Every March, National Nutrition Month® is celebrated by Americans across the country who are dedicated to making healthier food choices. The campaign was created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics back in 1973 as a week-long event, expanding into a month-long campaign in 1980 as the topic of nutrition grew in popularity.
The theme of National Nutrition Month® in 2017 is Put Your Best Fork Forward, which serves as a reminder that we all hold the tools in our path to proper nutrition. Drastic changes all at once are not necessary; even taking small steps to change eating habits throughout the month of March will improve health over time.
The Importance of Good Nutrition for Seniors
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds us that eating right doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated, and for seniors, proper nutrition is even more vital. Although aging does bring certain changes to seniors’ metabolisms, this age group needs the proper nutrients possibly more than their younger counterparts to stay healthy and out of the hospital. Plus, proper nutrition for seniors helps reduce the risk of conditions like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Additional benefits of a healthy diet for seniors include the fact that nutritious foods help keep all systems of the body functioning as they should, making it easier to maintain an ideal weight, build stronger bones and teeth, enjoy less issues with digestion, and even improved cognitive function.
National Nutrition Month® Activities to Celebrate Healthy Eating Habits
Making small steps to incorporate nutritious foods and beverages is the right way to start improving nutrition habits. For instance, start by introducing more fruit, vegetables and whole grains into your diet while eliminating sugary beverages like sodas. Food choices should be nutrient-rich to make those calories you’re consuming count! In other words, choose foods that are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients to keep you feeling better overall, while also managing your weight and keeping you active.
For seniors, certain nutrients become even more essential. For example, older adults need more calcium and vitamin D to help maintain bone health, so think about adding foods like vitamin D-fortified milk, yogurt, leafy green vegetables, or even fortified cereals or fruit juices. Most people over the age of 50 also do not get enough vitamin B12 in their diet, so incorporate more lean meats, seafood, or ask your doctor if you need a B12 supplement.
Potassium and fiber are also crucial nutrients for seniors. Higher levels of potassium can help reduce the risk for high blood pressure – just make sure you’re also reducing your salt intake. Fruits and veggies are good sources of potassium. Fiber not only helps you stay regular, but it also provides benefits like lowering the risk for heart disease and preventing type 2 diabetes. Whole grain breads, cereals, beans and certain fruits are all rich in fiber.
This March, start making some of these changes to your diet as a way to celebrate National Nutrition Month®. Really think about what’s on your fork before it goes into your mouth! Small steps can go a long way in improving your overall health and wellness.