Food & Fitness After 50: Thank You for Your Service

Aging is a different adventure for everyone.”

Brenda Richardson, MA, RDN, LD, FAND

How many times have we thanked a military veteran fro their service? Service is in Brenda Richardson’s DNA…literally. Both her parents served in WWII and service to country and community was distilled in her at an early age. Now in her mid-60s, she is a respected authority in service to the nutritional health of the aging population. In 2019, she was the recipient of one of the highest honors in the nutrition community, the Lenna Francis Cooper Memorial Lecture. I wrote about her lecture (click here for the post) and was excited to interview her on two fronts: one on the challenges currently facing loved ones in long term care facilities and second, to get to know how she eats well, moves well, and stays well on her personal aging journey.

Military Matters

Brenda didn’t start out thinking she would be working in long term care. Instead she started out as music major at the University of Florida. “Financially, college was a challenge, so I auditioned for the army band and became a member of the Adjutant General’s Corp,” she begins. The Adjutant General’s Corp is a branch of the U.S. Army specializing in human resource administration, finance, postal services, music, and recruiting and retention. As a member of the military band she enjoyed travel and service but realized that as much as she loved music, it wasn’t going to be her full-time career. She used the GI bill to go back to college and just by chance she took a nutrition course. She was hooked by nutrition and got a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and institution administration from Western Kentucky University. She completed her path to becoming a registered dietitian by interning at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Back on active duty in the Army Medical Specialist Corp, she worked at Fort Benning and Fort Campbell as the chief of clinical nutrition.

After her second stint in the Armed Forces, she left military service to take a position as the coordinator of food procurement and nutrition education for the Jefferson County Public School System located in Louisville KY that supported approximately 160 schools.  While she enjoyed the work in schools, she was drawn to consulting in long-term care facilities and it didn’t take long to transition from school-aged kids to aging adults. As the coordinating director of nutrition for a large LTC corporation, she worked with over 300 nursing centers and 60 hospitals. In 1999, she opened her own business to become an independent contractor in long term care facilities. “It took me 5 years to build the business and I grew my skill set in learning to be my own boss. So many people helped me along the way and I still cherish the mentors, colleagues, and friends who guided my path,” says Richardson.

Challenges of Residents in Long-Term Care

In the introduction, I said I wanted her input on the challenges faced by those of us with family in long-term care during the pandemic. My mother-in-law celebrated her 90th birthday in May and the party we planned was downsized to a visit through the assisted living window. That’s Lila in assisted living in the photo to the right.

“Food is a quality of life issue for those living in any long-term care facility. Food is emotional, comforting, and reassuring and holds great power for all of us. Residents look forward to meals for the social interaction mealtime brings and to assert their independence. During the pandemic, when communal dining was restricted and residents were eating in their rooms, it took a toll on their physical, social, and mental health,” says Richardson. “Each resident has a different relationship to food and staff in the facilities learn to know what residents want to eat, where they want to eat, and what food means to them.” It truly takes a person-centered approach to support meeting their needs. As for the nutritional aspects, yes, nutrients are important, but unless there is an urgent medical reason, we shouldn’t be too restrictive with the diet for residents. When one is 90 years old, we want them to eat, we don’t want to be restrictive.” (Her comments reminded me of a wise physician I worked with who used to say, “when I see a patient who is 80 years old, I ask their advice.”)

I asked her about the frustrations of family who are unable to visit their loved ones because of the pandemic and she replied, “it is a difficult time and research shows that social isolation and loneliness can erode physical and mental health. Stay as connected as you can by phone or video chats, trust that they are being taken care of by staff but check in frequently by phone or email and hold staff accountable.”

Eat Well, Move Well, and Be Well

Now in her mid-60s, Brenda is looking forward to sharpening her professional skills by branching out in a new venture. To do that she knows the importance of taking care of herself, not just others. “I try to eat a balanced diet and I’ve been interested in the MIND diet (MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurogenerative Delay; we wrote about the MIND diet last year, click here for the post). I eat plenty of fruits and veggies and I’m trying to get protein at all my meals. As a Southerner at heart, I love peanuts and peanut butter, but I’ve discovered PB2 protein powder to get the protein from peanut butter without the extra calories. I love it in Greek yogurt for a high protein meal or snack.”

As for movement, “it is a challenge when you job requires sitting at a computer most of the day, and especially now, I feel more tied to the computer than ever. But I never say quit, so I keep moving as well as I can. I have a lot of arthritis from previous injuries, but walking, gardening, and woodworking keep me busy, both in body and mind.”

To be well, it comes back to service. “I’ve always been an active volunteer in my professional life and the more I serve, the more I get back. I also focus on faith and spirituality to stay well.”

Three Tips to Aging Well

Brenda leaves us with these three pieces of advice for optimal aging:

  • “Know you are. It is never too late to develop your own personal mission statement to provide focus, accountability for decisions and to better discover your sense of purpose in life.
  • Stay physically, mentally and spiritually active. Keep moving! Embrace change that is positive for you.
  • Treasure your family and friends every day and embrace them.”

