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Rediscover the joy of eating, preparing meals

Alicia Colombo

By Mary Anna Rodabaugh

Like gas in a car, food is the fuel that keeps our bodies moving. A well-balanced, nutritional diet is essential for overall well-being. Yet as you age, eating may become monotonous. If this is the case, there are a few things you can do to rediscover the joy of eating.

“As we get older, it is noticeable that we lose our hunger and satisfaction cues,” says Morgan Fereck, MS, RDN, LDN, managing dietitian at OnPoint Nutrition, a Philadelphia-based online nutrition company that provides one-on-one counseling. “It is important to fuel your body sufficiently. Eating mindfully and creating awareness about your body’s cravings will be helpful.”

Engaging in mindful eating is simple. Before grabbing a snack or having a meal, ask yourself: “On a scale of one to 10, how hungry am I?” At the low end of the scale, you’re not hungry at all. At the high end, you could eat just about anything. Once you consume a snack or meal, ask yourself a similar question: “From one to 10, how full am I?”
Asking yourself these questions will allow you to better gauge your eating habits. Your answers will determine if you are eating because you are just bored, and therefore, not really hungry, or if you actually need a meal, says Fereck.
As you consume your snack or meal, notice the taste and texture of the food. You can even smell your food before taking a bite, inviting all your senses to participate in the experience. With practice, mindful eating can become a part of your daily routine.

Meaningful mealtimes

Fereck suggests three things older adults can do to break up the monotony of eating while fueling their bodies appropriately. The first is to create a meal plan each week. Having a plan going into the week can help break up cooking habits and prevent making the same meals.

“Oftentimes, this happens because those meals are quick, easy and taste good,” says Fereck. “Looking at what meals you have for breakfast, lunch and dinner each week can help create some space for variety. Try to make each week different.”

A good example may be having oatmeal for breakfast one week, then having eggs with toast and a piece of fruit for breakfast the next week.

Secondly, cook with color. When creating more variety to keep from repeating the same meals over and over, ask yourself, “How can I add more color to my plate?”

This will also boost the nutritional value of your food and help prevent you from having a bland-looking meal. A great and simple switch would be to pair chicken with sweet potatoes and broccoli, instead of rice and cauliflower.
Fereck’s final tip is to turn eating into a social event to help break up routine. “Plan to have dinner with friends or family once a week,” she says. “This will help turn meals and eating into an exciting event, instead of feeling like it’s just something we have to do to stay healthy.” Consider trying a new recipe or having a dinner theme to spice up the menu.

Nutrition guidelines

Ideally, every meal should include this trifecta of nutritional elements: protein, starch and fat. Protein will help preserve and maintain muscle mass, while providing steady energy throughout the day. Starches, or carbohydrate sources, will provide energy, as well as fiber to promotes healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Fat will provide a feeling of satiety (or fullness) after eating a meal. “Fat’s role in the body is to slow digestion so you can absorb the nutrients in the foods better,” Fereck said.

In addition, make sure you are getting enough fruits and vegetables each day. Dieticians recommend that you aim for five combined daily servings of fruit and vegetables. This will boost vitamin and mineral intake along with providing additional fiber. Calcium, vitamin D and potassium are essential for older adults, as these nutrients support bone health and strengthen immunity.

To wash all this healthy food down, be sure to drink enough water. “As we age, we start to feel less thirsty,” says Fereck. “Water and hydration are important to help keep your body’s systems flowing.”

Quick meals

For older adults who enjoy microwavable frozen entrees and snacks, Fereck suggests trying a new frozen meal each time you go to the grocery store. Microwavable dinners have dramatically improved over the years in both quality and options. When selecting a frozen meal, be mindful of the sodium content, aiming for less than 500 mg per meal. You should also choose meals that contain at least 15 grams of protein and include vegetables.

With a little self-check in, mindful eating and a colorful variety of foods, you can transform the daily chore of meal preparation and eating into an enjoyable occasion.

Mary Anna Rodabaugh is a writer, editor and writing coach.

Categories: Food Milestones eNews


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