Food & Fitness After 50: Nurturing Others…and, Yourself

Do you have a special friend who is a nurturer and a positive presence in your life? If not, I hope you find someone like my friend, Lisa, who elevates people by her outlook on life and being a champion and cheerleader for her friends and family.

In her early 60s, Lisa spent over 20 years in corporate America and now takes time to take care of her 89-year old mother, teach classes at a local college, and focus on nurturing her spirit by getting back into art and photography. Growing up the middle of three children, her mother tagged her as the “artistic” one. Lisa got her first Brownie camera as a child and took it everywhere, capturing people and places she loved. Art took a back seat to her career, but in 1991 when she moved to Chicago, she enrolled in a watercolor class at the Art Institute, where she met her husband, who was into oil painting. (At their wedding, the comparison to “oil and water” was raised!)
Lisa said she asked herself, “if art is my favorite thing to do, yet I don’t do it, how can I say it is my favorite thing?”

Lisa’s artistry and creativity are at their best at gatherings of friends. Many years ago, we met at a friend’s house in Pennsylvania. Hanging on her wall was a painting of a woman who she named “Shirley.” Lisa got the idea to have the five of us draw our version of “Shirley;” we were all pleasantly delighted when she compiled our drawings and framed the print for us. To this day, we call ourselves “The Shirleys,” thanks to Lisa!

The Shirleys

Lisa’s tips for healthy aging include sage advice for all of us. First, she says find your passion and act on it. Years ago, she heard Deepak Chopra  speak and one of the things he said has stayed with her. “Every day ask yourself three questions: Who am I? What do I want? How can I make a difference? The answers don’t have to come right away, but they will come to you.” For Lisa, she isn’t sure what the answers are, but she knows she wants the answers to be the same. Who she is will be someone who makes a difference.

She adds that a physically active life is also important for healthy aging. She enjoys running, walking, and cycling. But, she says, “don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day of exercise or don’t reach your goals.” She practices what she calls, “the power of now,” or living in the moment and being present for all of life’s experiences.

Lisa has always eaten well, but she admits she used to exercise so she could eat anything, but now she is more thoughtful about her food choices. Preferring local to support local farmers and protect the community, she shops at Farmer’s markets and grows veggies at home.

Lastly, Lisa doesn’t keep a “to do” list. Instead, she starts each day by thinking, “I’m going to feel great today if I do……” She also celebrates the little things in life and encourages us all to enjoy good news when it comes our way, instead of moving on to the next thing.
Lisa celebrates and elevates her family, her friends, and very importantly, herself.

Food and Fitness After 50: Family Meals Month

The Food Marketing Institute Foundation has established September as Family Meals Month. While the campaign is focused on getting families to eat at least one additional meal together each week, let’s look at what a “family” means to adults over 50.

For many of you, your household may be shrinking for many reasons. Maybe your kids are on their own and live far from home, your parents might be in a senior living residence, or you might find yourself living on your own after many years of sharing your home with a spouse. Whatever the reason, Americans are increasingly eating alone. Many years ago, I researched the effect of widowhood on eating behaviors and nutrient intakes and found that widowhood changed the social environment of the men and women, altering the social meaning that eating held for them, resulting in negative effects on eating behaviors and nutrient intakes. Overwhelmingly, the men and women I interviewed said that eating alone decreased the enjoyment of mealtime. Adults who live alone may also lose the desire to cook for themselves.

Since dinner is identified as the most social of all the meals, what can you do to make it more social and healthy? Here are a few ideas to consider:

Infographic FFMHang out in the grocery store. Many food retailers are providing more convenient, at home meal preparation stations, with a recipe card and all the needed ingredients at the point of the demonstration. One of the most delicious meals I never planned to make, came from watching and tasting a cooking demonstration at a local Publix. I called my sister and her daughter and stopped by her house on my way home to make broccoli cheese stuffed chicken with peach cranberry casserole. An unplanned event that was memorable, delicious, and social.

• Try an at home meal delivery kit. Many like HelloFresh have free trial offers to get you back in the kitchen. Invite a few friends or neighbors over to get them in on the kitchen action and to share in the delicious meals.

• Start a supper club; just like a book club, but with better food.

Sharing meals is more enjoyable than dining alone, and cooking costs less than dining out. So, for family meals month, make some new friends, meet a new neighbor, or bring old friends together to share a meal, a laugh, and good nutrition.

Visit Chris Rosenbloom’s website to learn more about healthy aging and ask a question about food and fitness. Her new book, along with co-author, Bob Murray, Food and Fitness After 50 is available for pre-order at Amazon.