 

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

Food & Fitness After 50: Lean Pork for the Protein Win

(Disclosure: The National Pork Board sent me a meal kit to try a lean pork dish. However, they did not ask me to write this post and I was not compensated to do so. As with everything I write, these are my opinions.)

We often talk about the importance of getting adequate protein as we age. In a recent post, we talked to three protein experts and the consensus is that older adults should aim to:

  • eat nutrient-rich sources of high-quality protein at every meal
  • ensure adequate protein to repair and replace proteins in the body
  • choose meats, fish, eggs, and dairy foods for highest quality protein (while vegetable proteins are popular, they are lower quality than animal proteins)
  • spread protein foods throughout the day.

One way to accomplish these goals is by choosing lean meats, like pork loin. Pork is a versatile meat that checks all the points listed above. It is no surprise that pork makes an appearance on many global tables. From soul food to Hispanic dishes, to summer grilling and holiday meals, pork is often the centerpiece.

Choose nutrient-rich protein

Pork is a nutrient-rich meat of high quality, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids needed for muscle repair and maintenance. It is recommended that older adults get about 30 grams of protein per meal…sounds like a lot, but easy when lean meat is part of the diet. A 3-ounce serving of lean pork has 24 grams of protein. Check out the serving sizes of other proteins that you would need to eat to equal 24 grams of protein.

Pork is also a rich source of vitamins and minerals needed for healthy aging: vitamins B1, 2, 3 (also called thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin), vitamins B6 and B12, and the mineral selenium. And while there are fattier cuts of pork (hello, bacon), there are 8 cuts of pork that are lean by the USDA definition (less than 10 grams of total fat, less than 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per serving). Pork tenderloin and pork sirloin roast are leaner still. An easy way to remember to choose lean cuts of pork is to look for the word loin or chop in the name.

Even for those who are eating a plant-forward diet, animal foods do not have to be eliminated. Using small servings of meat can enhance the protein in a meal while still including lots of veggies, fruit, and grains.  You can see from my plate, that meat takes only a portion of the plate while veggies cover more than 2/3rd.

Safety First

Folks of my generation were afraid that under-cooking pork would give them a food-borne illness, so we overcompensated by overcooking. Overdone, leathery pork is not good! But, with current pig farming practices and safety inspections, we know that cooking pork to the proper internal temperature of 145⁰F (ground pork should be cooked to 160⁰F) eliminates any risk for food-borne illness. After it reaches the correct temperature, remove from the heat and let it rest for 3 minutes to preserve the juices. I always use a meat thermometer to ensure I don’t OVERCOOK the meat.

Setting the Record Straight

There are some other concerns people have about pork, or more specifically raising pigs. I reached out to registered dietitian, owner of Farm to Form Communications, and 5th generation South Dakota pig farmer, Charlotte Rommereim, to set the record straight on a few persistent myths.

Myth #1: All pigs are raised by “big ag” who care little for animal welfare.

“There are over 67,000 pig farms in the United States today.  Those pig farmers raise pigs in a variety of different ways based on their area, their farm’s history, and available resources and labor.  No matter the size of the farm, type of housing or pig farming practices, good animal care remains important to all pig farmers.  Through the over 100 years of pig farming on our family farm, we have changed the type of housing used, and I have seen good animal care practiced no matter whether they were housed in small huts like my grandfather had or indoors in the barns we built in 2005 and 2018,” says Rommereim .”

Myth #2: Raising pigs is bad for the environment.

“Pig farmers are continually improving their practices and have reduced their environmental impact over the last 50 years while continuing to have the best in animal care.  Research at the University of Arkansas showed a 75.9% reduction in land use, 25.1% less water, 7% less energy use, and 7.7% fewer carbon emissions from 1965-2015.”

Myth #3: Pork is full of hormones.

“NO, I repeat NO, hormones are used in raising pigs,” reports Rommereim. “Growth hormones are prohibited in raising pork or poultry. There is no advantage to the pork product labeled “no hormones added” as this is true for all pork so please don’t spend any extra money to have that on your label.”

I also asked Charlotte what she thinks about including pork in the diet for an older adult. Her reply echoes what was said earlier in the post. “Pork is an economical, versatile, and lean, nutritious protein choice for the older adult.  It can bring the familiar with a pork chop dinner or be the protein choice for a new taste experience.  Pork is the most popular protein in the world so you can take the opportunity during the pandemic to “travel the globe” by trying new pork recipes.  Pork pairs well with other food groups making it easy to have a healthy plate, for example pork stir fry with vegetables, or grilled peaches with pork tenderloin.” For another Powerful Pairing with pork, consider pulses, also called dried beans and peas. Pulses are unique and are counted as both a vegetable and a protein-rich food. The link to the Powerful Pairing website contains some great recipes, so give them a try.

Rommereim adds, “As a dietitian, I recommend the 8 great cuts of pork that meet the USDA criteria for lean including my favorite pork tenderloin.” She also stressed cooking to the proper temperature of 145⁰F for “tender, tasty, and safe pork.”

