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How To Manage Your Diet In Retirement

Gina Narramore

Gina Narramore



Nutrition and diet plays an integral part in nourishing your body and improving wellness at any age 

Whether you’re 25 or 85, rethinking your diet can come with a wealth of physical and mental benefits that could give you a new lease on life. However, there are many extra demands placed on our bodies as we progress through life and because of this our nutritional needs also change as a result. It is never too late to revamp your nutrition and nurture your body with a healthier diet.  

Read on and discover our tips to help you manage your diet in retirement. 

Never Forget To Eat Breakfast

With so many different foods and eating options available it can be easy to get caught off-guard by fads and trendy diets, but as most doctors would agree, sticking to the food fundamentals is always best.

Recent research even backs up the age-old phrase ‘Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper,’ emphasising the importance of breakfast as the most important meal of the day. This research also found that those who ate their most substantial meal in the morning experienced a significant decrease in BMI and had a better chance of preventing long-term weight gain.

However, it is no secret that as we get older, our appetites diminish which means eating enough calories to ensure we stay nourished and healthy becomes difficult. Eating a healthy and filling breakfast such as porridge, which contains good fats, vitamin B and carbohydrates, not only boosts calorie intake for the day but also fires up your immune system and releases energy slowly, keeping you energised for longer throughout the day.

Lastly, an importantly, during sleep our glucose levels drop, which is essential for brain health and cognitive function. Because of this, when we wake up, we may not be at our sharpest, which can lead to trips and falls. Not only does eating a nutritious breakfast a nutritional breakfast help overcome this, it has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease > and obesity. 

Reduce Your Salt Intake

We all know too much salt is bad for you no matter what your age. Alongside sugar, it is one of the biggest food culprits for unhealthy eating and has been proven to raise blood pressure which can result in a number of illnesses. For instance, according to NHS England, a rise in blood pressure can lead to an increased risk of heart disease or a stroke. 

With this in mind, you should look to reduce your salt intake where possible. Keep an eye on packaged and ready-made foods as the salt in these can quickly add up to become a problem. Salt has a habit of hiding in foods - ingredients to watch out for include anything with the term ‘sodium’ (sodium chloride, glutamate, phosphate for example), monosodium glutamate (MSG) etc. You can easily substitute high-salt-content foods such as tinned and packet soup, sauces, ready meals, bacon and stock cubes with any reduced-salt options that are available. 

Making a switch in your shopping routine will take time, for example, you will need to initially allow yourself more time for your shopping trips until you establish which brands and foods contain the lowest amount of salt. However, once you have discovered them, your shopping trips will take no longer than usual. 

Tip: Make sure to check labels and traffic light ratings when available too, to help guide your decisions. The Change4Life food scanner app is a great way to check food for sugar, salt and fat content quickly.

Eat More Oily Fish

The omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish are highly beneficial, helping to protect against heart disease and age-related conditions. 

Research also suggests that oily fish can help lessen symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally, Omega-3  can improve eye health, fight inflammation, improve skin and help make you feel more alert and upbeat. 

To increase your intake of omega-3, aim to eat fish at least once a week. Alternatively, take cod liver oil or introduce nuts like chia, flaxseed and walnuts into your diet. Alongside eating fresh fish, you can also look at cheaper options such as tinned mackerel, sardines and kippers for a tasty Omega-3 fix. 

Sugar Switches

Like salt, too much sugar can be detrimental to your health, contributing to conditions like diabetes and heart disease, as well as weight gain. Unfortunately, in the past few decades the amount of sugar consumed has risen dramatically due to the slew of processed products on the market and artificial sweeteners used in popular foods. 

Recognising the difference between good and bad sugars can help you create a diet for yourself that not only provides you with the optimum energy you require in older age, but also minimises adverse health effects.

Tea itself can be good for you in moderation, however, adding sugar can increase your sugar intake considerably, especially if you go beyond a cup of breakfast tea in the morning. Reducing sugar in your tea or coffee slowly, to enable you to adapt the change in sweetness can make the transition easier – for example, try half a spoon less for a week and see how you get on, then if you feel this is acceptable, reduce further. 

It is also important to note that other drinks, such as flavoured water and fruit juices also have quite a bit of sugar. You could be getting close to your total caloric intake for the day, almost all from sugar.

Lastly, just as with salt, be aware of hidden sugars in the foods you eat. There are a number of dairy products, smoothies, dressings, condiments and processed foods that have much more sugar in them than you may think. It is crucial to read labels to ensure foods are as healthy as they seem and that there are no hidden sugars lurking in the item.

Tip: Consider replacing sugar with cinnamon. Cinnamon has proven to be somewhat of a super spice in recent times, offering health benefits including an ability to suppress appetite and speed up metabolism. Scientific research has even found it to lower blood glucose in people with diabetes. Better still, cinnamon can fulfil a sugar craving thanks to its sweet flavour.

This natural sugar substitute also has the power to regulate (and reduce) blood sugar levels, making it particularly helpful for those who have diabetes. Try it sprinkled over porridge, cereal, coffee or hot chocolate.

Get To Grips With Superfoods

Many people associate the word ‘superfood’ with millennial's and their need to share photos online of their over over-complicated meals with expensive ingredients. But did you know that you can buy many superfoods in most supermarkets relatively cheap and they can hugely benefit you in older age as they provide important nutrients and nutrients important for aging brains and bodies.  