 

 

 

Why this dietitian encourages you to eat well, move well, and be well

In a yoga class (or, as instructor Tina Howard calls it, “YoFlex”), we were in a stretching pose on our backs, legs reaching up to the ceiling, and flexing our feet, when we were told to write our favorite age in the air with our outstretched foot. I thought for a brief second before writing sixty-six, my current age. There, I did it, I outed myself! But, although my brain thinks, “wow, 66 sounds old,” I believe that getting old is a privilege that not everyone gets to do. My father died in his early 50s, and we all have family and friends who did not get to enjoy a long life. So, instead of moaning about getting old (I really hate the expression “senior moment”), I hope that you celebrate growing old with grace and don’t chase a fountain of youth. We might want to believe in the power supplements that promise to turn back time, stop memory loss, improve aging skin, retard chronic disease, and achieve world peace (ok, just kidding about that last one), but we all know it is a scam. It is human nature to look for the quick fix, the easy cure, but we all know that what we eat, how much we move, and adopting healthy habits is the only way to age with grace. But, food tastes good and exercise is hard; much easier to think that a pill can fix our ills.

Many of you know that Bob Murray, exercise physiologist and all around good guy who is aging gracefully, and I have a book coming out in October called Food & Fitness After 50 book-front-page(and thanks to our family and friends who have pre-order the book on Amazon! And, if you haven’t seen it yet, here is the link). We present a lot of real world scenarios from people we have talked to over the years who want to eat well, move well, and be well, but are not always sure how to separate nutrition and exercise fact from fiction. We use their stories to illustrate the book’s content.  And, I am constantly inspired by the 50+ adults in my community and my friends around the country who are living a healthy, active life. Every Tuesday, I will post a conversation with some of these friends and family members who I hope will inspire and continue to motivate you to be the best you can be at every age.

So, watch for their stories (you might recognize a few folks) and if you have a burning question about food or fitness for those of us over 50, leave your question here and we will answer it on the website with a personal response, too. Access the question box through this link Question box.

 

Why this dietitian promotes healthful eating and exercise for those over 50

When talking about food and fitness for those over 50, it is the best of times, and sometimes the worst of times. Everyone want to know the ”best” exercise or food to eat to prevent aging. A quick Google search will provide you with many answers, unfortunately most of them are less than science-based and are usually trying to separate you from your money. Let’s be clear: there is no one superfood or exercise that will prevent aging.

That is why, I am excited to launch Food & Fitness After 50, with co-author, exercise book-front-pagephysiologist, Bob Murray. The book will be published later this year. While there might not be a “best” exercise or food, that doesn’t mean that food and fitness are unimportant as we age. You can be healthier at 65 than you were at 45 by eating well and starting (or increasing) your physical activity. This is important because so many of us are living longer. Baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, began turning 65 in 2011 and by 2029 when all boomers will be 65, more than 20% of the population will be over 65. Why is 65 an important number? Because people reaching age 65 have an average life expectancy of 19.3 years (20.5 years for women and 18 years for men). How do you want to spend those 20 years? Do you want to travel, enjoy your favorite physical activities, and be a vibrant person in the lives of your grandchildren and great grandchildren? I am sure that we all want that, so being active and eating healthfully are steps you can take right now to increase your odds of being healthy into your later years.

Just this week, The Journal of the American College of Cardiology published an article on nutrition controversies in preventing heart and blood vessel disease. The article can be found here  http://www.onlinejacc.org/content/69/9/1172?_ga=1.183783078.1620905078.1488293025 and here is an easy to guide to see their recommendations.

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While their article focused on heart disease, our book covers many healthful eating patterns to keep your heart, bones, joints, blood sugar, blood pressure, and brain healthy. Remember there isn’t one “best” eating plan. So, we feature four plans that we think most older adults will find fit their lifestyle and their enjoyment of foods:

  • The DASH eating plan (DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)
  • The Flexitarian plan
  • The Mediterranean Diet
  • The MIND diet (MIND stands for Mediterranean- ASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay)

We also dive into exercise for endurance, strength, agility, balance, and functional fitness. Keeping our heart and lungs strong, halting muscle loss, and keeping agile all contributes to functional fitness….the ability to do the things you did when you were younger without a second thought. I want to be able to lift my suitcase in the overhead bin when I travel and pick up a 50-pound bag of dog food, all examples of functional fitness. Age-related muscle loss usually starts at about age 40. We can lose 10-15% of muscle mass and muscle strength every decade if we don’t engage in progressive, resistance exercise.

We hope that our book can help those over 50 learn to separate usual aging from the disuse of a sedentary lifestyle and sort out the fact from fiction about foods. Please visit our webpage to learn more about the book and leave us a question that you might see featured in an upcoming blog post. Web page for Food & Fitness After 50

 

 

 

 

Calcium and Vitamin D are still important!

The Institute of Medicine Report was published yesterday and I watched the national news outlets do the report a disservice–those darn sound bites just can’t capture the complexity of the report. (The complete report can be found on the IOM website http://www.iom.edu/).