Her favorite recipe? “There are many on this website”and Charlotte adds, “I enjoy pork tenderloin a variety of ways, from a grilling with a simple dry rub of spices to stir frying with vegetables after a quick marinade.  I can get a nutritious meal on the table in a short amount of time. Like many, I struggle with meal planning and this fits my more spur of the moment decisions for a healthy meal.  When I have more time, my favorite recipe is one our family enjoys featuring pork tenderloin and our favorite summer fruit, peaches.”

Grilled Peaches and Pork

One- approximately 1-pound pork tenderloin

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, divided

2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice

3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 large peaches, peeled, halved and pitted

4 cups salad greens

1 teaspoon turbinado or granulated sugar

Combine 2 Tablespoons vinegar, juice, thyme, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Reserve 1 Tablespoon juice mixture. Pour the remaining juice mixture in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add pork, seal and marinate in the refrigerator for 1/2 to 1 hour, turning occasionally.

Place peaches, cut sides up on a plate, drizzle with remaining 2 Tablespoons vinegar.

Place pork on grill; grilling on each side, cooking until pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Set aside to rest.

Place peaches cut sides down, on grill; grill 4 minutes or until soft and slightly browned.  Turn and cook for 2 minutes or until heated through. Cut each half into 4 slices.  Cut slices of pork for serving.

Drizzle salad greens with reserved 1 Tablespoon juice mixture, tossing to coat. Divide salad greens evenly among 4 plates. Top with grilled pork tenderloin slices and peach slices; sprinkle evenly with turbinado sugar.

Yield: 4 servings

And, here is the recipe in the video that was sent courtesy of The National Pork Board.

Cherry Balsamic Pork Chops (Recipe from HelloFresh)

2 6-ounce center cut pork chops

1 small shallot, chopped

5 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

2 Tablespoons cherry jam

1/3 cup water

½ teaspoon sugar

1 Tablespoon butter

Salt and pepper

Pat pork dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in large pan over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook until browned, about 4-6 minutes per side. Use meat thermometer to measure temperature and when it reaches 145⁰F, remove pork chops from pan and set aside.

In the same pan used to cook pork, add another drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add shallot; cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes. Add vinegar; simmer until slightly reduced, 30-60 seconds. Add jam and 1/3 cup water. Cook until thickened, 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and up to ½ teaspoon sugar to taste. Turn off heat. Stir in butter until melted. Return pork to pan; turn to coat in sauce.

Yield: 2 servings

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: The Menopause Diet Plan

I am often asked what diet plan is best for managing the short and long-term symptoms of menopause. So, I was excited when two of the best in the profession, both personal friends and colleagues, authored a new book, The Menopause Diet Plan, A Natural Guide to Managing Hormones, Health and Happiness available TODAY, September 8! I preordered my copy as soon as I heard about the book, but I reached out to the authors to answer some of your questions about menopause.

First, meet the authors. Elizabeth (Liz) Ward and I met years ago through volunteer work for our professional association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Liz writes an awesome blog, Better Is the New Perfect (there is a link on her website to sign up and receive an email when she publishes a post) and a top-notch recipe developer. She is the author of Expect the Best: Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy and is a mom of three daughters.

Liz introduced me to one of her best friends, Hillary Wright, who is a mom of three sons. Hillary is the Director for Nutrition Counseling for the Domar Center for Mind Body Health in Waltham, Massachusetts and she has a part time position as a Senior Nutritionist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Hillary has written two books, The PCOS Diet Plan: A Natural Approach to Health for Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and and The Prediabetes Diet Plan: How to Reverse Prediabetes and Prevent Diabetes through Healthy Eating and Exercise. They teamed up to write The Menopause Diet Plan.

 Question: You’ve been friends for a long time, and you have authored other nutrition books. What made you decide to collaborate on this book and on this topic?

 Ward starts the conversation: “We met in college and became friends, and we went to the same school for our graduate degrees. We share a lot in common on our outlook on women’s health. At this point in our lives and as we experienced perimenopause and menopause, it just seemed like the right time to work together.  We both feel strongly about the importance of midlife nutrition and other beneficial lifestyle habits for women as they reach their 50s and beyond.”

Wright agrees: “As registered dietitians with expertise in women’s health – and good friends since college — Liz and I have often batted around ideas on how we might collaborate.  When as we entered menopause it triggered many conversations about what we were experiencing, including what was “normal.”  In the process of trying to educate ourselves we found that resources for this life phase were sorely lacking, and realized we’d finally landed on our collaboration idea.  And it was a personal as well as professional decision.”

Question: Menopause has been medicalized as a disease therefore women seek treatment and often find lots of “cures.” How did you approach the topic of menopause and what one piece of advice would you give to women as they approach menopause?

“Menopause is often referred to as a “transition” for a reason, and the transition begins earlier than many women think,” says Wright. “Hormone fluctuations and accompanying symptoms roll out over a period of years, generally starting in the mid-40’s, so this is a great time to start talking to your health care providers about what is “normal,” and what to be on the lookout for.  For example, one of the biggest concerns for women as they approach midlife is weight gain. Research shows most women start accruing a little extra fat starting in their 40’s, related to body composition changes and hormone shifts through the perimenopause years. This is the best time to pay attention to your eating and exercise habits to help curb the weight creep and decrease in fitness.”

