Meeting Protein and Fat Requirements for Seniors

The majority of foods contain at least some protein. Foods from animals, such as milk, eggs, beef, poultry, and fish, are highest in protein. Fruits, vegetables, and grains provide less. You can get all the protein you need if you make wise food choices. One 3-ounce serving of meat (about the size of a deck of cards), poultry, or fish provides about 50 percent of your daily protein requirement.

What about protein supplements? They may seem like a quick protein fix, but most nutritionists say they offer few benefits. Protein supplements can be costly, both to your pocketbook and your waistline, since they're expensive and high in calories.

You also have to be careful not to overload on protein; otherwise, you could tax your kidneys, the organs responsible for discarding waste once protein has been digested. That can happen if you add a protein supplement to a diet that's already plentiful in protein.

Protein Power

Below is a list of concentrated sources of protein. Choose low-fat or nonfat varieties when possible.

  • Beef
  • Cheese
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Pork
  • Tofu
  • Turkey
  • Yogurt

Good Fat, Bad Fat

You may be accustomed to hearing that fat is bad, but the truth is you need some fat in your diet to stay healthy. Fat carries the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and components of fat known as essential fatty acids. There are four types of fat: saturated, which is found mainly in animal foods; monounsaturated, which is found mainly in plant foods, such as olive oil; polyunsaturated, which is found in plant foods and in fish; and trans fat, a type of fat formed when normal polyunsaturated fat is put through a process called hydrogenation.

The amount of fat generally recommended -- from 20 to no more than 30 percent of your day's calorie intake -- stays pretty much the same throughout adulthood. Because fat is the most concentrated source of calories (nine calories per gram), you need to control your fat intake. Otherwise you could put on unwanted pounds.

The flip side of that, however, is not to go too low. Extremely low-fat diets (ten percent of calories or less) can deprive your body of the essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins it needs.

Choosing the right kind of fat is the key to staying healthy while managing your calorie intake. Focus on getting fewer saturated fats, which clog the arteries, and more of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats to keep your arteries clean and your heart healthy.

If you can, try to stick primarily with monounsaturated fats. And make sure that some of the polyunsaturated fats in your diet come from fish and flaxseed. Research suggests that these fats may help reduce dangerous blood clotting, prevent abnormal heart rhythms, improve immune function, keep your eyes healthy and your brain functioning properly, fight depression, ease the pain of arthritis, and possibly even reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Avoid trans fat. Not only does it raise LDLs (low-density lipoproteins) --"bad cholesterol" -- but it lowers HDLs (high-density lipoproteins) --"good cholesterol." The trans fat content of foods is listed on the ingredients label. If a food contains "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" oils, it contains trans fat.

Here is a list of foods that are high in saturated fat:

  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Cream
  • Fatty cuts of meat
  • Ground chicken or turkey (if it is not from breast meat only)
  • Ice cream
  • Whole milk

Here are foods that are high in monounsaturated fat:

  • Almonds
  • Avocados
  • Canola oil
  • Olive oil
  • Walnuts

Finally, here is a list of foods that are high in polyunsaturated fat:

  • Corn oil
  • Fish (anchovies, bass, herring, mackerel, salmon, trout, tuna)
  • Flaxseed
  • Safflower oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower oil

Continue to the next page to find out how to meet your daily carbohydrate requirements without "carbing out."