Maintaining a suitable weight and activity level into old age is a desirable goal, or rather a set of goals, that include good exercise and dietary habits. You want to maintain good muscle strength and tone, strong bones, flexibility and balance. You also want to eat in moderation, and sensibly. It’s possible to set reasonable goals for very specific reasons, but it’s also possible to be excessive in both positive and negative directions. I’ll try to be brief.
In eating and considering proper nutrition once you are passed seventy, there are some simple ideas to keep in mind. First, most of us need more protein and far less carbohydrate and fat that we are getting. A diet 40-45 percent in protein is not unreasonable especially when linked to a serious exercise regime. This may require 1-2 protein supplement smoothies during the day. However, you can get a fair amount of protein from yogurt, soybeans, other beans, nuts, and fish. In the latter category, there is a preference for fresh salmon, tuna and various other varieties of fish you may be able to get locally. It may cost a bit more, but fish freshly caught is preferable — not fish from fish farms or other commercial fish to which coloring is added. Also, don’t cook fish over coals on a hot grill — the oils drop into the coals and are brought back to the fish after decomposing on the coals into cancer-causing compounds. You can cook up a decent size piece of fish slowly and indirectly on any grill, have some for dinner and save the rest in a sealed container in your refrigerator — add it to salads over the next 2-3 days.
Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits with salads generally for mid-day and evening meals. Stay away from red meat altogether if possible. It has plenty of protein but won’t set well in the long run. Now and then go with a little chicken, but buy it from a local butcher who is likely to have purchased it from an independent farmer rather than a factory farmer. I prefer mainly fish, but chicken is great occasionally for variety. Cook it indirectly on the grill as well. You can marinate the chicken in a little vinegar and olive oil and the fish can be seasoned with a bith of lemon pepper, tarragon and/or dill. You should never add lots or salt to the meats or anything else you eat. The older you get, the more important it is to stay away from red meat.
Most of the rest of the diet should be mainly vegetables and fruits as close to their natural state as you can find them — the best place will be your backyard garden. Grow enough so that you can freeze a lot for winter use. In general, the closer you can get to eating fruits and vegetables staring from the natural state, the better. I almost never eat anything out of a can — especially one with a list of ingredients my 13-year old great grandson can’t pronounce. If you don’t garden, buy a few things from farmer’s markets. Parboil and freeze what you can’t eat right away.
Avoid excess salt, hot pepper salsas and chili peppers. No alcohol and little if any caffeine. Eliminate chocolate, coffee and soda. If you have been used to a high caffeine quota cut back immediately. A cup or two of strong tea early in the morning is best.
Drink plenty of water — a goal is to consume half your weight in ounces of water. If you wieght 200 pounds, that means drinking about six 17-ounce bottled waters each day. A dark, high antioxidant fruit drink like cranberry or blueberry is also great 1-2 times a day when you get used to drinking that much water. I put my dark colored juice into a wine glass and no one is concerned about why I am not drinking something stronger — fact is, they have no idea what I’m drinking.
Fruits and vegetables provide plenty of soluble and some insoluble fiber. IF you add oatmeal to your diet you’ll get a lot more fiber. A good combination for breakfasts during the week is to have oatmeal 4-5 mornings mixed with plenty of fruit, a poached egg on a slide of whole grain toast on 1-2 morings and a whole grain muffin on the last morning of the week. I also like zucchini pancakes occasionally, but most would prefer those for lunch or dinner.
Meals and snacks generally composed as noted above provide a good balance of vitamins and minerals, but some supplements may be in order. I’ll leave that to you and your doctor.
Exercise is also critical and you find it difficult to start when you are old and gray and you’ve already started to siffen up. Make it a habit to do something every day. Walk, do some simple exercises in front of a television (if you have the room). You can use a medicine ball, a Swiss ball or light weights. Think about what you are doing or get some help. If you have a local gym nearby, take a regular class in yoga or Tai Chi. These are great for teaching and achieving balance as well as a calm state and sense of well-being.
In addition to formal exercise routines of all sorts you should cultivate a pattern of activity. At home, get up and move around. Find something to do that gets you off the couch. The TV, computer, or the crossword whill be there when you return.
Finally for cardiovascular and bone density fitness walking every day is the place to start. On a treadmill at a local gym you can be guided to the right level of cardiovascular function, but if you are not accustomed to that, go at it very slowly.
My advice is to plan to do more exercise than you really have time to do. May choices at the start on what you’ll do every day. Then change routines every 1-2 weeks. If you are not used to exercise, go slow in the beginning. Don’t overdo, but as soon as sensible eating and the habits of exercise kick in, you’ll find that you enjoy the routine more and more.