Ward agrees. “There is no “cure” for menopause, but there are ways that women can help themselves feel better during perimenopause and after menopause occurs.  My advice is to start talking openly about symptoms – to friends, to health care professionals, and to family – so that they better understand what is happening and what can be done to reduce symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and weight gain. Think of the menopause transition as an opportunity to get educated about what’s happening in the body and how good nutrition, regular exercise, stress reduction and other lifestyle habits can help you feel your best.”

Question: There are real body composition changes that occur during menopause…how do you balance that fact with helping women who are fearful of gaining weight as they age?

Ward has empathy for women going through changes, and she reveals that she gained 10 pounds during perimenopause.” I don’t think any woman escapes some weight gain with the run up to menopause and in her later years. I understand the fear that a woman might have, but armed with the facts, it’s easier to understand why weight gain and body composition changes happen, and how to keep weight gain to a minimum. Weight control during midlife and beyond is not about taking drastic measures; it’s about learning how to eat better in a way that’s right for you. Focus on eating for health, not for the scale.”

“Hopefully, with age comes the wisdom that we can’t micromanage everything about our body,” adds Wright.  “Weight gain around menopause is not solely related to declining estrogen; there are many other factors that affect body composition around midlife, some of which are controllable. Women often face many stresses and it is impossible to avoid the stress of demanding jobs, caring for kids still living at home, or the caregiving needs of aging parents, but we can decide take time out to eat healthfully, trade in some Netflix time for physical activity, or seek support around the things that are the biggest stressors. Some weight creep through these years may be the reality for most women, but prioritizing self-care can go far towards mediating how much weight is gained.”

Question: It seems that women seek relief for the acute effects of menopause (hot flashes, sleep issues) but might ignore the more consequential long-term health problems (increased heart disease risk, bone health, cognitive health). Can you give me the top line nutrition plan that will help with both short-term and long-term health issues?

 “We developed The Menopause Diet Plan to address weight control; protect bone health, brain health, heart health; and to help women feel their best. Our eating plan uses the latest research to address the prevention of type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and more. It’s a plant-based (but not animal-free) way of eating that includes the nutrients you need to help prevent and manage long-term health issues,” says Ward. “In doing our research we were happy to learn that the same plant-based diet and lifestyle strategies that lower risk of many chronic diseases may also help manage menopausal symptoms,” adds Wright. “Studies show that, along with regular physical activity, eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes, and limiting added sugars, alcohol, ultra-processed foods, and many animal foods, may improve sleep, curb hot flashes, and increase energy levels.”

Both Ward and Wright recognize that there are women who eat well and stay active yet still have hot flashes or suffer too many miserable sleepless nights. “But aiming for a diet that is high in fiber, encourages more plant-based proteins and healthy fats, and is loaded with disease -fighting anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants checks many boxes for avoiding long term health problems like heart disease and diabetes.” Another advantage of a plant-based diet is that high fiber foods are more filling which can curb the appetite and control excess calorie intake. “Our plan makes plant-based eating easy by offering simple suggestions to promote balance at meals, while also encouraging women to budget in small portions of their “foods for fun” so they don’t feel like they’re “dieting,” says Wright.

Question: Tell me about the recipes in the book…and thanks for sharing the recipe for Lazy Lentil Soup (I can attest is delicious!)

Ward, known as a creative recipe developer, says, “Recipes reinforce the concepts in The Menopause Diet Plan and they show readers how they can easily enjoy delicious and nutritious foods.  The recipes are healthful…low in saturated fat, rich in plant foods, and free of added sugar. They are practical, everyday recipes that women can make for themselves and for their families because they are healthy and delicious.” Wright and Ward developed all of the recipes for the book and Wright adds they also include some family favorites that have passed the test with their husbands and kids.

Question: What do you do to eat well, move well, and be well?

Wright makes exercise a daily priority with outdoor activity her favorite (despite living in a cold Massachusetts climate). “Cycling and walking are my go-to activities and I also take strength training classes and yoga at a local gym.” She adds, I grew up in a house with two siblings with Type 1 diabetes so I fully attribute my healthy, plant-based eating habits to my mother who made it happen at the dinner table every night, and my mom and grandparents who taught me how to cook at a young age.  It takes a village!”

Ward says she used to focus on aerobic exercise but has started to do more weight training to preserve muscle mass. “I work out 6 times a week, walk the dog every day, and generally try to stay active as much as possible. As for eating, I follow the principles in The Menopause Diet Plan – lots of plants, whole foods, and seafood. I also eat a treat (usually chocolate) every day. I don’t weigh what I did when I was 25, but I’m healthy and I’ll take it!”

The Menopause Diet Plan gets a 5-star rating in my book! I always enjoy books written by qualified health professionals based on science, not speculation. And, with 25 recipes and resources for more information, it is a woman’s guide to good health.

