Healthy eating after 50 made simple: 10 Steps to follow

Are you over 50? You’re not alone! An estimated 125 million adults in the United States are 50 or older [1]. 

But hitting this milestone doesn’t mean giving up on your health or taste buds. Smart eating after 50 can be the key to feeling energized, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing your risk of chronic disease.

Let’s break down simple strategies for feeling fantastic over 50, one delicious bite at a time [2].

1. Prioritize protein

Muscles naturally decline with age, making protein even more critical after 50. This essential nutrient helps build and repair tissues, keeps you feeling full, and supports a strong immune system. 

Aim to include lean protein sources (chicken, fish, beans, lentils, tofu, eggs, and low-fat dairy products) in every meal and snack. 

2. Powerup with powerhouse foods

Your plate should be a vibrant canvas bursting with color and packed with essential nutrients. Prioritize fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 

These powerhouses are brimming with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, all vital for maintaining a healthy weight, managing blood sugar, and promoting strong bones.

  • Fruits and vegetables – Aim for vibrant colors and variety. Deep orange and red choices like carrots and tomatoes are rich in beta-carotene, important for eye health. Leafy greens are rich in vitamins and minerals, while berries offer antioxidants and fiber.
  • Whole grains – Swap refined grains like white bread and pasta for whole-wheat options. Whole grains provide sustained energy and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Brown rice, quinoa, and whole-wheat bread are excellent choices.

3. Don’t fear fat

Healthy fats, like in nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocados, are essential for hormone regulation, brain health, and nutrient absorption. 

If you can, include a healthy fat source at most meals to feel satisfied and promote overall well-being. Enjoy them in moderation, using healthy fats like olive oil for cooking.

4. Spice it up

Herbs and spices add flavor and depth to your dishes, but their benefits go beyond taste. Many herbs and spices contain anti-inflammatory properties and may even help regulate blood sugar [3]. 

Explore the wonders of turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and chili peppers to create exciting flavor profiles without relying on unhealthy additives like salt.

5. Hydrate

As we age, our thirst sensation can diminish [2]. Drink at least 8 glasses of water daily to support overall health, digestion, and cognition. 

Skip sugary drinks like soda, juice, and sweetened coffee drinks – they are loaded with empty calories and can contribute to weight gain and other health problems.

Here’s the simple swap: Opt for water! It’s calorie-free, keeps you hydrated, and supports overall health. Add slices of lemon, cucumber, or ginger to your water for flavor. 

You can also sneak in extra fluids with herbal teas, fruits high in water content like watermelon, and low-fat broths.

6. Read food labels 

Food labels help you make informed choices. Focus on serving sizes, calories, and critical nutrients like protein, fiber, and sodium. 

Don’t be intimidated by the % Daily Value (DV) – it simply indicates how much of a nutrient a serving contributes to your daily needs 

7. Cook more at home

Home cooking allows you to control ingredients and portion sizes. Explore new recipes, involve family or friends in the kitchen, and make cooking a fun experience. 

Remember, healthy doesn’t have to be bland! Experiment with herbs, spices, and healthy cooking techniques to create delicious and nutritious dishes

8. Don’t fear indulgences

A balanced approach is key. Enjoy occasional treats within reason. Focus on mindful eating – savor the taste, eat slowly, and stop when you’re comfortably satisfied, not stuffed

9. Make smart swaps

Small tweaks can make a big difference. Here are some easy swaps to boost your meals:

  • Replace sugary sodas with sparkling water flavored with a squeeze of fruit.
  • Opt for baked or grilled protein options instead of fried.
  • Choose low-fat dairy products like Greek yogurt instead of full-fat varieties.
  • Snack on air-popped popcorn with a sprinkle of herbs instead of chips.

10. Plan and prep for success

Planning your meals and snacks is a game-changer for healthy eating.  Here’s how to make it work for you:

  • Schedule a weekly grocery shopping trip. Make a list based on your planned meals and snacks.
  • Stock up on healthy staples like whole-grain pasta, canned beans, and frozen vegetables.
  • Prep healthy snacks in advance. Cut vegetables, portion out nuts and seeds, or hard-boil eggs for grab-and-go options.
  • Cook in batches. On the weekend, prepare a large pot of lentil soup or chili so you have a healthy meal ready for lunch or dinner.

Don’t get discouraged by occasional slip-ups. Embrace these tips, find what works for you, and enjoy the vibrant journey of healthy living!

With these simple strategies, you can create a sustainable and delicious path to vibrant health after 50!

[1] https://www.ibisworld.com/us/bed/number-of-adults-aged-50-older/19/
[2] https://order.nia.nih.gov/sites/default/files/2019-10/Healthy-Eating-2019-update-508.pdf
[3] https://www.atlantichealth.org/about-us/stay-connected/news/content-central/2024/the-health-benefits-of-10-flavorful-herbs-and-spices.html

Photograph: lucigerma/Envato
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