- Written by Karen Lentner, MA, RD, LDN
March is National Nutrition Month, a campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to focus attention on healthful eating and developing long-term, sound eating and physical activity habits. This year’s theme for National Nutrition Month is “Celebrate a World of Flavors.” It encourages us to celebrate flavors and cultures from around the world and to appreciate our diversity. We can learn to build a healthy plate incorporating our own traditions and heritage, as well as by incorporating cultural foods and traditions from around the world.
Turmeric, a yellow spice used in many Asian cuisines, is known to have many health benefits including decreasing inflammation, improving heart health, and preventing cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
The foods we eat are often a reflection of our own traditions and culture. The United States has a history of welcoming people from around the world, and our foods, recipes, and ingredients often represent a variety of flavors. You may prefer to eat certain foods because they are familiar to you or they remind you of your childhood and foods you ate growing up. Food may have been the focus or center of family gatherings. Familiarity is important, but perhaps trying new flavors and spices may make healthful foods taste even better!
Many cuisines include foods from each food group, making it possible to plan meals that are well-balanced, nutritious, and flavorful. Choosing a variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups including protein, fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy will help you get all the nutrients you need for good health. When creating healthy meals, try to limit added sugar and salt, saturated fats, and calories. Try to avoid foods that are deep fried, if possible. Lastly, think about portion sizes. Italian culture, for example, may include pasta at both lunch and supper. If you limit your portion size, this can be a healthy choice too. Remember the “My Plate” guidelines by filling half your plate with vegetables and fruit, and the other half with your protein, grains and dairy.
Let’s take a look at a few cultures and cuisines we may be familiar with and build a healthy plate utilizing foods from around the world.
Asian food, including Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indian, etc., has become increasingly popular. Asian food may symbolize longevity and prosperity, and nutritious food choices are plentiful. Consider miso soup as a starter. Miso, made from soybean paste, is a good protein source and is linked to a variety of health benefits including boosting your immunity and improving digestion. It contains probiotics, the good bacteria that supports a healthy gut. Kimchi, Korean fermented cabbage, is also an excellent source of probiotics.
For your main meal, consider entrees that are stir-fried or steamed. Stir-fried dishes are cooked using a small amount of oil and are often loaded with a variety of healthy vegetables and low fat protein sources including chicken, fish, and tofu. Stir-fried dishes are a much healthier choice than deep-fried chicken fingers, crab rangoon, fried rice, or egg rolls, as the latter are much higher in fat and calories. Stir-fried meals are often seasoned with fresh ginger root, a flavorful ingredient rich in antioxidants that reduces inflammation and nausea. Enjoy it in your meals or add it to your tea.
Thai curries and dishes such as pad thai may contain coconut milk, noodles, or oil, which add calories, however they’re also rich with nutrient-dense vegetables and lean proteins, the building blocks of a healthy plate. Traditional Indian food often features yogurt, lentils or dal for protein, Sambar (a spicy lentil and vegetable stew), and kebabs consisting of chicken and vegetables. Turmeric, a yellow spice used in many Asian cuisines, is known to have many health benefits including decreasing inflammation, improving heart health, and preventing cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Eastern European cuisine is also familiar to many of us. A healthy plate may include boiled pierogies filled with potato or cheese, cabbage stuffed with lean beef and rice, hearty sourdough breads with seeds, fresh cabbage, lightly seasoned salads, fermented beetroot soups including borscht, and alternative grains such as buckwheat and barley. Traditional foods may include sausage or kielbasa but should be limited due to their processing, fat, and added sodium.
Mediterranean cuisine includes the traditional cooking styles of Italy, Spain, and Greece. The Mediterranean diet is a well-balanced eating plan that incorporates plenty of plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish, and healthy fats such as olive oil and avocados. Traditional grains include quinoa, faro, and barley. Pasta, including whole grain pasta, is a way of life in Italy, yet it is often made with a few fresh ingredients, including spices, legumes, and vegetables. Adopting a Mediterranean style diet may reduce your risk of cardiac disease and cancer, and improve overall brain function, which is why it is often encouraged due to its health benefits. To fully benefit from the Mediterranean diet or other cuisines, consider lifestyle modifications including exercise, becoming more active, and cooking and sharing your food with family and friends.
This journey may bring some of the many cultures and flavors of the world to mind. During Nutrition Month, I encourage you to embrace global cultures and try new foods and flavors. Add a new exercise to your day. Experiment with seasonal fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and add at least one new seasoning to your spice cabinet. May it bring you one step closer to better health!
