Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide to South Jersey

Nutrition, Fitness and Making It!

I remember the day my mom got her AARP card in the mail.  She felt as though it were the end of the world.  At the time I was in my teens (yes, Mom was only 45 or so) and I reminded her, "Look at it this way Mom, at least you made it!"

That's right!  Those who are reading this have made it.  It is quite an accomplishment in today's society where we have fast lanes, fast food, and fast tracks.

How can we take better care of ourselves to not only ‘make it,' but feel good and age healthfully too?  As far as eating is concerned- SLOW DOWN.  Eat your meals and enjoy them.  Chew every bite and feel it arrive in your stomach.  Don't eat while you are watching TV or otherwise distracted.  Studies show that people who eat while they are distracted eat up to 50% more then those who focus on the food that they are eating.  Stay out of the fast food joints.  Not to say that you can never join your kids or grandchildren for family night at a restaurant once in a while, but for the most part, eat whole foods (by whole foods I mean foods that are not packaged or otherwise added to by the foodservice industry).  Enjoy all aspects of your food from the outdoor market shopping to the grilling and finally the eating.

When I lecture on what foods to purchase, I always recommend to start with shopping on the perimeter of the store where you can find the produce, fresh meats, poultry and fish, eggs and dairy, and whole grain products.  If you live in New Jersey, chances are that you live near a farmer's market, and now is the time to go.  Rarely can you find foods laden with fats, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, and MSG at your neighborhood farm stand.  If you can't find all of your food for your meal at the market you can make the eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, fresh parsley, corn on the cob, watermelon, eggs, peaches and berries 90% of your meal.  Add some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, brown rice, half-cup vanilla ice cream and you have a healthy, inexpensive, great tasting meal.

I have been asked the question "what foods are really healthy?" many times in my career as a Registered Dietitian.  I like to keep things simple, so here is my rule of 1, 2, 3" one- read the label and if you can pronounce most of the ingredients and say them in one breath the food is probably okay, two-if there is no label on the food it is probably better, and three- if the food is a fresh food and did not have to travel over 100 miles to get to you then it is good for you, the local economy and the environment.

The one last bit of simple nutrition advice I have for you is to really get in touch with what a ‘portion' of food consists of.  For instance, a portion of pasta is one half cup cooked.  Boil up some pasta and put one half of a cup in a measuring cup.  Don't stop there-pour it on to your serving plate.  I believe that most people are amazed by this simple experiment.  For the most part, when we serve ourselves at home or are served in a restaurant, we are getting at least 3 servings.  I don't think that 3 servings of pasta is necessarily bad but if you are following food exchanges or the food guide pyramid and you get 6 grain exchanges in a day then you have exhausted half of those on just your one plate.

Now, as far as activity is concerned - SPEED UP.  I'm not saying that you have to go out and run a marathon or do a six minute mile but what I am saying is turn off the TV and put on your sneakers.  This is a great time of year to start a walking program or find a park near you that has good bike trails.  I am a firm believer in the idea that the more sedentary you are the less likely you are to feel positive about your health and feel motivated to refuel your body healthfully.

Some simple ways to get more exercise and increased energy are to take the steps half of the way up. If your destination is floor 8, take the stairs to 4 and the elevator the rest of the way.  Park where your car won't be dinged and walk the extra 20 spaces to the store.  Do 10 squats while you are brushing your teeth; not only will you firm up your lower body but you might spend more time brushing your pearly whites!   You may have heard some of this before but it's true, each little move really does count. 

My all time favorite quote is "life is uncertain, eat dessert first!" I think that this quote means more than a slice of cake.  Have fun.  Don't eliminate all of your favorite foods but eat them in moderation.  Eat some now and save some for later.  Walk to get your scoops of ice cream or water ice.  Be generally healthy by taking some sound advice.

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