While good nutrition is important at all stages of life, older people particularly should make sure that their nutritional needs are met in order to keep age-related ailments at bay. As people age, their appetites, habits and lifestyles change, as do their bodies. In consequence diets must also change.
If you depend on the convenience of packaged food and drinks regularly, it’s important you know exactly what you are consuming. But how do you keep track of whether you are getting the right amount of nutrients? Carefully reading the nutritional labels is a good way to keep tabs on your dietary intake and limits. But the key is first understanding what these figures mean and how they relate to your diet. Here’s a simple guide according to the US Food and Drug Administration.
Serving size: This tells you the amount of food that it is recommended you eat from the package. It may be given in grams, cups, pieces or other measures that are easy to understand. The nutritional information that’s given on the packaging usually corresponds to just one serving of the food and not the entire packet. Don’t be fooled into thinking that one packet is a serving size – this is usually not the case. For example, a serving of chips is usually 30g – this amounts to about just 15 pieces of chips.
Calories: The number of calories given on nutritional labels in India corresponds to 100 grams (Some packages meant for the US are also sold in India. Those show amounts per serving!). Manufacturers also display the “calories from fat”. If you are health conscious, remember that the more calories you get from fat, the less healthy the food is likely to be. But fat isn’t always the culprit behind high-calorie foods. Sugar and carbs in so-called ‘fat-free’ or ‘low-fat’ foods can also greatly increase your calorie intake, which can lead to unhealthy weight gain and health complications.
Daily value (%): If this information is available, here you’ll find out what contribution to your daily recommended nutritional needs each nutrient from the packaged food is making. Pick out foods that are high in nutrients that you need and low in the nutrients that you don’t. These daily values are based on a diet for an average healthy person who needs 2,000 calories a day. According to your age, weight, height and levels of physical activity these values may differ for you. Talk to a nutritionist or a health expert to guide you on what calorie intake is ideal for you.
Nutrients to avoid: At any age, too much fat can cause problems, but fat consumption ought to decline as people become less active with age. It is especially important to watch for saturated and trans fats. Also check the amount of salt in order to avoid increasing your risk of developing high blood pressure.
Nutrients you need: Get adequate amounts of dietary fiber. As people age, their digestion and absorption of nutritions slows down. Fiber helps stimulate the gut. If you don’t get enough calcium, your body will take it out of your bones. Calcium is also important for maintaining bone strength and wholeness. Potassium and magnesium are also important components of a healthy diet for the elderly.
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