A Plant-Based Diet For The Over 50’s

plant based diet for the over 50's
As you probably already guessed, I’m Vegan and I follow a Plant-Based Diet, I also run, cycle, hike, and do lots of strength training which is why I wanted to discuss a plant-based diet for the over 50’s. If you have read my welcome page, you will have noticed that a few years ago I was very overweight, smoked and had a few health issues. I eventually started a plant-based diet and have never looked back since, which has allowed me to compete in many marathons and ultra-marathon races, as well as put on some great strength gains through strength training workouts. Personally, I put ALL of this down to my change in diet. I want to show you a sample of what I eat day to day and also what I eat to fuel during training and also long runs. By long I mean 4 or 5 hours training or a race over 100 miles, so as you might guess, nutrition and fueling are vitally important.

What is a Wholefood Plant-Based Diet

If you haven’t followed or tried a Plant-Based Diet before, it’s important for me to run through some of the health benefits with you. Anyone giving up meat and dairy for the first time has ideas in their heads of how can you live without these, where do you get your protein, etc. It’s really not that difficult to fuel your body in this way and there are huge health benefits too. The idea of the Wholefood Plant-based diet is that you eat whole foods in their unprocessed form. This includes vegetables, fruit, lentils, nuts, beans, whole grains, seeds and small amounts of healthy fats. It does not include meats, dairy, fish or eggs and avoids processed foods and sweets.

Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

Above everything else, the plant-based diet offers many health benefits.
  • Lower risk of Cancer and Diabetes
  • Helps Lower Cholesterol
  • Lower Blood Pressure
  • Reversal or Prevention of Heart Disease
  • Healthier Lifestyle
  • Better Weight Management
  • More Energy
As you can see, a change in diet can have very positive effects on you and your body. Very important as you get to our age right? I certainly found that when I changed to this diet my energy levels went through the roof and that paid huge dividends with my running and other fitness goals, as well as how I felt in general. For more information on the real health benefits this diet brings, why not check out the ForksOver Knives website and if you get the chance, watch the film – it will open your eyes.  

What are the Food Groups you should be Eating

Plant based Foods for Runners
 The table below outlines the food groups and some examples of the foods within these groups. If you are trying to lose weight then I suggest limiting your intake of fruits and nuts.
Non-Starchy Vegetables Kale, spinach, broccoli, carrots Cauliflower, Asparagus, Green Beans, Mushroom, Onion, Tomato, Garlic, Squash, Peas, Lettuce, Cabbage, Cucumbers.
Starchy Vegetables Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin, Parsnip, Corn.
Fruit Banana, Melon, Apple, Orange, Strawberry, Blackberry, Raspberry, Mango, Pineapple, Kiwi, Pear, Blueberry.
Legumes Chickpea, Lentils, Edamame, Kidney Beans, Black Beans, Pinto Beans, Black-Eyed Peas.
Meat Substitutes (non-processed) Tofu, Tempeh, Seitan.
Nuts & Seeds Almonds, Cashews, Brasil, Walnut, Flaxseed, Sunflower Seeds, Natural Nut Butter.
Whole Grains Oats, Quinoa, Barley, Rye, Whole Wheat, Brown Rice, Wild Rice. Limit intake of  Whole-wheat Pasta, Whole-wheat Tortillas, Whole-Grain Bread and Cereals.
Fats & Oils Avocado, Olives Try To Avoid Too Much: Olive Oil, Flaxseed Oil – eating the Olive is better than the oil.
Dairy Alternatives Almond, Rice and Hemp Unsweetened Milks.

  Do I Need to Take Supplements

 This is always an interesting question. Many of the nutrients your body needs are already in the Plant-Based foods. If you have any concerns, you should always consult your doctor. If you are pregnant or suffer from a Chronic Condition then your nutrient needs may be different.   Outlined below are the main nutrients our bodies require and the foods that can supply those nutrients on a daily basis.

Protein

 The number 1 asked question to any Vegan – ‘where do you get your Protein’  Let’s start by putting a few things straight here.  Protein is in every cell in the body and is used to build and repair muscles, skin, bones and our immune system.
  1. Meat is not the only food that supplies protein to the body. I won’t go into the rights and wrongs of protein from meat in this post.
  2. There seems to be this misconception that we need loads of Protein – we don’t need the levels that some tell us.
Generally, the body needs around 0.35 grams per pound of body weight. So someone weighing 150lb should look at an intake of 52.5 grams per day. I saw 150 grams of Protein quoted for the same bodyweight – that is just ridiculous. It is actually very easy to meet our daily requirements of Protein by eating beans, nuts, seeds, soy, vegetables like spinach and kale along with whole grains. Someone following a plant-based diet easily gets as much, if not more good protein than that of someone who eats meat.

