Updated: Dec 3, 2021
When it comes to eating comfort foods, the first thing many people think of is a juicy hamburger and piping hot french-fries. I'm not going to lie, I loved them too, but as I've gotten older I've really had to change my eating habits.
If you're like me, eating healthily after 50 means a few things: first, you've got increase your intake of healthier foods like berries, leafy greens, whole grains and lean proteins. Second, you then need to reduce your intake of red meat and cut out the foods that clog your arteries and also increase your waistline.
So let's take a look of at least 5 Foods to Skip Regardless of Age.
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1. Fried Foods
OK, so you're probably going "DUH" on this one, right? Well, it's the easiest and might be the hardest one. We as humans have a tendency to crave fatty, emulsified, and sugary foods. When we eat them, our brains release dopamine, a brain chemical involved in learning and new experiences. If we like what we taste, it also releases opioids, chemicals that signal enjoyment. Together, these chemicals essentially train us to repeat the pleasurable experience. Basically, our own brains are working against our best interests.
So, what to do? Here are few tips to avoid or cut back on fatty foods.
Frying (think french-fries and onion rings) tends to triple the calories in foods. Try buying an air fryer. Air frying can create the same kind of crisp that you would get in the deep fryer, just without all of the fat. Don't forget, the ingredients you choose to cook and the methods of cooking you use in combination with the appliance determines how healthy the outcome is.
Save your fats for dinner and to avoid them at breakfast and lunch.
Grill your meat instead of frying it.
2. Sugary Drinks
Sugary drinks, or anything with a lot of added sugar, is really not good for us. Like I noted above, we are programed as humans to crave sugary things.
Let's Jump into the "Wayback Machine" (any Rocky and Bullwinkle or Mr. Peabody fans?) and go all the way back to apes that relied on sugar-rich fruit for survival. We are programmed to choose the sweeter (therefore higher calorie) food option because it enhances our energy reserves.
Now that was great back in the day when we might have not known when our next meal was coming, or when we were getting chased by a predator, but today in most cases, food is easier to obtain and we don't need all of those extra calories. Unfortunately, our brains still think we do.
Next time you reach for that soda, sweet tea or some other sugary drink, take a quick peak at the label and see how much extra sugar has been added to it. That one drink could contain all of the daily sugar intake you should have. Try flavored water like HINT or PROPEL or simply just add a slice of lemon, cucumber or lime to water instead.
3. High Sodium Quick Meals
Let's set aside fast food restaurants and the amount of salt you already add to your food and talk about the next elephant in the room, pre-packaged foods. According to Christine Rosenbloom, a registered dietitian and nutritionist and coauthor of Food & Fitness After 50 says, If you think you're eating a low-salt diet because you don't salt your grilled corn or soup, consider that frozen pizza or canned soup you just heated up.
"Seventy-five percent of the salt in our diet comes from processed foods, not the salt shaker,” she says. So what can you do? An easy way to spot low-sodium foods, she notes, is to look for those in which sodium is 5 percent or less of the daily value; anything in the 20 percent range is high-sodium.
Here are a few facts to think about according to the CDC:
Having hypertension puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the United States.
High blood pressure affects everyone, non-Hispanic black adults (54%) non-Hispanic white adults (46%), non-Hispanic Asian adults (39%), or Hispanic adults (36%).
A greater percent of men (47%) have high blood pressure than women (43%).
4. Packaged Foods With Added Sugars
Now you may have thought we were done talking about sugar, but guess again, we're not! As we discussed earlier, added sugars are in drinks like soda and sweet tea, but they're also in things you don't really think of.
Nancy Farrell Allen, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says, "Hidden sugars can be found in pasta sauces, yogurt, granola bars, instant oatmeal packets and breakfast cereals.” Why's that so harmful for older adults? “Excess sugar can put stress on organs such as the pancreas and liver,” Allen says, “which can increase blood sugar and blood triglyceride levels and raise the risk of fatty liver disease.”
Thomas Loepfe, M.D., a geriatrician at the Mayo Clinic, says, “Sugars increase one's risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, the incidence and prevalence of which increase as we age.” And at a time in life when every calorie should be nutrient-dense, “added sugar really contributes to calories we don't need,” he says.
5. Anything Over-Processed
Most of what we eat is processed in some way, but a lot of foods are over-processed or ultra-processed. What does that mean? These foods most likely have many added ingredients such as sugar, salt, fat, and artificial colors or preservatives. Ultra-processed foods are made mostly from substances extracted from foods, such as fats, starches, added sugars, and hydrogenated fats. They may also contain additives like artificial colors and flavors or stabilizers. Examples of these foods are frozen meals, soft drinks, hot dogs and cold cuts, fast food, packaged cookies, cakes, and salty snacks.
Processing changes a food from its natural state. Processed foods are essentially made by adding salt, oil, sugar, or other substances. Examples include canned fish or canned vegetables, fruits in syrup, and freshly made breads. Most processed foods have two or three ingredients.
Unprocessed or minimally processed foods are whole foods in which the vitamins and nutrients are still intact. The food is in its natural (or nearly natural) state. These foods may be minimally altered by removal of inedible parts, drying, crushing, roasting, boiling, freezing, or pasteurization, to make them suitable to store and safe to consume. Unprocessed or minimally processed foods would include carrots, apples, raw chicken, melon, and raw, unsalted nuts.
When reducing your intake of these less healthier food options, remember it's a process, and many people just can't "STOP" and go 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Even a small reduction in the amount of these foods you eat can have a positive impact on your health.
Remember, stay positive, these small changes do make a difference. Yes, old habits die hard, and it may take a while before the new habits kick in. But when you adopt new, healthier habits, it may protect you from serious health problems like obesity and diabetes. New habits, like healthy eating and regular physical activity, may also help you manage your weight and have more energy. After a while, if you stick with these changes, they may become part of your daily routine.