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Nutrition Notes

Healthy eating for older women

nutrition month graphicMarch 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. The theme for 2016, “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,” encourages everyone to appreciate the pleasures, flavors, and social experiences food can add to our lives. On March 8, we also recognize International Women’s Day, celebrating the achievements of women. In honor of Nutrition Month and women, let’s take a look at nutrition recommendations for aging women.

It’s never too late to improve your diet! As we age, the benefits of adopting a healthy diet include increased energy, increased resistance to illness, decreased stress, and helping you look and feel your best physically and mentally so you can enjoy your life.

Healthy Eating Suggestions

  • Eat a variety of foods.
  • Balance the food you eat with physical activity; maintain healthy weight.
  • Eat plenty of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, water.
  • Select foods low in sugar and salt.

Many older women need fewer calories than they did in their younger years. A sedentary woman over 50 needs approximately 1600 calories daily, while an active woman needs 2000+ calories.

How much protein do women need? A woman over 50 weighing 140 pounds needs at least 64 grams of protein daily. Select poultry, dairy, beans, fish, limiting red and processed meats. Add beans to soups and stews and snack on nuts, seeds, and yogurt instead of cookies or chips.

Whole grains, fiber, “good” carbohydrates: Many people think they should eliminate carbohydrates to lose weight or control diabetes. Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet and shouldn’t be eliminated. “Good” carbohydrates are high in fiber, help make you feel full longer, and include high fiber cereals, whole grains, and brown rice. Fiber benefits digestive health and can lower your risk of diabetes and other diseases. Other fiber sources include nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.

Bone health: As women are at risk of developing osteoporosis, calcium and vitamin D are crucial for bone health. Calcium sources include dairy, green leafy vegetables, and calcium-fortified cereals and orange juice. Vitamin D sources include sunlight, salmon, and dairy, however supplements are often necessary.

Choose healthy fats, including olive oil, avocado, and salmon, to protect against heart disease.

Don’t eat alone or skip meals. Sometimes it’s easier to eat unhealthy food. Eating with others helps you enjoy meals and eat healthier. As the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests, “How, when, why and where we eat are just as important as what we eat. Develop a mindful eating pattern that includes nutritious and flavorful foods.”

Additional Information

Consider joining us for a meal at one of our dining centers (find a complete list here), or call LifePath to set up Meals on Wheels: 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259.

How is it possible? I have been writing Nutrition Notes for The Good Life for the past 30 years! I’ve written articles on whole grains, vegetarian diets, pesticides in foods, spices and herbs, liquid supplements, eating locally, heart health, sodium, food gifts for seniors, and genetically modified foods, just to name a few. This will be my last article for The Good Life. Thank you for your support over the past 30 years.

I have seen food trends come and go – fat was once perceived as the big evil in people’s diets, and there was no distinction made between good fats and bad fats: fat was bad. Food products were all marketed as low-fat or fat-free. I remember seeing bananas in the store with “fat-free” stickers on them. Today, those same bananas would have a “gluten free” sticker on them since gluten seems to be the current food villain. When I was doing my nutrition training, it was very hard to counsel someone with celiac disease because foods were not labeled as to whether they contained gluten. Gluten-free food products were not available in stores; they had to be purchased through the mail.

Coconut oil is in the news these days. “They” say it can help you lose weight, prevent Alzheimer’s, and treat your psoriasis, among other things. There haven’t been enough clinical studies to verify whether any other these claims are true, but coconut oil is a good skin moisturizer.

Food trends come and go, and scientists are constantly learning more about how various foods and ingredients work to benefit our good health, but there are some constants in the equation. Fruits and vegetables have always been on the top of the good food list and always will be. Try to eat a variety of foods and do so in moderation. Remember to drink plenty of water everyday to keep yourself hydrated. Try to eat foods that have not been too “worked over,” as I like to call it. Read the label – if a food product has ten ingredients, half of which you aren’t familiar with and can’t pronounce, do you really want to eat it?

Local nutrition resources from LifePath

If you are age 60 or older, homebound, and not able to prepare a balanced meal for yourself every day, please call LifePath at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259 to order a hot, nutritious meal delivered to your door five days a week by one of our friendly, caring, Meals on Wheels drivers. The meal includes a protein source, a starch, a vegetable, a slice of whole grain bread, canned or fresh fruit, and a carton of milk. I ate at one of the Dining Centers this week. We had beef/lentil chili, brown rice, broccoli, whole wheat bread, fruit cocktail, and milk. It was delicious. To your health!

Thank you CynthiaBest wishes in your next endeavors, Cyndie!

LifePath thanks Cynthia Rothschild for her long career of providing nutrition education sessions and consultations, nutritional analysis of meals, and advice columns to the many elders, persons with disabilities, and their caregivers and loved ones in our community. 

Learn more about Meals on Wheels, find a Dining Center or Luncheon Club location near you, or check out this month's menus.

A arrangement of fresh fruit makes an excellent holiday gift for a senior.Buying gifts for seniors can be a challenge. By the time you reach a certain age you don’t need any more “stuff” in your life. There are also many seniors who live alone and who may not have the strength to do much in the way of food preparation. Food can be the perfect gift for a senior citizen.

Before you make or buy food for an individual, consider their situation. Is this someone who has difficulty chewing? Nuts would not be a good choice. Is the person still able to do some degree of cooking? Does he or she have any food allergies? Are they underweight or overweight? Are they adventurous eaters who might try something new? Do they have a good-sized freezer where they can keep frozen soup containers?

Here are some suggestions for senior gifts:

Homemade Soup

To keep the sodium content low, use low-sodium broth, or better yet, make your own. Up the protein and nutrient content by including beans or meat in the soup and a variety of vegetables. If your friend is underweight, consider a cream soup to increase the calorie content.

Nut Butters

These are a great source of protein and healthy fats. Include a few different kinds such as Almond Butter, Cashew Butter, or Sunflower Butter.

Nuts and Seeds

Include a variety of unsalted nuts and seeds, such as pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

Whole Grain Crackers

Choose whole grain, low-sodium crackers such as Ak Mak, Kavli, or Ry-Vita (available in most grocery stores), or try specialty crackers, like Kashi or Mary’s Gone Crackers.

Fresh Fruit

Choose fruit that will keep for a while, like oranges or apples, and advise your friend to keep the fruit in the refrigerator.

Dried Fruit

This a great gift because it will keep for a long time and there are so many choices: pineapple, apples, bananas, mangoes, peaches, papayas, and the list goes on.

Homemade Dried Soup Mix

If your friend is able to do some light cooking, these mixes are a good choice. There are many online sites where you can get recipes. You layer ingredients such as dry split peas, lentils, macaroni, dried minced onions, beef bouillon granules, and herbs in a mason jar. You tie a ribbon around the jar with the recipe attached. The recipe may call for some additional ingredients such as diced tomatoes, etc.

You could also make a donation to a local nonprofit organization involved with food and nutrition. Some suggestions include LifePath’s Meals on Wheels Program, Franklin County Community Meals Program, or The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.