Lazy Lentil Soup

Makes 4 servings.

Lentils double as a vegetable and protein source, and using the canned kind gets this soup on the table in about 20 minutes. (Hint: make a double batch and freeze half!). Pair with yogurt and fruit for a complete meal.

2 tablespoons olive or canola oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 large carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch pieces

½ teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup cooked lentils, canned or fresh

1 15-ounce can no added salt fire-roasted tomatoes, not drained

1 ½ cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups, packed, raw baby spinach

½ teaspoon salt

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and carrots, and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the thyme and continue to cook until the carrots are fork-tender.

Add the lentils and broth and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes over medium heat.  Add the spinach, salt, and black pepper. Stir until spinach is wilted. Serve warm.

 

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Coffee with Ted Kyle of ConscienHealth

Meeting Ted in Budapest

I have coffee every morning with Ted Kyle, founder of ConscienHealth. Not literally, but his thoughtful commentary arrives in my email box every morning and I read it as I sip my morning coffee. Seven days a week, Ted produces an insightful commentary on issues surrounding obesity. His goal is to provide sound science to health professionals and consumers to foster solutions to obesity prevention, care, and research. He started ConscienHealth in 2009 and his influential work now reaches more than 20,000 readers around the world.

I’ve admired Ted for his passion, dedication, and commitment to contributing to solving complex problems. After hearing him speak at a conference earlier this year, I examined some my biases about obesity and wrote about it for this blog (click here for the post). It is one of my most shared posts so it must resonate with many people. I wanted to learn more about Ted’s journey to becoming a tireless advocate for obesity and health and gain some personal insights into how he eats well, moves well, and stays well.

Question: I know you as a respected obesity expert and founder of ConscienHealth. Before that you were a registered pharmacist and then worked in the pharmaceutical industry. How did you start on that path and how did you end up developing ConscienHealth?

Ted explained, “in high school I had a part-time job in my hometown pharmacy, and I enjoyed both the science of pharmacy and the interactions with a variety of customers. I also enjoyed creative pursuits, like photography, but a degree in pharmacy seemed a viable profession to earn a living and to help people along the way.” He pursued a 5-year program in pharmacy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and found time to take some courses to feed his creative side. Journalism and photography classes led him to writing and editing college publications and he landed an internship at Eli Lily in marketing. “My internship combined my love of science with communications and as soon as I graduated with my degree in pharmacy, I decided an MBA would help further my career.”

He landed his first job with a large health care company doing market research. “It allowed me learn about new product development and introduced me some giants in medicine.” One of those giants was Trudy Elion , a pioneering female scientist who developed breakthrough drugs for leukemia, for organ transplant rejection, and for viral infections. Elion earned the Nobel Prize for her work in drug development in 1988.

As his career continued, Ted ended up in Pittsburgh, working on drug development as well as rapid, convenient testing for HIV. One of the drugs he worked on was Orlistat, a medicine to augment diet and lifestyle changes for obesity. It was at that time that his passion for empowering people living with obesity was born. “I interviewed hundreds of people living with obesity and learned a lot about the stigma and bias they face. Through a lifetime of living with a chronic disease, one that involved both biology and behavior, all they ever heard was it was all their fault. I met people who were deeply grateful to have someone listen to them and try to understand their experiences. Hearing the stories of the burdens people face was a deeply moving experience.” Around this time, public health experts recognized what came to be called an obesity epidemic, but Ted found that “the public talked of concern about obesity but mostly just blamed the people affected. Well-intended public health messages were actually counterproductive, and it was then I decided to do something different.”

Question: How did you grow ConscienHealth into the “go to” place for experts around the world?

“It started slow, but I knew that an online presence was needed. Initially, I designed a rather crude website, but then hired a pro to design a simple, easy to navigate website to house our content. I work with a group of people committed to a scientific approach to improve our understanding of obesity and to breaking through the weight bias that exists in us all. I came to understand the science, not just the physiology, but also the behavioral and psychological aspect of living with obesity. Stigma is real and it makes health outcomes worse.”

“Recently, I’ve been writing more about the effects of obesity on COVID-19 outcomes. A European colleague in Italy reached out to me and said there was something going on with obesity and poorer outcomes in those who were infected with the virus. So, I did a lot of digging as more and more compelling data emerged. I have been able to participate in an exchange of knowledge about the interaction between obesity and COVID-19. It’s been quite a journey.” (Click here to read Ted’s post from March of this year.)

Question: Shifting gears here, but you care for many others, what do you do to care for yourself? You are now in your 60s, how do you stay well? How do you eat well, move well, and be well?

“I credit my wife for her smart approach to eating well. We eat what we think is a healthful diet. I have oatmeal and fruit at breakfast, big salads loaded with all kinds of summer veggies, and grilled protein foods for dinner. During the pandemic, grilling fish has become more of a mainstay for us.

For activity, we walk every day. I used to log between 6,000 to 10,000 steps a day but during the pandemic I’ve almost doubled that to 12,000 to 18,000 steps. I love being outdoors so walking and biking are my favorite ways to keep moving.”

