We all need to eat well at every stage of life. To live life to the full and keep illness and degenerative conditions at bay, a diet rich in fresh foods, fruit, salads and vegetables will aid this at every stage.
Bring in plenty of physical activity according to your needs during the different stages of life, and you can help to assure continued good health into old age. Eating well and exercising regularly will also help in preventing stress and proving adequate satisfying and nourishing sleep, the third and equally important component of ensuring a healthy individual.
General rules of thumb to a healthy diet
Fruit and vegetables must play a significant role in everyone’s diet.
Limiting your fat intake and opting for essential fats in correct quantities will help prevent conditions associated with high-fat and wrong-fat intake.
Protein is also an integral part of everyone’s diet, but not in the high proportions to which so many of us are nowadays accustomed.
Complex carbohydrates, found in vegetables, some seeds and grains, are essential for energy and for a well-balanced diet.
There are many schools of thought regarding order of intake, quantities and how often. ‘Little and often’ is a good guide and philosophy to adopt. Do not overeat and strain the digestive system, especially if you are inactive. It is a good idea to try whatever appeals to you and find the ‘diet’ that works for you and best fits in with your lifestyle.
Parents can play an important role in their children’s lives by ‘training’ them into healthy eating habits from the beginning. So many of us are unlearning the bad habits passed on to us: those habits formed such an important part of our early years they are often hard to shake off, even if we know them to be bad for us. Children learn quickly and well, and seeing you eating healthy food will encourage them to do the same.
As it is important for the children to eat well, so it is for us all. The middle years are perhaps the most significant in terms of our health in the later ‘golden years’. This is the time when the metabolism is beginning to slow down, we no longer have the unlimited energy supplies we had in our youth and we are now realizing that we really do need to take care of ourselves at this stage to ensure good health and fitness in later life.
The foregoing are guidelines that we should adhere to throughout life, making adjustments as detailed later according to the different phases in which we find ourselves.
Throughout life, women have a daily requirement of 2,000 calories. During the last three months of pregnancy this increases to 2,300 calories per day and while breast feeding to 2,400-2,600 calories. It is important that the diet remains healthy during both pregnancy and breast feeding to ensure good health for both the mother and baby.
Tips for a healthy pregnancy
Green vegetables and fruit are musts during pregnancy, to provide sufficient intake of vitamins, folic acid, iron and fiber. Always buy the best quality available, preferably organic.
The need for dairy products increases because of their high calcium content. For those eating dairy products, try semi-skimmed milk, low-fat cheese and yoghurts, ideally organic. For those on a dairy-free diet, calcium-enriched soya milk is a good alternative, as are almonds and sesame seeds.
Eat small amounts regularly to ensure your energy levels remain constant.
Need for protein is high. Fish provides high amounts, plus essential fatty acids. Avocados are a useful alternative for vegetarians, vegans or allergy sufferers. Eggs are full of protein.
Refined of processed foods, junk and fast foods.
Excess salt and sugar in foods, and added to them.
Vitamin A can be harmful in very high quantities, so liver and any products that contain liver should be avoided.
Alcohol should be excluded, or at least limited.
Trying to conceive?
Try to take folic acid supplements for three months before aiming to become pregnant and during the first three months of pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.
Limit or exclude alcohol.
Pre Adolescence (up to 14)
Pre adolescent children are growing rapidly. They need plenty of starchy carbohydrates, like rice and pasta, and calcium rich foods to ensure healthy bones. At this stage children need saturated fats, so avoid low-fat versions; instead, buy organic milk and cheese, for instance. Introduce nuts and seeds into the diet, as they are an excellent source of calcium and essential fats.
Tips for diet in pre adolescence
Limit sweet eating. Try introducing a ‘sweet day’ (or days) when children are allowed to eat sweets – to avoid them becoming a daily necessity.
Satisfy their need for sugar with fresh or dried fruits. For example, children often love white grapes, as they are soft, sweet and very juicy.
Encourage them to drink plenty of water – without anything added! This is a wonderful habit to get children into in their early years and will help to reduce the risk of sugar addiction that sweet and carbonated drinks can help create. Avoiding sweetened drinks will also help to prevent tooth decay – remember that even fruit juices may have sugars added to make them more appealing to children.
