Let’s eat right

Eileen Luker
Posted 2/24/19

It is here – National Nutrition Month March 2019. National Nutrition Month is an annual nutrition education and information campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It focuses on …

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Let’s eat right

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It is here – National Nutrition Month March 2019.

National Nutrition Month is an annual nutrition education and information campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. National Nutrition Week was initiates in March of 1973. In 1980, it became a month-long observance. 

We are living longer, enjoying energetic and active lifestyles well into our 80s and 90s. Study after study confirms eating well and being active can make a dramatic difference in the quality of life for older adults. You are never too old to enjoy the benefits of improved nutrition and fitness. With nutrient-rich foods and activities with friends, you can feel an immediate difference in your energy levels and enjoyment of life. In fact, as we get older, our food and activity choices become even more important to our health. 

Focus on nutrient density and making every calorie count. As adults age, we need fewer total calories, but higher amounts of some nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. You need to focus on quality rather than quantity. For optimal physical and mental health, older adults need to make each calorie count.

Retired people on limited incomes may have trouble buying enough nutrient-rich foods to meet all their needs. Explore options for senior meal sites like Meals on Wheels, or other supplements in your community. Oneida County will welcome you and get you started on a food program that should work for you. 

Eating right and staying fit are important no matter what your age. As we get older our bodies have different needs, so certain nutrients become especially important for good health. 

Calcium and Vitamin D. Older adults need more calcium and vitamin D to help maintain bone health. Have three servings of calcium-rich foods and beverages each day. This includes fortified cereals and fruit juices, dark leafy green vegetables, and canned fish with soft bones, milk and fortified plant beverages. If you take a calcium supplement or multivitamin, choose one that contains Vitamin D and;

Vitamin B12 many people older than age 50 do not get enough Vitamin B12. Fortified cereal, lean meat and some fish and seafood are sources of vitamin B12. Ask your doctor or a registered dietitian nutritionist if you need a vitamin B12 supplement. 

Eat more fiber-rich foods to stay regular. Fiber also can help lower your risk for heart disease and prevent type 2 diabetes. Eat whole-grain breads and cereals, and more beans and peas — along with fruits and vegetables which also provide fiber. 

The golden years definitely are not the time for extreme diets or drastic weight loss. Your goal should be to eat better while staying within your calorie needs. Fad diets frequently eliminate entire food groups, which can lead to serious nutrient gaps. Rapid weight loss often leads to a loss of lean body mass, exactly the opposite of what older people need for good health. Aim for a stable weight as you get older. 

Enjoy the power of protein. People of all ages need protein for strong, healthy bodies. Some older adults do not get the protein they need to maintain muscle mass, fight infection and recover from an accident or surgery. Chewing protein foods such as meat also can be a problem for some older adults. Here are a few tasty tips to pump up your protein intake, without upsetting your food budget or energy balance. 

Enjoy more beans. Add canned beans to salads, soups, rice dishes and casseroles. 

Make your crackers count. Spread peanut butter on whole-grain crackers and eat them as snacks or alongside soup, chili or salad. 

Pump up your eggs. Mix grated low-fat cheese or extra whites into scrambled eggs. 

Cook with milk. Use fat-free or low-fat milk rather than water to make soup or oatmeal. 

Use dry milk powder. Mix a spoonful of dry milk into fluid milk, cream soups and mashed potatoes. 

Magnesium is an important part of more than 300 enzymes found in your body. These enzymes are involved in processes that help to regulate many bodily functions, including the production of energy, body protein and muscle contractions. It also plays a role in maintaining healthy bones and a healthy heart. It is best to get nutrients, like magnesium, from food sources. Many of the foods that are good sources of magnesium are under-consumed by most Americans.

Foods rich in magnesium include green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts. Milk and yogurt also provide magnesium, as do fortified foods, such as some breakfast cereals. Because magnesium supplements can interact with some medications, it’s important to discuss the need for a dietary supplement with a health care provider before taking one. 

Potassium is also very important for your diet as you age. Increasing potassium along with reducing sodium (salt) may lower your risk of high blood pressure. Fruits, vegetables and beans are good sources of potassium. Also, select and prepare your foods with little or no added salt. Add flavor to food with herbs and spices instead. 

Know your facts. Foods that are low in saturated fats and Trans fat help reduce your risk of heart disease. Most of the fats you eat should be polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which are primary found in nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, and fish. 

Maintaining a well balanced nutrient and calorie diet is important for aging. Follow the March 2019 National Nutrition Month for more tips in promoting your health through diet and exercise as we age. 

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