Eating well helps keep your body strong, your mind sharp, and your energy level up as you age. So put these five types of foods on your grocery list.
1. Colorful Fruits and Vegetables
“The darker the red, the deeper the green, the more yellow, the more orange — they’re the foods that have function,” says Diane Stadler, PhD, RD, a research assistant professor of medicine at Oregon Health & Science University.
Their natural color means they’re loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. Stadler recommends blueberries, red raspberries, and dark cherries as ideal fruits, and says you can’t miss with any of the dark, leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard. You can have them all year because, when it comes to nutrients, frozen is just as good as fresh.
“There’s a whole variety beyond oatmeal and whole wheat, such as quinoa.” — Diane Stadler, PhD, RD
“This is an incredibly important food group for people as they get older,” Stadler says. “Calcium needs are high and they stay high, and you can’t get any other foods with as much calcium as dairy.”
Milk, for example, gives you nearly all the calcium you need in three 8-ounce servings. Dairy’s also a great source of vitamin D — it’s essential for healthy bones. Many people don’t get enough of it, and with age, it gets harder for your body to make vitamin D just by being out in the sunshine.
Stick to low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt, and cheese.
3. Whole Grains
These powerhouse foods are pantry essentials. A good source of B vitamins, they are also loaded with fiber.
Whole-grain foods are easy to find. “There’s a whole variety beyond oatmeal and whole wheat, such as quinoa, which is incredibly high in protein,” Stadler says.
4. Lean Protein
A lot of foods will give you the protein you need, like fish, poultry, meat, beans, legumes, nuts, and dairy products.
If you choose to eat meat, make it lean. “If you can see a layer of fat, it is saturated fat and associated with bad cholesterol,” Stadler says.
Steer clear of huge portions. Stadler recommends visualizing a deck of cards when choosing a serving of meat. If more than that is on your plate, she says, box it up for later or take it off your plate before you begin eating to avoid temptation.
5. Fish With Omega-3s
Oily fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for you. Stadler says just two servings of fatty fish per week are enough to meet your requirements for this healthy fat.
Canned salmon is a good choice because it is often packed with some edible fish bones, adding a calcium boost.
If you don’t eat fish at home, order it when you go out. “That’s a perfect opportunity to meet the recommendations,” Stadler says.