Retirement is a major milestone. It also brings major changes to your routine — and to your diet and nutrition, too.
Proper nutrition in retirement is critical. As we age, our dietary needs change: Our metabolisms slow and our bodies aren't as able to absorb nutrients, according to Dr. Katherine Tucker, professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. It's important to ensure you're getting enough of the right nutrients to help keep your body strong for a long, healthy retirement.
As you near retirement or begin your retired life, prioritize your health and nutrition by following these three tips.
1. Focus on Making Nutritious Meals at Home
Cooking at home is a great way to stay on top of your nutrition while also saving on food-related expenses. It can help you limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce your sodium intake, thus helping to ensure that your body is properly fueled to stay active and fight illnesses. It also helps you focus on portion size, variety and nutrient density, which the National Institute on Aging says is important to meeting your nutrient needs within your calorie limits. You can also gain confidence in the kitchen as you experiment with new recipes.
If you're already in the habit of cooking at home, try making small adjustments for healthy, flavorful meals; the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends seasoning foods with herbs and spices instead of salt. The National Institute on Aging suggests swapping out processed snacks, which can be high in sodium and calories, for nutrient-dense ones such as nuts, fruits and whole grains. And when you're grocery shopping, choose low-sodium versions of items such as canned vegetables and packaged foods whenever possible.
2. Eat Smart When Eating Out
One of the perks of retirement is having more time to enjoy the restaurants you love most and to discover new favorites. And even though someone else is preparing your meal when you're ordering takeout or dining at a restaurant, there are still ways to make good nutrition choices.
Before you head out, see if the restaurant provides a menu and nutrition information online; chain restaurants often provide detailed nutrition information. You could also eat a snack before your meal so you don't go in too hungry, and that can stop you from overindulging.
The Mayo Clinic offers several tips for making healthier choices once you arrive at a restaurant. Skip the bread basket — or just ask the waitstaff not to bring it to your table. Choose a broth-based or a tomato-based soup instead of a creamy soup, and choose steamed vegetables or a baked potato as a side instead of french fries or onion rings.
While a salad might seem like an obvious healthy choice, toppings and dressings can add extra calories, sodium and saturated fats. Ask for a vinaigrette instead of a creamy dressing, and top your greens with a grilled protein instead of a fried one.
3. Get a Boost From Vitamins and Supplements
In a perfect world, your diet would provide all the nutrients you need for a healthy retirement. But many people don't get enough nutrients from diet alone. People over 50 often don't get enough calcium or vitamins D, B6 and B12, the National Institute on Aging says, and these vitamins and minerals are essential for keeping your body strong and healthy.
Your doctor or a dietitian can tell you if you have any deficiencies that vitamins or supplements could help address. There are a lot of different vitamin and supplement manufacturers available on the shelves, so it's also a good idea to ask your medical professional about any specific brands or options they'd recommend.
Retirement doesn't have to throw your nutrition and eating habits out of whack. If you enter this stage of life with a plan to maintain your nutrition in retirement, it'll be easy to make sure that you have the fuel to enjoy it.