As for staying well, Ted has his family, friends, and colleagues for social support, but he admits his biggest challenge is sleep, or lack of it. “There is just so much to do that I find it hard to get 8 hours of sleep. I get up about 3 am each day so I can write my commentary for ConscienHealth to get it online by 6 am.” (And, just in time for my morning coffee!)

Question: What 3 tips or advice would you give to others to eat well, move well, and be well?

“The first is to stay curious about everything. Whether it is people, nutrition, health….just stay curious.. Second, be objective about what is known. For me, the essence of communication about science requires sophisticated and ethical messages that are engaging and approachable. This is what I try to do every day with my commentary. The third piece of advice is to care for the needs of the others around you.”

I think we can all agree with his good advice! And, if you are not following ConscienHealth…do so!

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

Food & Fitness After 50: Dietary Supplement Q&A

frequently-asked-questions

In June of this year I developed a webinar for Today’s Dietitian titled, “Dietary Supplement Use in Older Adults: Help, Hype, or Hope?” (Click here to access the webinar.) The webinar ended with a robust Q&A. Time ran out before we could get to all of the questions and some of them were tough to answer. In my teaching days I told students to seek out experts when they didn’t know the answer to a question, so I turned to an expert in dietary supplements to help me. Dr. Anthony Thomas is the Director of Scientific Affairs for Jarrow Formulas and he jumped in to answer your questions. I’ve tapped Dr. Thomas in the past when you asked about probiotic supplements…click here for a link to that post.

Question: The number 1 question involved supplement ingredients. Many people believe that all supplement ingredients are manufactured in China and they expressed concerns over quality issues with Chinese ingredients.

“Ingredients for use in dietary supplement manufacturing are sourced from all over the world, including China,” explains Dr. Thomas. “Quality ingredients are quality ingredients regardless of their country of origin and in fact a number of companies headquartered in other countries have manufacturing set up in the U.S., too.”

thOne suggestion that I routine make when asked about supplements is to look for a quality brand, like Jarrow Formulas (disclosure, I have no connection to Jarrow Formulas, but I do use some of their products because I recognize quality supplements.). A quality brand often uses third-party verification or endorsement. That means that a brand contracts with a third-party certifying agency to test their products. One of the most well-known is USP which stands for United States Pharmacopia. When you see the USP symbol on a supplement it tells you that the supplement:

  • Contains what the ingredient label says it contains and, in the amount, listed
  • Doesn’t contain contaminants
  • Will dissolve or break down in the body and get absorbed into the blood stream in a specific time frame
  • Has been made with good manufacturing processes (GMPs) as outlined by the Food & Drug Administration.

NSF-Certified-for-sport-blue-and-orange-196x300Another well-known third-party entity that evaluates supplements is NSF. The NSF certification also helps consumers know they are getting a quality supplement.  When I worked with athletes at the university, we looked for NSF certified supplements because they test supplements to ensure that they do not contain substances banned by their sport governing body.

Question: What is the difference between a supplement called a nutraceutical vs. nootropic?

Dr. Thomas defines it this way, “a supplement called a nutraceutical is more-or-less a fancy term (not a legal term) for dietary components or dietary supplement ingredients with purported health benefits beyond nutritive value.  Nootropics are a subset of ingredients that positively influence cognitive function(s).”

Question: Is there a B12 supplement source for vegans? What form of B12 is best absorbed in older adults?

Vitamin-B12“All forms of B12 used in dietary supplements are suitable for vegans since they are synthesized chemically. Look for one that says suitable for vegans because some capsules are made with gelatin. Jarrow Formulas makes a chewable form that is appropriate for vegans,” says Dr. Thomas. “Thus, the concern about vitamin B12 deficiency in vegans is easily overcome.”

As for the “best” form of B12, Dr. Thomas explains, “despite the marketing hype, there is not good evidence of differences in absorption between different forms of the vitamin. There is limited evidence suggests that methyl-B12 may be better retained by the body and reduced elimination in the urine compared to cyanocobalamin.  Methyl-B12 seems to be the preferred form by consumers, but that is likely due in large part to marketing rather than research demonstrated superiority. Some suggest that methyl-B12 is not suitable for all the body’s needs as if it cannot be converted to right form, but this is incorrect.” The bottom line is that some marketing might make it appear that there is a “best” form but all forms are used by the body.

 Question: How do you know if supplements of omega 3s are not rancid?

Fish-Oil“Unfortunately, smell is not always indicative of oxidative degradation.  If the product is stored away from heat and light exposure, it should be fine, although I often just keep my bottles in the fridge,” says Dr. Thomas. “Soft gels are usually formulated with antioxidant ingredients to protect against oxidation.”  As with other supplements, buy supplements from a reputable brand with a long-standing reputation of quality. That is my recommendation, as well as Dr. Thomas’ recommendation. He adds, “of course this recommendation may seem self-serving given the company I work for.  However, there is increasingly more direct consumer brands primarily available online as they can contract the manufacturing of the supplement and just put their label on the product but it may or may not have all the other quality control measures in place to ensure safety, potency, and quality.  We see more problems with products from such companies, not all or most, and it is often guilt by association for the entire industry. In fact, Jarrow L. Rogovin, the man who started Jarrow Formulas in 1977, relied on contract manufacturers but after so many issues over the years, he eventually invested in the development of our own manufacturing nearly 20 years ago.

