The truth is not all diets are the same. There are so many types of diet plans out there today. Some do work and others can be challenging to keep up with. Yet, finding the one that is right for you is always the primary goal. However, not all diet plans can work for every age group. For seniors, finding the best plan is important because as we get older our metabolism changes. Choosing to go on a diet should not only be to lose weight, it is also a healthy way to stay fit and energetic as we head into the later years of our life.
Below are five of the best diets for seniors. Some are similar to each other, with a few change ups. For example, the Mediterranean diet is mentioned in two of the diets listed below. Whereas Weight Watchers is not a specific type of diet at all but a program to help people get healthy in their own way. Some diets are unsustainable to manage, yet some help keep you healthy and active. To really understand diets is to be aware that most are not meant for long-term practice. Sometimes diets are done for a short goal or specific date in mind. Yet, there are some that can be a lifestyle change seniors can participate in for the rest of their life.
The Mediterranean diet is considered a heart-healthy eating plan, combining elements of Mediterranean’s cooking, according to the Mayo Clinic. The diet consists of foods traditionally consumed by those living off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. There are a numerous number of articles on social media about this diet and is known to reduce the risk of heart disease. The diet can help you lose weight and lower blood pressure for some. It has also proved to be a more sustainable diet and significantly lowers fat intake. The Mediterranean diet also is one the easiest diets to stay on and is recommended as a great diet to lose weight. This Mediterranean-style eating plan can also help prevent the onset or slow down the rate of cognitive decline. Seniors who follow the Mediterranean diet may have a 40 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, preventing mild cognitive impairment (MCI) from progressing. The Mediterranean diet is not as extreme as the keto diet, because of its stronger emphasis on healthy fats and whole foods. It may also reduce the chance of heart attacks, strokes, and cardiovascular deaths in high-risk people compared to those just eating a low-fat diet.
The basic components of the mediterranean diet are as follows:
- Eating a generous number of fruits and vegetables, with a focus on fresh rather than processed foods
- Consuming healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
- Eating small portions of nuts
- Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
- Eating fish or shellfish at least twice a week
- Consuming very little red meat
- Drinking red wine, in moderation of course
- Getting plenty of exercise
If you tried a vegetarian diet before, then the Flexitarian may be appealing to some individuals over 50 years. The Flexitarian diet is basically called a semi-vegetarian diet. Why? Because it takes vegetarian style living and adds meat up to two to three times a week. This type of diet is good for seniors because you are getting plenty of the nutrients needed from fresh veggies, yet still can benefit from an occasional piece of chicken or fish a few times during the week. Red meat is usually limited to once a week with the flexitarian-style diet. Basically, the FD diet is a “flexible” diet plan that is great for those over 50. The reason is because most seniors are not as active as they used to be and may lack some nutrients in their everyday lives. It is also important to cut down on animal products as we age. There has been some research that has found seniors who follow a vegetarian, vegan or semi-vegetarian diet have a 12% lower mortality risk than those who eat meat or at least less amounts of meat throughout the week. Remember, lentils, beans and chickpeas are also a great source of inexpensive plant-based proteins. The Flexitarian diet is also a good way to control diabetes and high blood pressure for older adults.
The Flexitarian diet components include:
- Eat mainly vegetables, fruit, legumes and whole grains
- Eat meat, poultry or fish only occasionally (2 to 3 times a week)
- Avoid processed food as much as possible
- Limit food and drink with added sugars and excessive salt
Weights Watchers is not your normal diet; in fact, it is more of a food program that you can customize to fit your eating style. Weight Watchers is for any age group, so there is not necessarily a food plan specifically for seniors. However, there are many options that may help older adults to eat healthy. Whether you are looking for a vegetarian plan, low-fat pan, or carb control, Weight Watchers has the plan for you. Each diet plan is individualized to your specific needs, and they stress to all their participants that no two plans are the same. The PersonalPoints budget is a new addition to the Weight Watchers program, “designed specifically for you to hit your personal weight-loss goals—all while eating the foods you love and living the way you want.” Weight Watchers also includes a ZeroPoint foods list, making it easier to choose the right foods for each week. The program offers food and water trackers, barcode scanners for easy shopping, and recipe and restaurant databases to help each person decide which meal is the better option while they dine out. Seniors can also add to the Points budget by drinking water, being more active, and eating plenty of veggies. For any senior who is fed up with yo-yo diets and is ready for weight loss that is not complicated, then the Weight Watchers program could be just what you need. Whether you need a self-guided plan, dedicated coaching, or a supported community to lean on, then Weight Watcher is here for you. Weight Watchers offers 1-month, 3-month, and 6-month commitment food plans. Weight Watchers may offer a discount for seniors through your insurance carrier.