- Written by Karen Lentner, MA, RD, LDN, LifePath Nutritionist
Once again the holidays are upon us, the days are getting shorter and colder, and comfort comes to mind. For many, winter brings thoughts of how to stay safe and warm, what comfort foods to buy or prepare, and catching up on projects, books to read, or movies to watch. After the holidays do you also find yourself thinking about New Year’s resolutions? Are they often short-lived because they were never realistic to begin with?
Once the holidays are over, we may have the best of intentions. Maybe you want to lose the 10 pounds you gained last year, exercise or sleep more, cook foods that are better for you, or reduce stress. Often it feels harder to get motivated when it’s dark and cold outside. It’s easier to think about getting in shape when the weather is warm and you have more energy.
If your goal is to maintain or build your strength and improve your health, eating enough protein every day is critical.
Making realistic, clearly-defined goals or resolutions that include a timeline and accountability are more likely to be successful than just saying “I want to eat healthy.” A suggestion for a resolution might be to eat healthier to increase or maintain your strength, to build muscle, and/or to decrease fat. Building or maintaining muscle mass helps support strength and balance and reduces your risk of falls and fractures.
Muscle mass can start to decrease at as early as 30 years of age. Illness, medications, stress, smoking, alcohol, and lack of activity may cause muscle to break down. To maintain muscle mass and strength, it is important to eat enough protein and nutrient-rich calories each day. Engaging in physical activity or exercising regularly is also critical for maintaining muscle mass.
So let’s get back to that resolution. If your goal is to maintain or build your strength and improve your health, eating enough protein every day is critical.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that older adults should strive to get at least 5-6 ½ ounces of protein per day (depending on your size and calorie needs). This is equivalent to approximately 45 or more grams of protein daily. If you are malnourished, or have a specific chronic disease, your protein requirements may be higher, possibly 70 grams per day. Another way to determine your protein needs is to calculate approximately 0.8 to 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for healthy adults.
How do you get enough protein and what are good sources?
Approximately 3 ounces of cooked poultry, fish, or other meat = 21 grams of protein
Tofu, ½ cup = 10 grams of protein
Cheese, 1 ounce = 7 grams of protein
Yogurt, ½ cup = 6 grams of protein
Greek yogurt, ½ cup = 12 grams of protein
Milk, 1 cup = 8 grams of protein
Beans, ½ cup kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc. = average 8 grams of protein
Peanut butter, 2 tablespoons = 8 grams of protein
Quinoa, 1 cup cooked = 8 grams of protein
Brown rice, ½ cup = 5 grams of protein
Egg, 1 large = 6 grams of protein
Almonds, ¼ cup = 6 grams of protein
To meet your protein needs, try to select a variety of foods from the list above and spread it throughout the day in meals and snacks.
Another excellent resolution for the New Year is maintaining or increasing your physical activity. Although we may feel like hibernating, regular exercise is the key to building muscle, good health, and maintaining your independence. It also helps to reduce your risk of chronic health conditions. In order for this goal to be realistic, look for activities you enjoy so that you’re more likely to stick with them. Walking, swimming, yoga (in-person or virtually), chair exercises, dancing, resistance bands, and lifting weights are activities that can be done year round. To help you to be accountable so you stay on track, try to do at least one activity a week with a friend. Consider shopping together in a large grocery store or at the mall, where you can walk freely during the winter months.
Instead of saying you’ll eat healthier or exercise more, be specific. You might start your resolution by saying you will eat at least 6 ounces of protein daily, will consume one serving of fruit and vegetables every day, and will walk for 30 minutes at least 3 times a week. Your goals need to be realistic for you. Make a timeline and try keeping a log or journal to measure your progress until you have successfully met your goals.
Let January be the start of realistic resolutions, where you can see gradual positive and healthy changes. Making better food choices and staying physically active will help you feel healthier and more energetic, and will help keep you motivated to continue building healthy habits into your routine.
- Written by Karen Lentner, MA, RD, LDN
Personalize Your Plate
National Nutrition Month is an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, celebrated in March every year. Its focus is on the benefits and importance of making informed food choices and healthful eating habits. This year’s theme for National Nutrition Month is “Personalize Your Plate.” The goal is for all of us to create a healthy eating plan based on our needs and preferences, and one that is realistic for each of us as individuals. We may know what we should eat and understand the importance of exercise, but how do we make it happen? Start by taking one realistic step at a time!
Eating healthy doesn’t need to be complicated.
Eating healthy doesn’t need to be complicated. Plan and build your meals with a variety of foods, colors, and flavors. As we age, we often think we don’t need as much fluid, protein, or calories as we did when we were young. We may need less calories, however when it comes to fluids, fiber, or other nutrients, our bodies may actually need more. Eating a variety of foods from all food groups helps meet those needs.
