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Healthy Eating As We Grow Older

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Caroline Spencer, site manager for Mid-Cumberland Meals-On-Wheels program, has joined Stacey Bonner, Family Services Coordinator, to discuss healthy food choices, important nutrients, controlling your portion size, and making smart food choices as you grow older.

Begin Transcript

Stacey Bonner:        Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt University Health and Wellness Wellcast.  I am Stacy Bonner with the Child and Family Center.  Eating well is important for everyone.  Your daily food choices can make an important difference in your health and how you look and feel.  Caroline Spencer, Program Coordinator for Mid-Cumberland Meals on Wheels Program has joined me to discuss healthy eating as we grow older.  Caroline, what should a senior consider when making healthy food choices?

Caroline Spencer:     Well, for those adults over 50, some benefits of healthy eating would include increased mental acuteness, resistance to illness and disease, higher energy levels, faster recuperation times, and better management of chronic health problems.  Also, when making the healthy food choices, a senior should try to do this by eating nutritional foods as well as establishing a well-balanced diet.  Some things to remember, you want to avoid skipping meals.  Skipping meals can cause your metabolism to slow down, and this can lead to feeling sluggish and making poor choices  later on in the day.  You want to make sure you always eat breakfast.  By doing that, you want to select high-fiber bread and cereals, colorful fruit, and protein to fill you with energy for the day.  When eating lunch, you want to keep your body fueled for the afternoon with the variety of whole grain breads, lean protein, and fibers.  For dinner, since it is the end of the day, you want to try to keep it on a wholesome note, trying salads or grilled food instead of fried or opt out for sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes, and it is okay to eat snacks.  You want to make it count by choosing high-fiber snacks to healthfully tie you over to your next meal.  Choose almonds and raisins instead of chips and fruit instead of sweets.

Stacey Bonner:        When thinking about healthy food choices, what food should you kind of stay away from?

Caroline Spencer:     Well, at first notion, some foods like vegetable sprouts, fish, and eggs may seem healthy.  However, depending on how they are prepared, these foods may contain germs that can easily make elderly people sick causing food-borne illnesses which then can result into food poisoning.  Some examples of some foods to avoid would be things such as soft cheeses; raw fish; or seafoods such as oysters, clams , and sushi; unpasteurized milk and juices; raw or rare hamburger; and foods that contain undercooked eggs such as unpasteurized eggnog, French toast, raw cookie dough or cake batter.

Stacey Bonner:        Can looking at food labels help when making healthy food choices?

Caroline Spencer:     Yes, actually food labeling is required for most prepared food such as bread, cereals, canned and frozen foods, snacks, desserts, and drinks and a variety of other things.  The food label on the back of package can be a quick and easy tool to help those determine which foods are  healthiest for you.  When comparing similar products, reading the food labels and ingredients can lead to making healthier selections.  So, you always want to read the nutrition facts panel and the ingredients on the back.

Stacey Bonner:        What should a senior or elderly person look for or look at when they are reading the food labels?

Caroline Spencer:     Well, some tips on what to look for when reading the food labels are making sure that you are looking at the nutritional facts panel on the package.  You may notice that sometimes products can claim to be low fat, low sodium, or light, and you wonder if you can really trust their claims, and the answer to that one is yes you actually can.  Products must meet FDA guidelines to make those claims.  When you take a look at a serving size which is usually on the top of the nutrition facts panel, if you are eating more than a serving size listed, you might have to do a quick calculation to get the correct nutritional information for the food you are eating.  The percentages that are listed can show you how much nutrient you will be getting from eating such as one serving of that food.  Lastly, you always want to check out the list of ingredients as this is the most important part of the nutrition facts label and as well as the calories, fat, and sodium per serving.  The American Dietary Guidelines now recommend 2300 mg a day and 1500 mg per day for people with high blood pressure and for those who have other health issues.

Stacey Bonner:        You hear so much about portion size.  People talk about portion size a lot.  How would an individual know if they have the correct portion size?

Caroline Spencer:     Well, a portion size as you may know is the amount of food that you actually eat.  Learning what a portion size actually is and eating that amount can be tricky at times.  If you eat more or less than the recommended serving size, you will either get too much or too little of the nutrients you actually need.  As a guide, you can use your hand and every other day objects to measure portion sizes.  So, for something like one serving size which would be equal to three ounces for meat or poultry, that would be like the palm of your hand or a deck of cards.  One serving size of fish would be equal to the size of a checkbook.  A half cup of ice cream would be the size of a tennis ball.  One service of cheese would be like six dice lying on a table.  One-half cup of cooked rice, pasta, or snacks such as chips or pretzels could be a rounded handful or the size of a tennis ball.  One serving size of a pancake or a waffle would be the size of a CD.  Two tablespoons of peanut butter could be a Pin-Pong ball.

Stacey Bonner:        Thank you Caroline .

Caroline Spencer:     Thank you.

Stacey Bonner:        Thanks for listening.  Please feel free to leave us any comments on this Wellcast by clicking the “Add New Comment” link at the bottom of this page.  If you have a story suggestion, please email us at health.wellness@vanderbilt.edu or you can use the “Contact Us” link on our website at healthandwellness.vanderbilt.edu.

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Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 in Child and Family Center, Wellcasts and tagged , , , ,

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