If you’ve been eating the same way your entire life it may be time to re-evaluate your personal menu. Nutritional needs change as we get older and regular adjustments are required to address changes in metabolism and the demand for key nutrients. Our guide to sustaining a healthy body provides essential tips to address specific needs at each decade of life.
Teens: Developing good habits
The teen years are an opportune time to establish healthy eating patterns and discourage bad habits. At this age interest in nutrition is largely driven by appearance, athletic performance and the influence of parents and peer groups. Teens who take part in family meals are more likely to meet their dietary needs and are less likely to engage in risky behaviour.
Due to heightened growth and development, caloric needs increase, and as a result the need for protein is at its peak. Healthy sources of protein include lean meats, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, fish and dairy. A serving of oily fish such as salmon and trout is recommended twice weekly to support healthy brain development.
Twenties: Learning nutritional independence and investing in future health
The 20’s present increased challenges to maintaining a healthy diet with significant life changes such as moving out, eating on campus and starting a new career. For women, growth has stopped by age 20, yet bone mass will continue to build until the age of 30.
To support healthy bone development, consider:
- Eating 3 servings of calcium rich foods per day (e.g. 3 cups low fat dairy or milk products)
- Getting adequate intake of vitamin D – most Canadians require 600 – 1000 IU per day
- Consuming less than 16-24 ounces of coffee or 300mg of caffeine per day
- Moderating or eliminating alcohol intake and quitting smoking
For men, increasing muscle mass and achieving peak physical performance becomes a common priority, so sports nutrition is an important topic to discuss with your dietitian as well as the safety of nutritional supplements. While you’re focusing on lean protein don’t forget to also include 4 fistfuls of fruits and vegetables a day.
Thirties: Baby on board and family nutrition
Welcome to the life of a busy household where limited time and energy impacts food decisions! Career growth and lifestyle changes can often lead to frequent dining out and subsequently, larger portions, and higher calories.
Whether you’re eating out or dining in, keep the Plate Method in mind.
Women considering pregnancy or who are pregnant or breastfeeding need to focus on getting enough calcium, iron, folic acid, omega-3 fatty acids and plenty of fluids.
Forties & Fifties: Hormone shifts and weight management
Hormonal changes and a declining metabolism can lead to unwelcome weight gain and is often a concern to women of this age. It is a good idea to start re-evaluating lifestyle choices such as evening snacking, large portions and alcohol intake. Extra weight collected around the internal organs is particularly unhealthy and it is crucially important to strive for a balanced diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods. A healthy diet will help regulate hormonal changes and combat the increased risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and stroke.
Increasing consumption of anti-inflammatory foods such as lean protein, whole grains, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, legumes, pulses and antioxidant-rich colorful fruits and vegetables is recommended. Ample water intake combined with a reduction in inflammatory foods such as sugar, salt, alcohol and red meats is also highly recommended.
To help prevent osteoporosis, women in particular need to ensure they are getting the necessary 1000 – 1200mg of calcium per day. Most of these needs can be met through dietary sources, so limit supplementation to no more than 500 mg per day.
60’s and beyond
People are living longer and want to be more active well into their later years. Some dietary challenges that you may encounter during these years include a smaller appetite, decreased thirst and in some cases loss of taste and changes in ability to chew.
To ensure you can support an active lifestyle, Copeman Healthcare recommends:
- appropriate hydration with water
- lean protein intake to maintain muscle mass
- fibre to regulate bowels
- higher levels of vitamin D
- potassium, calcium and magnesium rich foods to help with blood pressure management
- limit sodium intake
Are you interested in learning more dietitian-approved tips for all ages? Check out Copeman’s definitive guide to