Thanks to Dr. Thomas for helping me answer your questions on dietary supplements. Keep the questions coming!

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Celebrate the Sandwich During National Sandwich Month

earlofsandwichmythorfactDid you know that August is National Sandwich Month? The sandwich was popularized in the 1700s by  4th Earl of Sandwich, (Sandwich is a medieval town in southeast England in the county of Kent.) The legend goes that the Earl asked for a hunk of beef between two slices of bread so he could hold the meal in one hand while he played cards. One of his companions is to have said, “I’ll have the same as Sandwich,” and thus the humble and delicious sandwich was born.

how-to-buy-healthy-breadWhat makes a truly great sandwich? The overwhelming response to that question is bread, with 42% of people saying the bread is most important ingredient in a sandwich.

Many folks give up bread thinking that it has too many calories or carbs. In a 2017 study, researchers found that all grain foods, including breads, contributed less than 15% of all calories in the total diet, while delivering nutrients that are in short supply in the diet of many Americans, as well as nutrients needed for healthy aging, including dietary fiber, folate, iron, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin A. (Papanikolaou Y & Fulgoni VL. Grain foods are meaningful contributors of nutrient density of American adults and help close nutrient recommendation gaps: Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2009-2012. Nutrients. 2017: Aug 14;9(8). 

And, in this time of coronavirus, we are turning to comfort foods and that includes bread. In a national survey, approximately one-third of Americans named pasta (36%) and bread (29%) as foods that are comforting during a stressful time. Of all the comfort foods that Americans turn to in times of stress, they recognize bread and pasta among the most nutritious.

120405183406-stacked-sandwich-super-169I like to think of bread and other grains as the perfect vehicle for carrying protein-rich foods. Sandwiches, wraps, pita pockets, and crackers can carry needed protein, vegetables and healthy fats. Specifically, whole grains also provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. While research is still emerging and further research is needed, a variety of plant-based compounds in whole grains may impact oxidative stress, suggesting that reducing oxidative stress by consuming whole grains is a likely mechanism for the protective effect from diseases associated with aging.

National Sandwich Month is the perfect time to enjoy a sandwich for dinner. In the dog days of August heat, make a sandwich for dinner and pack with veggies, quality protein fillings, and healthy fats for a tasty meal. It is the ingredients between the slices of bread that should be the focus of delivering a healthier sandwich. With so many delicious breads to select from, choose your favorite and be mindful of the filling. Know your stuff before you cut, and modify the sandwich filling, not the best part…the bread!

Here are some sandwich ideas to get you started and I’d love to hear your favorite sandwich, too! All these sandwiches go great with a side of fresh summer fruit, such as berries, melon, or peaches.

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  • Sliced tomato and avocado sandwich with lettuce on toasted whole wheat bread
  • Grilled turkey burger topped with grilled onions and peppers on a toasted brioche bun
  • Roasted veggies (artichokes, peppers, mushrooms) tucked into a pita pocket
  • Deli turkey meat with Swiss cheese and Russian dressing on hearty rye bread
  • Tuna salad with sliced olives, lettuce, and tomato on sour dough bread
  • Cold slices of chicken wrapped into a tortilla and topped with salsa
  • Grilled lean beef burger with sliced cucumber, red onion, and tomato served in a pita pocket with tzatziki sauce for a Greek-style sandwich
  • Grilled chicken sausage on hot dog bun with sauerkraut
  • Bagel, cream cheese and smoked salmon with capers and red onion slices
  • Cuban sandwich with leftover pork loin, a slice of ham, pickles, and cheese on a toasted baguette
  • Thinly sliced tart apple, cheddar cheese, and chicken panini
  • Egg salad on sweet Hawaiian roll
  • Olive tapenade and goat cheese on grilled French bread
  • Grilled cheese; but change it up using different cheese (spicy Jalapeno Monterey Jack!) on your favorite bread

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

Food & Fitness After 50: Is There an Optimal Protein Intake for Older Adults?

A recent paper from three international protein gurus reviews the science behind the recommendations that older adults need more protein than young, healthy adults. The opening sentence of the paper sums up the current state of the science: “The optimum protein intake for adult health remains controversial.” How could that be?  The authors explain that why we know general requirements for protein we don’t know optimal intakes. Why there are limits to what we know about protein and aging?

  • Older adults, especially older women, are often not included as participants in research studies on protein needs.
  • Recommendations for protein are often derived from young, healthy adults. Healthy is a key word because we know that many older adults have chronic health conditions. Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer affect 3 of 4 adults over the age of 65.
  • Research studies that look at protein intake and muscle mass in older adults are of short duration; most last less than 6 months. Since muscle loss is gradual, the short-term studies may not have time to show a positive effect of increasing protein.