Calcium

 Calcium helps keep bones and teeth strong as well as being important to the function of your heart, muscles, and nerves. Foods that are rich in calcium are Spinach, Kale, seeds like Chia and Sesame. Also, there is Rhubarb, Edamame, Tofu, Almonds, Beans and Pulses.

 Vitamin B12

 B12 is important for your body to produce red blood cells for nerve function. Whilst there are foods like nutritional yeast, fortified cereals, and meat substitutes. Most B12 actually comes from animal foods so this is the one vitamin that Vegans generally should consider as a B12 supplement.

Iron

Iron is a mineral within the blood that carries oxygen so obviously, it is important that our iron intake is correct. Foods that are rich in iron are whole-grains, dark leafy green vegetables, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds. Apparently, the iron from plant-based foods isn’t absorbed into the body as easily as animal-based foods.  However, eating iron-rich foods along with an intake of vitamin C can help the body absorb the iron better.

 Vitamin D

 This is required for strong bones and to help the immune system work properly. One of the best ways to get vitamin D is through sunlight. Now if you are active outside you should be able to get plenty of that, especially in the summer months. You can also get Vitamin D from Soy or Almond Milk.

An Example of My Daily Plant-Based Diet

 A normal day will look something like what I have outlined below. Of course, everyone is different, but as a guide, you should consider this type of portion management for Lunch & Dinner: 
  • 1/2 of your plate is non-starchy vegetables
  • 1/4 of your plate is a healthy grain or starchy vegetable
  • 1/4 of your plate is a plant-based protein
  • You can also consider adding fruit but remember, if weight loss is your goal then limit the fruit. 
Breakfast Oatmeal made with Almond Milk or Banana & Nuts with a cup of Coffee or Banana, Spinach & Pea Protein Smoothie
Lunch Vegetable Fajitas and Avocado Salad or Quinoa Salad, Fruit, Nuts or Potato Salad and Fruit Salad
Dinner Chilli with Wild Rice, Salad, Strawberries or One-Pot Meal – mushroom, onion, pepper, potato with tofu. Kale Salad. or Vegetable Stir Fry with Rice Noodles. Fruit Salad.
 For great recipes you can check out the following sites:  The Diet is simple. You know the foods you can eat, so go ahead and create. The meals are easy and quick to throw together.

How I Fuel for Training and Races

To be honest, I like my food to be simple, especially when I am training and racing. I don’t tend to change things too much as I don’t want any surprises when I’m out. If I’m going on a long run or a race I will have one of two things an hour before I go out. That will either be a bowl of Oatmeal with Banana and a bit of Maple Syrup. Or I will have a Peanut Butter and Banana sandwich.  Pretty boring right? – but it really sets me up right before I depart and it has worked for me for a few years now. During the long run, my main item is Tailwind Nutrition which is an endurance fuel. I simply mix the powder into my water and it supplies me with all the calories and nutrients I need. I take a few sachets out with me on the races and refill at any aid stations. The great thing about Tailwind is that it doesn’t give me any gut problems at all. Unlike Gels that cause people all sorts of issues and are a sweet sticky mess too. It also comes in many different flavours so you should give it a try. The other thing I love to take out during a run is Medjool dates. These are phenomenal and give me such an energy boost if I need it. Of course, with any trail race, there will be checkpoints and checkpoints mean food. There is always plenty of choice with lots of fruit, nuts, cake, and crisps on offer. I only tend to have the fruit and nuts and there is nothing better than a lovely chunk of watermelon when you’ve been out for a few hours.

Summary

Hopefully, this post has given you an insight into a plant-based diet for the over 50’s and shown you how easy it is to plan healthy meals to complement your training. My race-day nutrition is basic, but that’s how I like it.  There is enough to think about when you are going to be out on the trails for hours, or you have a great session planned at the gym. Don’t let your food become something that you have to overthink. Find what works for you and stick to it.

Mark

Hey! Mark here. Welcome to my blog. At the age of 47 I was a 212lb unhealthy mess. At the age of 50, I had run an 86 mile trail ultramarathon and converted to a Plant-Based Diet. I had turned my life around in 3 years. This blog is set up for those of you who want to make that change and I'm here to help.

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