March is National Nutrition Month, a time to focus on healthy eating and sound physical activity habits. The theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month is “Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day.”
Seniors are advised to choose a balance of foods and beverages appropriate for their energy and health needs, rather than continuously opting for one type of food or meal. Dietitians say that the overall pattern of food eaten is the most important focus of healthy eating. Most favorite foods can fit within this pattern if consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with physical activity.
Seniors who have chronic health conditions can manage their symptoms and improve their health by following a planned diet. Even for seniors with no major health issues, food choices can have a significant impact on maintaining wellness throughout their lives. Here are a few tips for developing and following a healthful eating plan that is centered on managing common health concerns for seniors.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans calls a healthy eating pattern “an array of options that can accommodate cultural, ethnic, traditional and personal preferences and food cost and availability.” They advise making about half a plate fruits and vegetables; about one-quarter protein, such as lean meats, black beans and tofu chunks; and about one-quarter grains, preferably whole grains. With each meal, the Dietary Guidelines recommend fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt or cheese.
Examples of healthful menu items from ethnic traditions include:
• Chinese: Stir-fried chicken and vegetables such as bok choy, snap peas, carrots and bean sprouts; brown rice; and a dish of lychee fruit.
• Italian: Minestrone (a hearty, tomato-based soup with beans, vegetables and pasta) with kidney beans; gnocchi (flour or potato dumplings) with chopped vegetables like spinach mixed into the dough and served with lycopene-rich tomato sauce.
Visit www.eatright.org/nnm for helpful tips and nutrition education resources.