How Good Nutrition Can Help Baby Boomers Age Gracefully

What can single Baby Boomer do to age gracefully? Nutrition

“Eat dessert first”.  We’ve all heard this old adage about the way to live a happy life.  While dessert is delicious and shouldn’t be given up, there are other nutritious foods that need to be eaten in order to maintain a well-balanced diet that’ll keep you healthy and looking youthful.

Yes, I confess I was a yo-yo dieter and suffered some bad effects from this practice.  As with all bad habits, it catches up with you.  Quick weight loss isn’t good for your body, especially if you have health issues.  You can read about the latest diet and nutrition fads in both women’s and men’s magazines.  TV has commercials showing before and after photos of celebrities and everyday people touting their products.  Both sexes are concerned about weight and health, but you need to be cautious when it comes to following fad diets or even those that have been around for a long time.  If you look at the fine print for most diet plans, large weight losses aren’t considered average results.  Don’t use diet pills if you take medication for high blood pressure.  Research seems to show different results on how to eat with every study, so don’t trust what you read.  It’ll probably change next week.  Before starting any diet, check with a health specialist who specializes in nutrition.  I’ve found that doctors in general practice and other specialties tell you that they’re not trained in this area.  Here are some of Dos and Don’ts gleaned from a variety of sources and a life-time of dieting.

DO use portion control.  This chart comes from the National Institute of Health.  As you can see, we’re eating much more now than we did twenty years ago and it’s slowing us down and aging us faster.

Comparison of Portions and Calories 20 Years Ago to Present Day
20 Years Ago                 Today
Portion Calories Portion Calories
Bagel 3” diameter 140 6” diameter 350
Cheeseburger 1 333 1 590
Spaghetti
w/meatballs
1 cup sauce
3 small
meatballs
500 2 cups sauce
3 large
meatballs
1,020
Soda 6.5 ounces 82 20 ounces 250
Blueberry
muffin
1.5 ounces 210 5 ounces 500

Use smaller plate sizes to help you control your eating.  Filling a soup bowl with ice cream is a lot different than using a dessert cup.  Since you’re single, you don’t need many family size bowls, so only keep a few for entertaining along with a limited supply of big plates.  Eat your food from small plates and never the container.  Put left overs into small containers for work lunches or freeze for later.  Go to this website for handy wallet and fridge size portion reminders http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthtool-portion-size-plate .

DO use healthy substitutions.  Using fat free unsweetened yogurt for sour cream or mayo or applesauce in baked goods is a great way to reduce fats.  One tablespoon of ground flax seed and two tablespoons of water can be substituted for an egg and has fewer calories, cholesterol and more fiber.  The Mayo Clinic website offers several ideas for substitutions and a link to other nutrition information. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/healthy-recipes/art-20047195.

DO read food labels. The FDA explains how to read food labels, vending and restaurant labeling, nutrition for older adults, proposed food labeling changes and other timely topics at http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm20026097 and other places on their site.

DO look at restaurant menus online before you go out and dine.  You’d be surprised how many calories are in that delicious appetizer, entrée or dessert.  In some states fast food places put their calorie counts on their drive thrus and instore menus.

DO eat breakfast or as I call it brunch. That’s because I’m a night owl and promised myself that I wouldn’t get up early after I retired unless it was absolutely necessary and preferably only for fun activities.

DO eat vegetables and fruits that are in season.  That’s when they’re most flavorful and less costly.

DO indulge in a glass of wine, dark chocolate, low fat frozen yogurt or other treats.  Just don’t overdue.

DON’T be an emotional eater. After a nasty break-up, I taught in Japan for a year where I indulged in too many delicious rice and noodle based dishes.  I also won the school’s unofficial Golden Fork Award for eating the most desserts from the dessert buffet at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, a hotel featured in the movie Lost in Translation.   While in Japan I also reconnected with an old high school flame via the internet.  When I got home and found out he wasn’t as advertised, I drowned my sorrows in Ireland where I downed Guinness and Irish Coffee and ate my weight in buttery scones and jam.  It was kind of my version of the book Eat, Pray, Love without the love, since I did visit a lot of temples and churches.

DON’T eat, watch TV and do other distracting activities-like I did while writing this blog.  Even though it was a nutritious hummus and whole grain cracker snack, I ate more than I intended.  This happens a lot at night during most people’s ‘TV Time’.  While it’s easier to sleep if you’re not hungry, too many fattening bedtime snacks can pack on the pounds.

DON’T just drink your food.  It’s better to eat something that you actually chew than to get your food primarily from liquids.  Chewing actually burns calories and makes me feel more satisfied.  While protein shakes and juice can be nutritious, they’re likely to be high in calories.  Sodas both regular and diet have no nutritional value.  Stick with water.  You can infuse it with fruit slices or squeeze some lemon or lime in it.  Also consider teas.  They “contain antioxidants called flavonoids. The most potent of these, known as ECGC, may help against free radicals that can contribute to cancer, heart disease and clogged arteries.” according to WebMD.  Tea, like coffee, has caffeine which effects the brain and seems to heighten mental alertness.

If you’re having trouble eating healthy and losing weight, joining a weight loss group may help.  I’m a non-active lifetime member of Weight Watchers and an active member of TOPS(Take off Pounds Sensibly).  Both have helped me lose weight and taught me excellent eating habits.  The peer pressure of having to weigh in can be an incentive, as can the support of fellow members.  However, make sure the group is a good fit for you.  You may like the anonymity of meeting with a collection of strangers, but I find the support of a group of friendly, nonjudgmental people is right for me.

There’s so much more that could be covered on this subject.  You can find many additional articles on the internet.  I try to get my information from trusted sources, so remember that everyone has an opinion and different experiences.  Not every eating plan is right for everyone.  You need to tailor yours to fit your needs.  The main thing is to do as Nike says, “Just do it!”  Make eating nutritionally a lifelong habit and you’ll see changes in your lifestyle that’ll give you a longer, healthier life with less pain and more joy.

Join me next week for a discussion on single servings or cooking for one.  Send me some suggestions of your own.  I always appreciate your input here and on my Facebook Page, Single Boomer Life.

Linda Lea

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