The MIND diet combines a Mediterranean-style diet with the DASH food plan. It is a great diet for seniors because of the proactive measures it has on cognitive abilities. The MIND diet actually stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. This type of diet plan can help older adults that are susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease or similar mental illnesses as they age. At the moment there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, yet with the MIND diet, there may be hope in slowing down the effects it has on older adults. This type of diet plan may help improve cognitive functioning for seniors. According to Dr. Martha Clare Morris, who was an expert in nutritional epidemiology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, the MIND diet works best for adults over 58 years of age. Dr. Morris was a pioneer researcher, working on making a connection between diet and Alzheimer’s disease. She did a study that showed the MIND diet lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s by 54%. She also believed that the MIND diet provided many “brain foods”, such as leafy veggies and fruits with high antioxidants, which helps improve cognitive functioning.
The components of the MIND diet are as follows:
- Leafy greens: such as spinach, mixed greens, kale
- Berries: such as dark fruits like cherries, blueberries, blackberries, etc.
- Nuts: at least five servings per week.
- Whole grains: three or more servings a day
- Olive oil: replace butter with olive oil, especially in cooking.
- Fish: at least one serving per week.
- Legumes: at least three servings a week of beans or other legumes (peanuts, peas, lentils).
- Wine: in moderation, a glass of wine a day, particularly red, proves to have cognitive benefits.
TLC Diet provides seniors with a way to cut down on cholesterol, for a more heart-healthy eating regimen. TLC stands for Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes, and it is meant to introduce a diet full of veggies, fruits, breads, cereals and pasta, and lean meats. The diet was created by the National Institute of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program and designed to improve cholesterol levels. Some participants on the program may lose weight, but weight loss is not necessarily the goal. However, most adults will lose about 10 pounds on the TLC diet over the course of a couple months. This is a heart-healthy diet plan for seniors who are concerned about their cholesterol and want to lower their LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. It is believed that the TLC diet is not the best diet when it comes to convenience, due to the fact that it takes work, and you must read nutrition labels. As far as exercise, the program suggests at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise 5 days a week, such as brisk walking. Components of the TLC diet include lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, fish and skin-off poultry. When going out, choose menu items that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
How Each Diet is truly Ranked
As we can see, there are many options for seniors who want to change their lifestyle by choosing to eat healthy. Each one of these five diets can make a difference in the way we choose the foods we eat and get the right amount of exercise. In some cases, these five diets may have similar health benefits as well. For example, the Mediterranean diet and the MIND diet both help reduce the risks of mental decline, including Alzheimer’s disease. Sometimes intermittent fasting is included while participating in the diets. Intermittent fasting is an approach that restricts when you eat, how much you eat, and can possibly be helpful for weight loss, including preventing or managing diabetes. For most people trying intermittent fasting, they should consume no calories for about 14 to16 of a 24-hour period, and eat only between noon and 8 PM, for best results.
For seniors who are not as active as their younger counterparts, eating the right amount of nutrients to stay healthy and strong is essential as we age. For example, some elderly people may have a lack of proteins in their diet. This can cause a risk for lower immune function and osteoporosis. This does not mean your protein needs to come from animal protein. Those who eat a vegetarian or semi-vegetarian diet, such as the Flexitarian diet, may benefit from proteins like lentils, beans, or chickpeas. It has been said that eating a moderate amount of high-quality protein at each meal may stimulate protein synthesis and promote muscle health. Sometimes, it may also help preserve our lean body mass as we age, including preventing weight regain.
Of the above diets, the Mediterranean diet and the MIND diet may be the best option at preventing or managing Diabetes in older diabetic adults. There is so much information on diets online, and it can be very overwhelming for older adults to find the best diet plan. For those that need a helping hand, such as a food coach, then the Weight Watchers meal program may be your best choice. It can make eating balanced meals easy and simpler to stay on. Although there is a price to join, WW does often offer a free trial. For those who are concerned about not getting enough fruits and vegetables in their diet, then the Mediterranean and Flexitarian diets would provide the best food plan. It’s true that fresh fruits and veggies are commonly expensive to buy for seniors on a low budget. So, choosing to buy frozen fruits or vegetables will be a cheaper option. Canned produce is okay, as long as it has no added salt.
Another thing to consider is trans fats. Seniors with high cholesterol should always try to avoid sweet baked goods, due to the high trans fats. Also, considering that older adults don’t burn as many calories as the younger generation, it is highly important for seniors to eat more sustainable foods in their diets. Bottom line, seniors need to be motivated when it comes to dieting. Many of these diets will provide the right motivation and increase confidence when you embark on a new food plan.