When you were a kid, you could eat ice cream sundaes after dinner every night and not gain a pound. That probably changed by your 30s, but you still had impeccable cholesterol and blood pressure. In your 40s, those health markers are more likely to start slipping.
When you reach 50, you may or may not have reason to be concerned with your health, but you’re definitely starting to think more about it. Now is a great time to adopt healthier habits to ensure you’ll be around for many more decades.
Here are five eating habits that can transform your health after 50:
- Stop distracted eating – When you’re not paying attention to what’s going in your mouth, you’ll probably end up eating more than you should. Just think about how easy it is to polish off a bag of chips while binge-watching your favorite show. You don’t think. You just eat. And the foods we eat while watching videos or Facebooking typically aren’t the best either.
A review of published studies on the subject found that people who eat while distracted will consume a moderate amount more than when they aren’t distracted. Interestingly, those distracted eaters were more likely to eat a significant amount more food at a later sitting. It’s possible that we won’t remember how much we ate in front of the tablet or television, which can cause us to eat more later.
Try unplugging from all technology whenever you eat meals or have snacks. If you can’t do it, you may have an underlying technology addiction. Either way, these things aren’t good for your health, and you should address them.
- Find healthy alternatives to sugar – When you eat too much sugar, it impacts your body’s ability to produce insulin. After decades of eating too much sugar, the body won’t process the sweet stuff as well. This is how so many people develop diabetes in their 50s. About 25 percent of seniors over 65 have diabetes, and this disease was the 7th leading cause of death in 2015.
So whether or not you’re currently having trouble with sugar, it’s a good idea to find healthier alternatives. Stevia is a great natural alternative, but the ultra-sweet flavor takes some getting used to. You can also try raw honey, dates and coconut sugar.
- Eat a balanced breakfast – If you aren’t in the habit of doing this yet, it’s not too late. Breakfast can help prevent weight gain, give you a quick boost of essential nutrients and give you the energy boost you need to start your day. Your body needs glucose to function, and it’s important to refuel in the morning after going hours without eating anything at night. After a 6 to 8-hour slumber, it’s high time you break the fast with a nutritious meal. If you have trouble finding time for breakfast, consider something you can make ahead, like overnight oats. Even a quick protein shake or bar in the morning is better than skipping breakfast.
- Lower your cholesterol intake – Many men and women in their 50s have trouble with cholesterol, meaning that they have too much bad cholesterol. One great way to lower your bad (LDL) cholesterol is to reduce your dietary intake. The way to do this is quite simple. Reduce your meat and dairy intake. And replace those things with plant-based foods. You don’t need to cut out entire food groups, but you can start cutting back on the cholesterol-heavy foods to help keep your LDL cholesterol levels low. If you have meat with every meal, try having just one meal a day without animal products.
- Eat more vegetables – By the time we reach 50, most of us pop a handful of vitamins every morning. But deep down, we know that vegetables are the best source for most of the nutrients our bodies need. Vegetables are the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. And the nutrients you’ll get from eating spinach or broccoli come along with all kinds of good phytonutrients and antioxidants that you won’t find in a vitamin. If you don’t like most vegetables, try making a green smoothie mixed with fruits. The fruit really masks the flavor.
Many diet-related chronic diseases afflict people in their senior years, so it’s important to start creating healthy habits now. Heart disease, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure are all diseases that can be prevented with diet.
Still, it’s not easy to change habits that we’ve had for decades. If you find you’re having trouble sticking to your transformation, try adopting one healthy habit at a time. Maybe you start having breakfast every morning. Do this for 30 days before adding a new habit to your routine. Maybe after 30 days of eating breakfast, you start eating more vegetables or having green smoothies.
These habits can transform your health, but they only work if you do them. Experiment to find a routine that’s right for you.