The report concluded that there is not enough evidence to increase the recommended intakes for vitamin D or calcium but that is far from saying that we don’t need these 2 critical nutrients for bone health. Most people don’t get the recommended amounts of these nutrients in their diets but that message was lost in the reporting. I would not want women of any age to abandon their efforts to get calcium from their diet or supplements. I always recommend food first and there are more foods with added calcium–from orange juice to breakfast cereals–available in the grocery store. A recent study looked at calcium intake in post menopausal women and found that dairy foods were the number one source of calcium for white women but grains contribued the most calcium to the diets of black women.

Older women who don’t get enough calcium should use calcium citrate supplements–they are better absorbed than calcium carbonate supplements as we age. But, more isn’t better and I think that is what the report was trying to stress.

The more controversial part of the report was on Vitamin D; this nutrient is also crucial for bone health–nobody disagrees with that–but there are also claims that this sunshine vitamin also plays a role in diabetes, heart disease, auto-immune diseases and some cancers. It is not surprising to me that the report did not find a strong link with Vitamin D and other disorders because the research is emerging and no conclusions can be reached. Science moves slowly but the media reports every little study as if a cure for every disease was as simple as popping a supplement. The hype is often well ahead of the science.

So, don’t throw away your supplements–make sure to get adequate, not excessive, calcium and vitamin D in your diet and then add what is missing from supplements. Remember that supplements are meant to supplement diet–not replace it.

Food Trends Recognizing Aging

I was excited to see that one of Mintel’s 2011 “megatrends” is recognition of the demographic shifts and the aging workforce.

http://www.foodnavigator.com/Financial-Industry/Demographic-shifts-to-determine-food-trends-in-2011-Mintel

Today’s food products are geared toward the youth (think energy drinks) but Mintel predicts that more products will be targeting “vitality and health” for those of us who are older. And why not, given that the number of us in the U.S. aged 45 to 64 who will reach 65 over the next 20 years has increased by 31% in the last decade. Baby boomers are more likely to be active, too. The Health Club industry says adults age 55+ comprise a quarter of health club memberships. From 1998 to 2005 those over 55 joined gyms–33% increase from earlier years while the 18 to 34 year old age group showed no increase.

Here is my wish list of products that I would like to see the food industry develop and market to older adults:

  • Half loaf of whole wheat bread (I can never finish a whole loaf of bread and bread just doesn’t freeze well)
  • Sports drinks with lower carbs (4% range) without being sickly sweet with fake sugars (older adults were diluting sports drinks long before sports drink makers came up with “light” versions but those are still too sweet tasting. This reminds me of Dr. Randy Eichner, retired team doc for the University of Oklahoma Sooners, who encouraged Gatorade to make a drink for older adults and call it “Later Gator.”)
  • Lower sodium everything products while at the same time increasing potassium; both nutrients are important for managing blood pressure.
  • Yogurt with more calcium and vitamin D. At a recent food conference I tasted Yoplait yogurt that is being introduced soon and it will have 50% of the daily value for calcium and vitamin D–great job. Most people are surprised to learn that only a a couple of yogurt brands have any vitamin D. And Greek yogurt (which I love) has more protein than regular yogurt, but less calcium and no vitamin D.

We might be “older, lower, and slower” (a slogan used by some master athletes who pole vault at senior games) but we have the financial means to purchase food products that help us stay vital and healthy.

Joys of Pomegranates

Until this weekend I had only enjoyed pomegranates in a pomegranate martini. That changed when my sister brought me a bag full of pomegranates from our neighbor’s pomegranate tree. I didn’t even know that this fruit grew in Georgia! I dug out The Essential Eating Well Cookbook (350 recipes from that great magazine, EatingWell) to figure out what to do with, what the Food Lover’s Companion calls “nature’s most labor-intensive fruit.”

The fruits were ripe and laden with ruby red seeds and juice. It took a lot of work to get some juice (6 pomegranates are needed for 1 cup of juice) and I barely got a cup of juice, but did harvest hundreds of seeds (a testament to the part of the name “grenate” for many-seeded.)

Pomegranates are loaded in antioxidants–those helpful compounds that fight diseases like cancer and heart disease. The longer we live the more damage from oxidation can occur in the body (like rust on on old car) so eating foods rich in antioxidants is a smart move for those of us who have a few miles on our bodies. Antioxidant supplements have not proven to be as effective in fighting disease as researchers had hoped, but eating foods rich in antioxidants has many benefits. These foods tend to have the whole package for good health: low in calories, low in saturated fat, high in fiber, vitamins and mineral, and loaded with antioxidants. Pomegranates are also high in potassium, a mineral that can help lower blood pressure.

I made 2 dishes with my pomegranates–a chicken tagine (a Moroccan-inspired recipe from the Eating Well cookbook) and a dessert with apples and pomegranate seeds. The chicken dish used both pomegranate juice (which I had to supplement by using POM Wonderful juice) and seeds for crunch and a tart flavor burst. Both were yummy and I saw no empty plates from my dinner guests.

This special fruit is only available October through December, so try it for yourself and enjoy the taste and nutrition of pomegranates this fall.