Blueberries, spinach, tomatoes, kale and legumes such as chickpeas are readily available at most supermarkets and are some of the best superfoods for your system

Blueberries are high in antioxidants that can help destroy damaging free radicals and are an excellent topper for yogurt, porridge or oats. Spinach is full of iron, vitamin C, minerals, phytochemicals (plant compounds) and antioxidants that can protect eyesight. 

Sweet potatoes are one of the most versatile and healthy vegetables available for good senior nutrition. Not only are they an outstanding source of beta-carotene, an important carotenoid, they are also bursting with potassium, an essential mineral for older men's health, and have a low glycemic index (GI), reducing the risk of type-2 diabetes. They are good sources of the anti-inflammatory nutrients, vitamins A and C, making them an excellent food choice for those suffering from arthritis or asthma. Try them steamed, mashed or roasted in their jackets with a drizzle of rapeseed oil.

Furthermore, kale will provide you with the recommended daily vitamin C amount in just 50g, while legumes are high in iron, protein and can even leave you feeling fuller for longer.

Try this Puy Lentils with Feta and Roasted Tomatoes recipe for a vitamin-rich, easy dinner.

Sharing Is Caring

A weekly meal with friends at home will create a great surrounding to develop a healthier relationship with food, save money (if you all pitch in for ingredients), and give you the opportunity to try out some new recipes. It also provides a great social setting to catch up and chat. 

It’s also a brilliant way to change your relationship with what you eat, as it can offer you a comfortable space in which to dine and opportunities to be more mindful of food. For example, if you tend to overeat, chatting with friends will provide you with a great distraction that may reduce the amount of food you would eat if you were alone.

McCarthy & Stone retirement developments can also make finding new friends, and potential dinner dates even easier, by placing you in the heart of a like-minded community.

Maintain Your Bone Health

As we get older, bone density reduces which makes taking care of your bones hugely important. Alongside low impact exercises and any advice given by a doctor, maintaining proper levels of calcium can develop bone strength and protect against osteoporosis. Our bones store up to 99.9% of the calcium your body needs for every function. Your best sources for calcium are seeds – a tiny nutritional powerhouse, beans and lentils, leafy greens and dairy products such as cheese or milk. 

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium so is essential to maintain optimum bone health. Although our bodies produce the majority of vitamin D through exposure to the sun, in the UK, between October to March, we do not get enough vitamin D from the sun and many of us are deficient. This makes supplementation vital for optimum health and wellbeing. 

Up Your Fibre Intake

Fibre is a crucial element of any senior’s diet. Increasing the amount of fibre you eat can lead to better digestion and a healthier, more effective digestive system. Eating high fibre foods like beans, oats, barley, almonds, and walnuts can also help lower cholesterol.  

Not only is fibre found in fruits, vegetables, beans and peas, grains, nuts, and seeds, adding more fibre to your diet can quickly be done by simply switching your usual foods for those with higher fibre content. For example, swapping corn flakes for granola or bran flakes, white bread for wholegrain and keeping your potato skins on when cooking are just a few cheap and effective ways to achieve this.

Try ‘Meat Free Monday’

Launched by Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney in 2009, “Meat Free Monday is a not-for-profit campaign which aims to raise awareness of the detrimental environmental impact of eating meat, and to encourage people to help slow climate change, conserve precious natural resources and improve their health by having at least one meat free day each week.”

According to the Meat Free Mondays website, “Many of the world’s leading health organisations now encourage a reduction in the amount of meat people consume. The World Cancer Research Fund recommends we “choose mostly plant foods, limit red meat and avoid processed meat”. In 2010, a study carried out by Oxford University’s department of public health found that eating meat no more than three times a week could prevent 31,000 deaths from heart disease, 9,000 deaths from cancer and 5,000 deaths from stroke, as well as save the NHS £1.2 billion in costs each year. Former chief scientific officer Sir Liam Donaldson has said that reducing the UK’s consumption of animal products by 30 per cent [by 2030] would prevent 18,000 premature deaths every year.”

Meat free Mondays are a tasty way to increase your vegetable intake and give your body a break from meat.

At the same time, try reducing the amount of red meat that you consume and in particular cut down on liver and kidneys. Liver, in particular, can increase the body’s production of vitamin A. Too much vitamin A can lead to an increased risk of weaker bones. So, with this in mind, avoid eating too much liver or liver products such as pate (or only eat small amounts).

Don’t Forget To Stay Hydrated

Often overlooked when it comes to a person's diet, fluids are one of the most important factors in maintaining good health. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, it’s important to remind yourself to drink regularly, and aim to do this at least six times a day. Although you can include drinks like low-fat milk, tea and low-sugar alternatives in your fluid intake, water is the best form of hydration.

Among other benefits, water will help prevent dehydration, improve brain function, help increase energy levels and aid digestion.

Aging is linked to a variety of changes, including nutrient deficiencies, decreased quality of life and poor health outcomes which means eating healthy becomes especially important as we get older. Luckily, there are things you can do to help prevent deficiencies and other age-related changes but with all the above, it’s also pivotal to remember that when it comes to changing your diet and your approach to eating during retirement, listening to your body is perhaps the most important thing to do. 

Take note of any positive and negative reactions to food and instead of sticking to the routines that you may have had when you were younger, adapt to your new needs and make the most of our suggested approaches. You may find it’s the best you’ve felt yet!

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