, or alternatives. People over 60 tend to drink less fluids than younger adults because the feeling of thirst decreases with age.
Fruit and vegetables also provide plenty of liquid. Yes, a moderate amount of coffee and tea will help you keep hydrated, but the caffeine can encourage some fluid loss. Consume water more often than drinks containing caffeine.
In the warm summer months you can enjoy lighter dishes here. You can choose your favorite protein. Many heat-ready grilled dishes are available to reduce the time it takes to prepare this dish.
Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., RD, LRD, is a food and nutrition specialist at North Dakota State University Extension and a professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson