6 Smart Swaps for Healthy Aging
Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD
Feeling your best is a top priority. That’s why you eat right, exercise regularly, and take a daily multivitamin that suits your needs. However, even healthy activities could stand some tweaking now and then to keep them interesting.
You don’t necessarily need to do more to help support your vision, brain, and energy levels, but perhaps you could do some things differently. It’s fun to shake up your daily routine, and it’s even better when it does your body good. Try these smart swaps to take healthy living up a notch
1. Pistachios for pretzels
Ounce for ounce, pretzels and pistachios provide about the same calories, but pistachios supply several vitamins and minerals, including 20% of the Daily Value for vitamin B6, necessary for heart health and energy production. Pretzels are essentially highly refined grains with little else to offer. Snacking on refined grains, including crackers, cookies, and chips, is filling at first, but not satisfying in the long run and may lead to excess calorie consumption.
2. Freekeh for brown rice
Brown rice is a staple of your diet, but why not have some fun with freekeh for a change? Freekeh, made from wheat, has a smoky, nutty flavor, a firm, chewy texture, and five times the fiber of brown rice. A balanced diet rich in fiber better controls energy levels. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, freekeh is rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that support eye health. Freekeh cooks up in about 20 minutes.
3. Salmon for steak
Health experts, such as the American Heart Association, suggest eating fish at least twice weekly for heart-healthy omega-3 fats and for other nutrients, including protein. Evidence suggests that older people may need more protein than currently recommended. It’s important to consume adequate protein every day from foods that provide an array of nutrients, such as salmon. Fish is also a reliable source of iodine, a mineral you need to support metabolism and regulate energy levels. Bake, broil or grill fish to reap the most benefits.
4. Smoothies for snack bars
When the munchies strike, think twice before you reach for a sugary granola bar disguised as a health food. Sugary foods provide a temporary rush but can result in a constant cycle of cravings. The ideal snack includes protein and fiber to keep you fuller for longer.
This banana-spinach smoothie supplies lutein and zeaxanthin to support healthy eyesight; calcium and vitamin D for stronger bones that help you stay active; protein; and one and a half servings of fruits and vegetables.
In a food processor or blender, combine 1 cup packed baby spinach, trimmed of stems, 1 ripe banana, ? cup 1% low fat milk, ? cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt, ? teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 ice cubes, and the sweetener of your choice. Blend until smooth, about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Pour into a tall glass and serve immediately.
5. Spaghetti squash for pasta
Swapping cooked spaghetti squash for pasta helps you include more vegetables and eat fewer refined grains. To cook, cut a small spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and place cut side down in a microwave-safe dish in ? inch of water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for about 10 minutes or longer until fork tender. Uncover, flip over and allow to cool. Remove seeds and pull a fork through the flesh to separate and remove the strands from the shell. Toss with fresh tomato sauce, olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese, or serve as is.
6. Strength training for walking
Walking is wonderful exercise, but you don’t need to do it every day at the expense of strength training. Muscle tissue declines with age and it’s important to preserve as much as possible. Experts recommend strengthening activities, such as lifting weights, heavy gardening, or working with resistance bands, on at least two days weekly. Trade two of the seven days of walking for strength training sessions for a more balanced work out program.