Nutrition and health go together. After all, it's food that fuels every cell in your body and supports your muscles for strength. Optimizing your diet to maximize your health doesn’t have to be difficult. By focusing on a variety of foods and nutrients, you can help support your strength, and energy.
Here are six strategies to improve your nutrition decisions.
1. Meet Your Daily Protein Needs
Currently, 1 in 3 adults over the age of 50 don't get enough protein in their diet, according to a study from Abbott and The Ohio State University that reviewed data from a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. That's problematic because protein is a nutrient that supports strong muscles and helps keep cells healthy, fueled and working at their best, which is important to keeping energy levels up.
The current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is that adults consume 0.36 grams of protein for every pound they weigh per day. That's approximately 58 grams for a 160-pound adult. But some experts recommend protein intakes up to 1.5 times higher than the RDA for healthy older adults (87 g for a 160-pound adult) or nearly 2 times the RDA for older adults (109 g/d for that same 160 lb. person) who may be recovering from surgery, battling an illness or who are malnourished1. Check with your healthcare provider to determine your individual protein requirement.
Consuming up to 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal (along with physical activity) can help your body optimize the use of protein for muscle building and repair throughout the day. You'll find that much protein in a cup of Greek yogurt with slivered almonds, 4 ounces of salmon or chicken breast about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand. Overall, getting the recommended intake of protein each day can be achieved by eating a wide variety of foods, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, tofu and beans.
2. Make Breakfast a Priority
Breakfast is your opportunity to fuel up and start your day strong. However, it's also the most common meal to miss.
Eating a well-rounded meal in the morning can help replenish nutrients that have been used up while sleeping and help you feel ready for the day ahead. It’s also a great opportunity to get nutrient-dense foods into your diet like eggs, dairy, whole grains and fruit. So, make breakfast a priority.
If your mornings are busy, opt for protein-packed options to grab- and-go. Ensure® Max Protein shakes can be consumed on-the-go and are a nutritious option that deliver 30 grams of protein to help build muscle and key vitamins and minerals to support immune health. With 1 gram of sugar and delicious flavors to choose from, Ensure Max shakes are a great addition to your breakfast routine.
3. Eat Nutrient-Dense Foods
Selecting foods that have a lot of nutrients – like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy products – are a good way to fuel your body. Protein-rich foods like eggs, cottage cheese, edamame, tuna, lentils, almonds and tempeh are other great options with nutrients that support energy and nutrition needs.
The key is to choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across all food groups. Developing healthy eating patterns not only give you energy, they can also help prevent obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
4. Increase Your Hydration
The easiest way to stay on top of your hydration? Drink water regularly. Focus on getting the bulk of your fluids from water, but for variety enjoy low-sugar teas or milk. Electrolyte drinks – like Pedialyte. – are a great option to prevent dehydration from travel, heat, intense exercise or illness.
An easy way to gauge hydration status is to look at the color of urine — the darker that urine is, the more likely a person is to be dehydrated.
5. Be Smart About Your Caffeine Intake
It's no secret that caffeine can make you feel more energetic. But in your quest for a morning pick-me-up, it's also important to think about the other nutrients you're putting in your body. A lot of sweetened and flavored coffee beverages are packed with sugar, calories and fat — but drinking black coffee isn't the only option.
Some milk-based coffee drinks contain little to no fat and no added sugar. For instance, a plain non-fat latte serves up caffeine alongside some protein, calcium and vitamin D.
No latte maker at home? Two flavors of Ensure® Max Protein contain 100 milligrams of caffeine – as much as a cup of coffee. The Café Mocha and Milk Chocolate with Caffeine flavors of this nutrition shake are an easy alternative to your coffee drinks – especially if you don't want the sugar but still want the sweetness and flavor. A single serving has 30 grams of high-quality protein, 150 nutritious calories and 1 gram of sugar.
6. Eat When You're Slightly Hungry, Stop When You're Slightly Full
As simple as it sounds, using your body's own hunger cues can take your energy far. After all, both under- and over-fueling can cause drops in energy.
On a scale of 0 to 10 (where 0 is as hungry as you can imagine and 10 is painfully full), try to start eating at about 4 and stop eating at about 6. This can help spread your nutrient intake throughout the day to keep your energy levels more stable.
Three square meals will help power you, along with one to two snacks per day. It's a good idea to keep convenient, nutrient-rich snacks such as nuts, fruit and string cheese nearby for when hunger strikes.
 USDA and US DHHS. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025.
 U.S. Geological Survey. The Water in You: Water and the Human Body.
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Minding Our Muscles for Immune Health
Our immune system is always at work, protecting against unwanted microbes or infections. And while our immune system is always operating, it is not usually top of mind unless one is sick or trying to avoid a virus. Following good-health guidelines – like eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly and getting adequate sleep – are natural ways to keep the immune system strong and healthy. But should we also be considering our muscle health when thinking about our immunity?