Take Charge!

Younger each year through nutrition
By Kathleen Ness, RD

Being healthy is more than just not being sick or disabled. Being healthy means feeling good and having the energy to look forward to another day. Adapting to the many changes that come with aging can be a challenge; but, continuing to look after yourself is an important part of healthy aging.

A healthy diet can’t prevent problems that are part of normal aging, but it can reduce your risk for heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, diabetes and

Food not only affects our health, it is one of life’s greatest pleasures — and whether enjoyed alone or with others, can help maintain the joy of living.

There are four key steps to help you prepare for and enjoy healthy eating.

Step 1 — Getting started
Plan ahead. Revise your favourite recipes to make smaller portions with less fat and salt and more fibre. While you are at it, you may want to consider putting together a family cookbook for your grandchildren to treasure. Look for cookbooks that feature lower fat choices and recipes for one or two servings. Check them out at your local library or bookstore.

Be balanced. When planning your menus, choose from a variety of cereals, breads, other grains; vegetables; fruits; milk products; fish, poultry and leaner meats; and legumes such as dried beans and lentils.

Plan meals to suit your schedule. Perhaps you prefer your large meal at noon or a combination of small meals and snacks throughout the day. The pattern is not important as long as you eat a variety of foods to meet your nutritional needs every day.

Check weekly grocery specials for bargains and plan to buy lower-priced items.

Step 2 — The shopping trip
For many seniors, one of the biggest problems is getting to and from the grocery store. If this is a problem for you, there are some ideas you may want to consider:

Go shopping with a friend or relative. Arrange for a volunteer to drive. Have the store deliver to your home. Arrange for home-delivered meals. Shop on seniors’

discount days or during the week when stores are less busy. Having the time to read labels and comparison shop will help you to choose the foods you want at the best price.

Take the time to compare prices and brands. Save money by buying larger quantities of some items and dividing them into smaller portions to freeze or split with a friend.

Ingredient lists and the “Nutrition Information” section on packaged food can help you make healthier choices. Ingredients are listed in descending order of quantity. For example, if a beverage box lists sugar first, then it contains more sugar than anything else. The “Nutrition Information” section on all packaged foods can be very helpful when making choices based on nutritional value. For example, when comparing the dietary fibre content of different cereals or breads.

Beware of certain claims on labels. For example, “cholesterol free” does not necessarily mean low in fat. “Light” or “lite” does not always mean that the product contains less fat or calories. Sometimes “light” or “lite” describes the colour, taste or texture of a product.

Step 3 — Cooking tips
Make the best use of your time by doubling the recipe and freezing the extra in small serving sizes for another day.

Cut down on salt and try different herbs and spices to enhance the flavour of food.

To save time, try cooking foods in the microwave or use a double boiler to make two parts of a meal at the same time. For example, cook meat or fish in the bottom and pudding in the top.

If arthritis or another condition makes cooking difficult, you can adapt your cooking utensils to make mixing or preparing food easier. Check with your local medical supply stores to find out about the wide variety of modified kitchen tools and utensils that are available.

Step 4 — Bon appetite
Good food deserves company. At times, loneliness or depression may make shopping, cooking and eating hard to enjoy. There are a few ways to put the fun back into eating:

Atmosphere is important. Make mealtime a pleasant time. Take your meal out on the porch, sit near a window, listen to music, watch television, read a book, or go to the park for a picnic.

Share a potluck dinner with a friend.

Enjoy a dinner out in a restaurant or at a local seniors’ community centre.

Start cooking together with some friends. Find a place where a few of you can meet to plan, shop and prepare several meals together. These meals can be taken home and frozen to be used when you don’t feel like shopping or cooking.

Form a local gardening club. Growing food and working and sharing time together in the fresh air can make food more interesting, fun and delicious.

Join a cooking class. Share recipes and ideas.

The last bite
If you need a special diet, contact a registered dietitian for more information. Make the most of your senior years by enjoying regular exercise, good food and friends. Take charge!

For more information, check out dietitians.ca.