Spring forward into healthy eating for older adults


Spring has sprung! The clock has been set an hour forward. There is more anticipation to the change of season this time around: more people are being vaccinated and the world seems to be slowly re-opening.

Are you ready to spring forward into healthy eating again?

Let us face it. During the lockdown, we worry more, sit more, and feel more lethargic. Our food choices have morphed away from the healthy routine we were used to.

Instead of going into a long list of to-dos, let us focus on a couple of areas where we can make some simple shifts.

Let us start with breakfasts and snacks.

It is common for some adults to feel they have less of an appetite as they get older.

We call this early satiety. The need for adequate nutrition to support a healthy immune system, to promote healing from occasional illness, and to maintain a healthy weight is more important than ever.

Many people find they have a better appetite in the morning, even when they do not feel like having a full lunch. Take this excellent opportunity in the morning to increase important nutrients for the body, and to improve blood glucose control if you have diabetes.

Breakfasts from Good to Great

Nothing welcomes the day better than sitting down to enjoy breakfast in the morning. Prioritize protein foods at breakfast. Modern home breakfasts include breakfast cereals, oatmeal, toast, and fruits. Usually, protein is lacking at breakfast.

Protein is the building block of our body and a key component of our immune system. Studies have shown that consuming adequate protein, along with exercise, helps reduce the loss of lean muscle, especially as people age.

Studies have shown that a higher-protein breakfast helps people maintain a healthy weight, and reduce cravings for sweet foods.

Common protein foods are rich in other essential nutrients to support our immune system, bone health, and energy production. Examples are phosphorus and calcium in yogurt; iron and B vitamins in beef; zinc and selenium in ham, vitamin D and choline in eggs, etc.

Breakfasts Without Spiking Blood Glucose

The high carb content of breakfasts is a problem area that can contribute to a spike of blood glucose for people with Type 2 diabetes.

In a study on people with diabetes published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the group of people eating omelets at breakfast have better blood glucose control, compared to the group eating just oatmeal and fruit.

Three higher-protein breakfast makeovers

Try these small breakfast makeovers and see how you feel the rest of the day.

• Instead of toast, try whole-grain toast with 1 tbsp. of peanut butter.

• Instead of just oatmeal, try hot oatmeal with milk, swirled with 2 tbsps. of peanut butter.

• Instead of breakfast cereals, try 1 egg and 1 slice of ham, or an omelet.

Snacks Shift

Some people do not feel like a full lunch, but would snack in the afternoon sometimes. Beware that many packaged snacks are high in sugar, processed carbohydrates, and salt.

Every snack is another opportunity to shift to more choices that are nutritious.

• Instead of potato chips, try celery sticks with 1 tbsp. of peanut butter.

• Instead of cookies, try a 1/2-ounce of almonds (about 12 almonds).

• Instead of Fig Newtons, try 1-ounce of cheese (4 dice-sized hard cheese) with crackers.

If you are trying to be mindful of calories, here are a few examples of 100-calorie snack choices (source: National Institute on Aging)

100-Calorie Snacks

7- or 8-inch banana

20 peanuts

3 cups low-fat popcorn

1/2 cup low-fat ice cream

1 scrambled large egg

2 ounces baked chicken breast with no skin

1/2 of the average-size candy bar

Follow these tips to make gradual shifts in your lifestyle. Let the spirit of the spring usher in a sense of renewal for your diet and your health.

Written by Cindy Chan Phillips, registered dietitian. Cindy is the contract RD for Oneida County Office for the Aging. Oneida County OFA provides nutrition counseling and education for the Aging and Continuing Care/NY Connects.

Anyone with questions about services and programs for older adults and caregivers, including the Senior Nutrition Program, should call Oneida County Office for the Aging/NY Connects at 315-798-5456.


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