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The importance of eating well and making good food choices!

By Tracy Weincouff, RD

Choosing healthy foods and getting the nutrients you need is important to do no matter what age you are. As a senior, it is especially important. Food provides the nutrients you need as you age and even though you aren’t growing anymore your body still needs certain nutrients to stay healthy. Eating poorly can lead to undesirable weight loss and a weakened immune system which can make you more susceptible to colds, flu and infections.  Some of the benefits of proper nutrition include increased mental capacity/alertness, higher energy levels, better resistance to illness and disease, improve how you feel overall and encourages a sense of well-being. When you have good nutrition you feel better overall and stronger. Food provides the nutrients you need as you age. So what does good nutrition look like?

Eating a variety of foods from each food group will help you get all the nutrients you need. The food groups include fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy foods. Choosemyplate.gov has some great advice for making wise food choices. Fruits and vegetables should make up half of your plate. Focus on whole fruits and vegetables as these have the most nutrients particularly fiber.  Incorporate fruits and vegetables into your main dish, snacks and desserts. Choose a variety of colors to maximize your nutrition. Protein foods include beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and peas, soy products like tofu and unsalted nuts and seeds. Pick lean cuts of meat to decrease fat intake. Vary your protein sources and even try vegetarian main dishes! Protein should comprise about a quarter of your plate with grains comprising the last quarter. Grains can be whole or refined. Whole grains have more fiber and half of the grains you consume in a day should be whole grain. Check the ingredient list and if whole grains is listed first or second, the item is whole grain. Some examples of the grain group include wheat, rice, oatmeal, barley, tortillas, pasta, dry cereal, bread. Dairy should be low-fat or fat-free and includes milk, yogurt and cheese. This group doesn’t have a percentage of the plate because it is typically served on the side or incorporated into the other groups.

It is important to limit saturated fat (fat that is solid at room temperature), added sugars and sodium. Read labels to see how much of these items are in the food. Choose vegetable oils or oil-based sauces instead of ones with butter or cream. Watch what you are drinking as many beverages have added sugars. Water is always a great choice! Choose low-sodium products when possible and limit salt that is added to recipes or at the table. If you are interested in learning more about a healthy diet and how much you should eat, choosemyplate.gov is an excellent online resource or meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.

 

National Nutrition Month

 By Tracy Weincouff, Registered Dietician

 March is National Nutrition Month! National Nutrition Month promotes nutrition education focusing on the importance of making sound food choices. The theme for this year’s National Nutrition Month is “Go Further with Food”. Go further with food by choosing foods that are healthful to our bodies and to the environment. You can “Go Further with Food” by shopping locally. Shopping locally supports local farmers while providing you with the freshest food. It’s a great way to add healthy foods to your diet. While you can find some local foods at grocery stores, the best place to find them is at farmer’s markets. Shopping locally also conserves natural resources because the food does not have to be shipped in from around the US or other countries.

 Another way to “Go Further with Food” is by preparing meals in advance. This can mean preparing several meals on one day to have for the week or it can mean to double the amount of a meal you make so you will have food left over for another meal. You can also freeze extra meals for later. This is a great way to eat healthy, save time and reduce food waste. Also storing food properly can reduce food waste. Reducing food waste, in turn, reduces your food bill. In the US approximately 30% of edible food is wasted. To help decrease food waste, check what you have on hand before going to the store. Only buy how much you will actually eat. Freeze foods that you won’t eat before they spoil. However, keep in mind that although it is important to eat the food you bought, you never want to eat spoiled food. Spoiled or rotten food should be discarded.

 Also during National Nutrition Month is Registered Dietitian Day. This day falls on March 14th and is to increase the awareness of Registered Dietitians and the types of services they offer. Registered Dietitians, also known as Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, have received a degree in nutrition from an accredited university plus completed an internship and passed an exam. These professionals are committed to improving the health of their clients thru sound nutrition. Region 2 Area Agency on Aging in Brooklyn offers dietitian services.

Staying Motivated! By Tracy Weincouff, Registered Dietician

With New Years comes New Year’s resolutions! Every year we all tend to make New Year’s resolutions with the best intentions of keeping them! However, by February many of us have tossed our New Year’s resolution to the side. To help you keep your resolution this year, I am going to discuss some ways to stay on track. Weight loss or healthier eating is a top pick for New Year’s resolutions. Therefore, the following points are aimed towards weight loss and healthier eating, but could be implemented for other types of resolutions as well. The first thing you need to do is plan ahead. When we plan ahead we can see ourselves following thru and we will be more successful. If your goal is healthier eating or weight loss, you should know today what you are eating throughout the day tomorrow and you should have those items on hand. If you wait until you are hungry to decide what to eat, chances are you will not make the most appropriate choices. Planning ahead is crucial!

Keep track of yourself! There are lots of ways to do this. I recommend journaling everything you eat and drink plus your activity for at least 3 months. This can be journaling in an actual journal or using the many different options available to you in the world of technology. There are many different gadgets and apps available that can keep track of what you are eating and exercising as well as other things like your heart rate and even how you are sleeping. I know it can be difficult to get into the habit of journaling or logging your information into a device but after 3 months it will become second nature and it helps you stay accountable!

Make short-term and long-term goals. I always recommend to people to make a goal for the week each week and also a goal for 3 months, 6 months and even a year from now. Having a goal each week gives you something to strive for that you can accomplish in the short term while you are working on your long-term goal. This will help you stay motivated as you see progress on a weekly basis. However, do not beat yourself up if you don’t reach a short-term goal. Reassess your goal and make sure that it was a reachable and achievable goal for the week. One way to do this is to make sure that you set a S.M.A.R.T. goal. This is a goal that is Specific (so you know exactly what you want to do), Measureable (for example, I will exercise 3 times a week for 30 minutes), Achievable (you don’t want to set yourself up for failure by setting goals that are not achievable), Realistic (make sure it is something you can actually do), Time-oriented (set a realistic time frame for your goal). Reward yourself when you hit goals! However, if your goal is food-oriented it is best to have a non-food reward when you hit milestones. This could be something like a new exercise outfit, taking time to read a book or taking the afternoon off to enjoy some time with a friend. If you are finding you are not hitting your goals, re-assess your plans and determine if there are barriers in your way that you need to address.

Another great way to stay on track is to find a friend who has the same goals as you and motivate each other! Keep in mind that if you do fall off track that tomorrow is always a new day with a clean slate to start over. I wish you a wonderful New Year’s and best of luck with your New Year’s resolutions!

Holidays at Home

Each year, Region 2 Area Agency on Aging is able to help some of its participants through our Holidays at Home Program. Through this program our employees collect donations from businesses across the three counties and then purchase gifts for our participants who are in the greatest economic need. Last year we received sufficient donations through the generosity of businesses and private citizens to purchase gifts for over 50 of our participants!

Please consider joining with us in support of those in need in our region by making a cash or product donation that will not only help to provide needed gifts, but also fill unmet needs, provide services for seniors and adults with disabilities, and fund health and wellness workshops for those in our community throughout the year.

Please call Anna Hayes, Program Coordinator, at 800-335-7881 for more information, including donation pick-up arrangements. Or make an on-line donation through our website.