Try making half your plate fruits and vegetables as they add nutrients, texture and fiber to your diet. Set a goal of eating 2 or more cups of both fruits and vegetables every day. Select fruits that are fresh, dried, frozen or canned in 100% juice. Add fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables to main dishes, sides, or salads and choose colorful varieties prepared in healthful ways including steaming, roasting with olive oil, sautéeing, or eating them raw. If half your plate is fruits and vegetables, the other half should include lean protein and grains.
Protein is critical for muscle strength and cell repair, balance and preventing falls, and to help you recover from illness. Older adults need at least 6 to 8 ounces of protein daily, ideally from a variety of sources including fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, lean meats, dairy, and nuts. Many protein foods also contain vitamin B12, another necessary nutrient that may be absorbed less due to age or medications.
Pay attention to portion sizes. Whether you’re overweight or underweight, portion sizes matter. Personalize your plate and portion sizes based on what your needs are, with a goal of maintaining a healthy weight. Consider eating small frequent meals throughout the day instead of 3 large meals.
Make at least half your grains whole grains by choosing breads, cereals, and pasta made with 100% whole grains. On food labels, look for 3 or more grams of fiber per serving. Excellent choices include whole grain bread and cereals, oatmeal, brown rice, popcorn, barley, lentils, and quinoa.
Select foods low in sugar and salt. Foods and drinks with added sugars or corn syrup solids add calories and minimal nutrients. Processed or pre-made foods are often higher in sugar and salt. Try preparing your own foods without added sugar and salt, using spices or herbs instead.
Stay hydrated! Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, especially water and unsweetened beverages. Set a goal of 6 to 8 cups of fluid daily to prevent dehydration. If you’re feeling thirsty, you may already be dehydrated.
Balance the food you eat with physical activity. Taking a walk or moving your body after a meal helps maintain a healthy weight and aids digestion.
Experiment with plant-based or vegetarian meals. Meatless meals are often flavorful and budget-friendly. Replace the meat or poultry in a recipe with beans, vegetables, and lentils, or other grains. Start with at least one meatless meal per week.
IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO IMPROVE YOUR DIET! As we age, healthful eating has many benefits including increased energy and resistance to illness, decreased stress, and helping you look and feel your best both mentally and physically so you can better enjoy your life. Whether you want to gain or lose weight, lower your disease risk, or manage a chronic disease, speak with your doctor and consider a referral to a dietitian or nutritionist for help.
For information regarding Grab and Go Meals or Home Delivered Meals, contact LifePath at 413-773-5555.
RECIPE FOR ROASTED VEGETABLES
*1 small onion, sliced
*1 sweet potato, small new potatoes, or combination of potatoes, leave skin on, cut into even-sized pieces, approx. an inch each
*2 carrots, peeled, cut up
*1 large beet, scrubbed and cut
*Brussels sprouts, cut in half
*Cauliflower cut into small pieces
*Broccoli cut into small pieces
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 tsp mixed dried herbs, such as rosemary, oregano, parsley, thyme, pepper, or garlic powder
Preheat oven to 375 degrees, lightly grease a baking sheet. Cut all vegetables into even-sized pieces, about an inch each. *Add or remove vegetables listed above, based on what you have available. Toss root vegetables with olive oil and herbs (salt and pepper optional). Spread in an evenly-spaced layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring and flipping vegetables twice. Cook until tender.
- Written by Lynne Feldman
by Karen Lentner, MA, RD, LDN
As we recognize American Diabetes Awareness Month in November, let’s take a look at our health and what we can do to prevent or even reverse diabetes.
According to the American Diabetes Association, 34.2 million Americans, or 1 in 10, have diabetes and 88 million Americans, or 1 in 3, have prediabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form that occurs when your body doesn’t produce or use insulin efficiently. It is common in people of all ages who are obese or overweight.
Will you get diabetes if it runs in your family? Family history, obesity, and lifestyle do play a role in developing diabetes. It is possible however, to prevent, delay, or even reverse diabetes by making small changes to the way you eat, losing weight, and exercising. Research has shown that making positive lifestyle changes is very effective for everyone, especially older adults. Losing 5% of your body weight may help lower your blood sugars, reduce your risk of developing diabetes, and perhaps reverse it.
If you’ve had a lifetime of struggles with weight issues, where do you begin? Set small and realistic goals that you can live with. Losing weight is important, but keeping it off is the key. Focus on long-term changes. Try limiting dessert to every other day to start (or cutting the portion size in half), and walking around your apartment or home for 15 minutes a day. When your goals become habits, you may feel proud of your achievement and move on to a new goal, perhaps increasing your exercise and looking at additional changes to your diet.