Salty, fatty snacks, like fries, should be limited to indulgent treats, like sweets, not form part of their daily diet.
Helping them to understand food (getting involved in its preparation, for example) can be fun for them and will help to increase their awareness about good and bad foods.
If their schools provide meals, make yourself aware of the weekly menu. If they have to have school means, ensure that whatever is missing gets provided in the evening meal or at breakfast, where appropriate.
Calcium still plays a vital role in the diet during this period, as adolescents’ bones are still growing. A healthy balance of foods, with as much variety as possible, is highly recommended at this time. The calorie requirement is higher during adolescence than at any other time, due to the amount of energy expended just living an adolescent life. Males need 2,755 calories and females 2,100 per day.
They will amaze you with the quantity of food they can get through and the extent of their appetites. They need it because they are still growing, going through puberty, studying hard and playing hard, and going through the often troublesome process of transition from child to young adult.
Tips for diet in adolescence
Adolescents often start experimenting with alcohol at this time. Your own habits in this area will come into play now: if you are a moderate drinker, your children will probably follow your lead to an extent. Peer-group pressure – and just the desire for fun – will potentially increase the desire for alcohol and experimentation. Talk to them about this and advise of the possible side-effects and safe limits.
Adolescents’ hunger levels can be at an all time high. Encourage them to eat foods that include plenty of starchy carbohydrates, to provide energy, and limit or cut out junk foods.
All the general recommendations of healthy eating apply throughout adulthood, and healthy patterns established in early adulthood will prove their worth in middle-age and later life.
Tips for diet in adulthood
During this period, taking care of your health well help to advert problems later in life. Exercising regularly and eating well will help you maintain good, consistent and appropriate energy levels.
Get your energy requirements met by eating starchy carbohydrates found in fruit, vegetable and grains.
Limit the amount of fat in your diet.
Establishing healthy patterns for prevention of disease
Bowel problems such as colon cancer can be minimized by eating plenty of fiber-rich complex starchy carbohydrates.
The benefits of moderate drinking (no more than two glasses of red wine per day) are now common knowledge. It is advised, of course, not to go over this amount and certainly not to binge drink. The reputed benefits, to men in particular, include reduced blood cholesterol and lowered risk of heart disease.
To encourage a healthy heart, salt levels should be greatly restricted. Even better; don’t add ANY salt to food in cooking or when raw. This will help to prevent high blood pressure and other heart related problems.
Keep to your calorie levels between ages 40 and 50. This is the time of middle-aged spread, often caused by lack of activity and more indulgence in food. Of course, food can – and should still be – a source of pleasure and socialization. With potentially increases earnings, you can also afford to indulge yourself in luxury foods that are good for your health. It is important to continue to keep physically active to keep your flexibility and mobility at a healthy level. If you have not been an avid enthusiast at the gym, start now! You will enjoy it and appreciate it now and definitely in the future.
The golden years (50+)
As men and women mature, their calorie requirement changes – earlier for women than men. From around the age of 50, women need about 1,900 calories per day up to age 75 and 1,800 from then on. Men on the other hand have a consistent need for 2,500 per day up to about age 60, with a gradual decline to 2,100 per day by the age of 75.
Tips for diet in old age
As you become less and less active, you need less energy from food. Reduce your intake, sensibly maintaining a healthy balance and exercising to retain flexibility, mobility and good health, and avoid weight gain and any degenerative diseases that seem to be the modern-day plague in the Western culture – but need not be!
Everyone should eat a cooked meal everyday – but especially after retirement. Cooked food is easier to digest. Always eat a varied and well balanced diet, rich in fruit and vegetables.
Research shows the biggest reasons for premature aging are being overweight and leading a sedentary lifestyle. People are eating much larger portions of food than they were even just 20 years ago – approximately three times the amount in any serving, in fact. The electronic age means we sit much more than ever before, and hence exercising the body less. We need a wake-up call. It is estimated around 67 percent of Americans are overweight and the figure is rising.