Every new year brings hope for new beginnings. While we are weary of the pandemic, there are thing we can control to be our healthiest self in 2022. And it doesn’t take a gym membership, an expensive piece of exercise equipment, or purchasing only organic foods. Nope, just simple steps to better health.
Food & Fitness After 50 is based on three pillars: eating well, moving well, and being well and here are my favorite tips to inspire you to kick off 2022 by embracing a few new health habits.
I started with 22 habits but couldn’t edit myself and the list ended up with many more tips. I try not to write clickbait headlines (headlines that promise something they don’t deliver) so forgive me!
Eat more fiber-rich foods. Americans are woefully short on eating enough fiber but incorporating a few tasty and affordable foods into your meals and snacks can up your fiber intake.
- Add leftover veggies to scrambled eggs for breakfast at dinner meal.
- Top casseroles with crushed high fiber breakfast cereal instead of breadcrumbs.
- Make lentil soup; dried lentils are easy to use and inexpensive.
- Snack on fresh pears; pears have twice the amount of fiber of an apple.
- Choose whole wheat bread, brown rice, or whole wheat pasta at least half the time.
- Open and drain a can of your favorite bean and add to soup or salads. My faves? Black beans and Garbanzo beans (aka, chickpeas).
Eat at least one more serving of veggies every day.
- Top pizza with at least 2 veggies: peppers, onions, mushrooms, spinach, or tomato, are good options.
- Try new varieties of greens to shake up your salad routine.
- Try a traditional southern-style restaurant favorite: “a meat and three”, three veggie sides (and, sorry to say, mac and cheese may be a popular and delicious side, but it is not a vegetable.)
Eat at least one more serving of fruit every day.
- Make a trail mix snack with dried apples, cherries, raisins, and apricots.
- Add grated apple or pear to pancake batter or muffin mix.
- Combine canned pumpkin with yogurt and cinnamon for a smoothie.
Improve snacking with nutrient-rich choices. As we age, we need less calories and the same or more of nutrients, like protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Make every calorie count, including the snacking calories.
- Drink vegetable juice for a mid-morning or afternoon pick-me-up; blend it yourself or choose one of the many canned or refrigerated prepared options.
- Eat a handful of nuts…peanuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts, and pecans are all great snacks.
- Popcorn is a whole grain, healthy snack; just don’t drown it butter.
Choose nutrient-rich meals, too.
- A smart portion of lean beef (3-ounces) is rich in iron, zinc, and B-vitamins for healthy aging. Beef is a rich source of vitamin B12, and many older adults don’t get sufficient amounts of this vitamin in their diets.
- Eat more seafood; aim for at least twice per week. Frozen seafood and canned or pouch tuna and salmon are affordable choices.
- Don’t bash potatoes; potatoes are one of the best sources of potassium in our diet. Eat the skin to boost fiber intake, too.
- Skip the egg white omelet and eat the yolk, all the good nutrients are in the yellow part.
Get more bone-saving nutrients. As we age, we lose faster than we can build it. To keep our bones strong, choose food rich in calcium, vitamin D, and protein.
- Choose an ultra-filtered milk to get more protein and calcium from each serving. I am a fan of Fairlife milk (I have no affiliation with them, I just like it!)
- If lactose-intolerant, drink calcium-fortified soy milk.
- Drink kefir fermented dairy drink. It is rich in probiotics and protein, too.
- Mix up yogurt choices: I like plain or vanilla Icelandic and Greek yogurt, but all yogurt contains bone-building nutrients.
- Rediscover cottage cheese; rich in protein and calcium.
Choose blood-pressure friendly foods. Many older adults have high blood pressure and reducing (but not eliminating) sodium, while increasing potassium, magnesium, and calcium can help control blood pressure.
- Drain and rinse canned beans, even the low sodium versions, to reduce sodium by about 40%.
- Enjoy unsalted nuts.
- Read labels for hidden sodium; salt is often the first ingredient in seasoning blends like lemon pepper, poultry seasoning, Italian seasoning, or other herbal seasoning blends.
- Check labels on poultry and look for products that don’t have added saline broth.
Tips for grocery shopping
- Embrace canned, frozen, and dried fruit…. they all count toward the minimum 5 a day serving of fruits & veggies.
- Eat fresh fruit in season; mandarins and citrus fruits are at their peak in taste in the winter months and are at their lowest price right now.
- Forget about shopping the perimeter; the center aisles have an abundance of healthy foods.
- Get weekly grocery store specials sent right to your phone by; it replaces the circular that used to come in the printed newspaper.
Tips for getting stronger
- Include weight training at least twice a week; lift a weight until your muscle says, “no more.”
- After a strength workout, recover by feeding your muscles with quality protein: a small carton of yogurt, a stick of string cheese, or glass of dairy or soy milk will do.
- Lie flat on your back and move to a standing position. Try this every day and move in different ways to get to a standing position.
Tips for getting and staying in shape
- If you have been inactive, “start low and go slow” to avoid injury.
- Try micro-bursts or activity snacks of exercise; just 10 minutes a day and gradually increase to 30 total minutes…. all movement counts: gardening, housework, and dancing to your favorite tunes keeps you moving.
- Use your smart watch or phone to set hourly reminders to get up a move; walk around the room, up and down the stairs, or perform some squats.
- Walk your dog (or, a neighbor’s) every day. Volunteer with a local animal shelter to walk dogs.
- If you have physical limitations from injury or illness, check out chair exercises that you can find online.
Tips for improving your ABCs…agility, balance, and coordination
- Try practicing yoga; there are many online videos to help you though a yoga session.
- Stand on one foot while brushing your teeth. Try closing your eyes to make it more challenging.
- Try activities that require agility, like dance aerobics, pickleball, tennis, or shooting baskets.
Tips for preventing disease
- Stay up to date with all vaccinations. For the recommended vaccination schedule from the CDC click here.
- Don’t blame your genes for everything; the environment works with genes to express disease.
- Rely on credible sources for health information; Dr. Google can take you down rabbit holes of disinformation.
Tips for staying socially connected
- Meet a friend or neighbor for a daily walk in the neighborhood or nearby park.
- Get savvy with technology to stay in touch with younger family members.
- Volunteer in your church, civic associations, or community organizations.
- Join a book club, a knitting club, a gardening club, or anything that is of interest to you.
Tips for managing stress
- Spend time in nature.
- Meditate for at least 10 minutes a day; apps like Headspace or Calm can help lead guided meditation.
- Go for a walk and enjoy your surroundings without listening to music, an audiobook, or podcast.
- Focus on your breath by practicing mindful breathing each day.
My last favorite tip? Enjoy food. It is so much more than the nutrients it contains. Food is love, connection, and comfort! Click here to follow my blog and get more tips on healthy aging in 2022. Happy New Year…stay safe and healthy!
Chris Rosenbloom is a registered and licensed dietitian and nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University. She is the co-author of Food & Fitness After 50. Check out her website for more information.