Food for health and fitness is vital in retirement, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have treats. We share tips on ways to enjoy cooking and eating!

A little bit of what you fancy does you good! It’s certainly true that as we get older, giving ourselves regular food treats can be lovely, whether it’s a cream tea or a pie and a pint.

However, when planning for retirement you should never underestimate the positive effect a healthy diet can have. There’s never been a more important time to use food not just for fuel, but also to keep fit and healthy.

This article provides tips on eating well for the over 55s.

The what and why of eating well in retirement
What you eat will have a direct relationship with your ability to stay active. Having large meals or eating too many fats and sugars can cause fluctuations in energy levels, and leave you snoozing in an armchair when you could be visiting friends, walking or pursuing a leisure activity.

Complex carbohydrates release energy slowly during the day, keeping you going for longer!

You will still need proteins to help your body repair and rebuild too, so choose lean meats and include pulses in your diet if possible. Eating eggs and oily fish provides proteins but also Omega 3, which helps ease joints and muscles.

One of the aims of a retirement diet should be including foods that boosts your immune system. Fruit and vegetables are the ideal way to keep up with essential vitamins and minerals. Supplements help, but dieticians always prefer that you get as many as possible from a balanced diet.

Many older people find monitoring their fibre intake is important too, to maintain healthy bowels, and even some “good” fats make a positive contribution to your body’s natural rhythms and movements.

Research and menu ideas
The internet is a rich source of great meal ideas for people in retirement. Many recipes are geared towards smaller portions and manageable preparation.

If you are not a “silver surfer” and don’t want to go online, bargain book stores, charity shops and book stalls at events can help you to add to your collection of recipe inspiration.

Finding meals that tick lots of boxes and look delicious can become a hobby in itself!

Planning ahead
Creating meal plans is a good way of getting organised. It can be particularly helpful if you are cooking for one in retirement. The plan could make you less inclined to slip into bad habits, like skipping meals or relying on unhealthy but quick food.

You can choose healthy items for lots of smaller meals if that suits you better, and this can help you to lose or stabilise your weight too.

It also means you can order shopping in advance, or visit the supermarket, and get everything you need to make cooking straightforward and waste-free.

Experimenting is fun
In retirement, we have more free time to test recipes and unfamiliar foods, to prepare varied and nutritionally balanced meals. The irony is that it can be the time people start to take many “shortcuts”, especially if they live alone. Pre-prepared, processed and snack foods can seem easier, and more palatable if your appetite is shrinking.

Try to not see cooking as a chore. Instead, play around with new ingredients and combinations. You could invite friends round to cook with you or to enjoy the “fruits of your labours” too.

Create a happy space for preparing food
Cooking should be enjoyable, even if it is something you are not super-adept at. A lot depends on your kitchen.

Having one that’s well set out is vital. One of the most off-putting things about preparing food – especially cooking for one in retirement – can be the physical effort involved. Especially standing, reaching to high shelves and “jiggling” with temperamental kitchen appliances.

If you’re moving as part of your retirement plan, look for a kitchen that’s streamlined and includes accessible appliances, and carefully situated cupboards. Having an open plan kitchen, dining and lounge area is handy, as meal prep can be a social pastime; or you can catch up with favourite TV or radio show as you prepare your healthy food.