Healthy changes and recommendations include:
*Create a healthy plate with half of your plate containing colorful fruits and vegetables, a quarter whole grains, and a quarter healthy protein. You may include healthy fats (such as olive oil and avocado) and no-sugar added beverages (such as flavored unsweetened seltzer).
*Increase fruits and vegetables. Try cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, plus fruits and berries. Fresh or frozen vegetables and fresh fruits or those packaged in their own juice are ideal. Non-starchy vegetables are low in calories, high in fiber and may be consumed freely.
*Increase fiber. Add high fiber foods to each meal or snack including fruits, vegetables, chickpeas, lentils, beans (legumes), and nuts. Foods high in fiber often have fewer calories by volume of food, helping you feel full for longer periods. A good source of fiber contains approximately 3 - 5+ grams per serving. High fiber carbohydrates are an important part of your meal and a balanced diet is the key.
*Decrease processed foods and added sugars. Limit sugar-sweetened beverages (soda), sweetened desserts, white rice, and flour. Read labels when shopping and avoid products with sugar as the first or second ingredient. Select brown rice, quinoa, whole grains, and oatmeal. Optimal beverages include water, seltzers, and herbal teas.
*Eat less red meat, avoid processed meats. Red meat (beef, pork), bacon, sausage, and cold cuts may increase your risk of diabetes. Select lean chicken, fish, low-fat dairy, and eggs instead.
*Select healthy fats or plant oils. Try olive oil, canola oil, avocado, and Omega-3 fats in flax seeds, walnuts, and salmon.
Remember your goals! Cutting back on calories and increasing your activity are the keys to losing weight and lowering blood sugars. Take a walk around the block after eating a meal, move your arms and legs while watching television, stay active throughout the day. It IS possible to prevent or reverse diabetes, so start your journey to a healthier lifestyle today.
- Written by Karen Lentner, MA, RD, LDN
Has the pandemic affected your eating habits? Are they positive or negative changes? Have you gained or lost weight due to stress or excessive snacking? It’s never too late to get back on the right track.
There are many factors that may influence our food choices, including stress, emotions, your health status, fatigue, the weather, or your income. If you feel any of these factors are affecting the foods and amounts you are eating, it’s time to take a closer look. Are you eating foods or meals that are rich in fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains? Are you eating large amounts at one time or frequently snacking, perhaps due to stress?
Acknowledge your hunger or cravings, and ask yourself if you’re really hungry or just passing the time.
Let’s start from the beginning and think about what you are eating and why. Acknowledge your hunger or cravings, and ask yourself if you’re really hungry or just passing the time. Being aware and mindful, may help you make better choices. Think about what you are eating, why you are eating it, and how it makes you feel. Hunger is your body’s way of telling you it needs food and often those feelings of hunger never really go away until you finally eat what your body needs. Emotional hunger may be a craving for something comforting or sweet, and with distractions, it will often go away. Consider walking, reading, or calling a friend when emotional hunger sneaks in. Overeating, especially foods with high sugar content or caffeine, can increase anxiety or fatigue, the things we are trying to avoid.
Make a plan before you go to the grocery store. Having an idea of what you want to prepare during the week helps limit your shopping time. Look for healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meat, whole grains, and legumes or beans. Autumn is a perfect time to visit local farmers’ markets to take advantage of the harvest and use your farmers’ market coupons. Create your list with items having a longer shelf life including cabbage, potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, winter squash, and cauliflower. Consider melons, apples, pears, citrus fruits, and a variety of frozen vegetables or fruits. Do not use sanitizer, soap, or detergent to clean your produce, simply rinse under cold water and scrub with your hands or a brush. With cold weather on the way, utilize your vegetables in soups and stews, and consider freezing them in individual containers.
Try to have a routine or a schedule that you can stick to. Schedules can help alleviate anxiety and regular meals may help to avoid frequent snacking in between. Avoid distractions during meals, turn off the television, and take at least 20-30 minutes to enjoy the smell and taste of your food. This gives your brain enough time to recognize you’re full. Be aware and mindful of portion sizes and your calorie budget. If you’re going to splurge on a high sugar or calorie item, ask yourself if it’s worth it and make sure it’s something you really enjoy. Enjoy small treats, and avoid having too many available in your home at one time. Think about your selection of treats, and making healthier choices. Consider fresh, frozen, or dried fruits, nuts, raw vegetables and hummus, or peanut butter and crackers. Limit snacking before bedtime for a better night’s sleep and to prevent weight gain.
Taking care of yourself and staying healthy includes making mindful and nutritious food choices. If you are at home with others, try to gather together for at least one of your daily meals. Consider Grab and Go meals from one of our dining centers or call LifePath to set up Meals on Wheels at 413-773-5555, X1230 or 978-544-2259, X1230.