While we may not have the definitive answer to the question posed in the title of this post, there is much we do know and here are some key points from the article:

  • The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is inadequate for older adults due to something called the “anabolic resistance” of muscle. (Anabolic means building up and is the opposite of catabolic or breaking down.) Anabolic resistance means that the signals to build up muscle through strength training or eating protein is muted in older adults. This resistance can be overcome with an increased amount of strength training or a higher intake of protein.
  • When older adults experience a period of muscle disuse, which can occur during illness or injury, signals to muscle protein are blunted and a practical way to overcome this is through a higher protein intake, especially protein-rich foods that contain a key amino acid, leucine. Protein is made up of units called amino acids and 9 of the 22 amino acids are considered essential, meaning that we can’t make them in the body, so they must be consumed through diet. Leucine is one of the 9 essential amino acids and has been found to play a critical role in protein synthesis.
  • Sarcopenia, literally meaning vanishing flesh, is the progressive loss of muscle as we age. It doesn’t start when we are 60; it starts at about the age of 40 (even earlier in those who are inactive). Between the ages of 20 and 90, we can lose over 50% of our muscle mass due to sarcopenia and inactivity.

So, where does all of this leave us? The authors conclude that older adults should increase protein…both quality and quantity at meals. Consuming at least 30 grams of protein per meal, with 2.5 grams of leucine or more can overcome the anabolic resistance of aging muscle. While not all studies agree on meal timing, the authors also conclude that spreading the protein evenly across meals is better than backloading all the protein at one meal.

So, what does that mean for us? To recap to maintain muscle you need two things: progressive, resistance strength training and nutrition. Protein is a key nutrient for building and keeping muscle.  A few facts about protein:

  • High quality protein contains all 9 of the essential amino acids (EAAs) and includes:
    • Animal protein (beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, cottage cheese, kefir, yogurt)
    • Soy protein (tofu, edamame, soy burgers, patties, crumbles, soymilk, cheese, yogurt)
  • The following foods do not contain all the EAAs, but they contribute to total protein intake:
    • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.), almond butter, seeds (sunflower, chia, flax), legumes (peanuts, pinto, navy black beans, split peas, black-eyed peas, and other starchy beans and peas), peanut butter, pasta, rice, and whole grain bread.
  • Try and spread the protein evenly in 3-4 meals each day.

Examples of 30-gram protein meals

Sample meals and snacks with ~30 grams of protein

6 oz Greek yogurt (18)*

1 oz granola (4)

Small banana (1)

Skim milk latte (6)

2 scrambled eggs with 1 oz cheese and spinach (21)

8 oz soymilk (7)

½ slice whole grain toast (2)

Smoothie made with 1 ounce whey protein powder (20)**

6 oz Greek vanilla yogurt (18)

½ cup frozen berries (1)

Large green salad with veggies (2)

4 oz grilled chicken or salmon (28)

1 Tablespoon sunflower seeds (1)

1 Tablespoon chopped nuts (1)

3 oz tuna mixed with mayo (21)

2 slices of whole grain bread (7)

Lettuce, tomato, banana peppers or other veggies (2)

1 cup pasta (6)

3 oz turkey or beef meatballs (21)

Green salad with balsamic vinegar dressing (1)

1 cup cottage cheese (28)

1 Tablespoon chopped nuts (1)

3 slices fresh or canned peaches (1)

Stir fry with ½ cup tofu (10)

Carrots, broccoli, edamame (16)

1 cup brown rice (5)

3 oz cheddar cheese (21)

6 whole grain crackers (2)

8 ounces skim milk (8)

*grams protein in parentheses

 **most protein powders have ~20 grams protein per serving, but check labels

For those not used to thinking in terms of grams of protein (probably most of you), here are a few keys to understanding protein:

  • 1-ounce of beef, pork, fish, poultry, and cheese has about 7 grams of protein. Most of us don’t eat 1-ounce portions of these foods, so if you eat a 5-ounce portion of grilled salmon for dinner, you’ve eaten 35 grams of protein and that doesn’t count the other foods you have with the meal.
  • Dairy foods are rich in protein, the amino acid leucine, as well as other nutrients needed for muscle health such as vitamin D and calcium. 8-ounces (1 cup) of dairy milk has 8 grams of protein, but 8-ounces of ultra-filtered milk, such as Fairlife, has 13 grams of protein. Contrast that with Silk Almond milk that has only 1 gram of protein per serving. The point is that not all “milk” is a rich-protein source.
  • Foods carry a nutrition facts panel that tell you 2 important pieces of information: the serving size is of the food and how many grams of protein are in in one serving. That’s an important thing to keep in mind because you might be eating more than the stated serving size, meaning you are also getting more protein.

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  • I like to look for snacks that are nutrient-rich but not too high in calories. My recent favorite is kefir, a fermented milk drink with 11 grams of protein in 8-ounces, and is rich in probiotics, too.

I reached out the authors (aka, protein gurus) to ask them for a practical take-away from their article.

Meet the gurus

Dr. Stuart Phillips is a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada (follow him on twitter @mackinprof).

“I’d recommend emphasizing the consumption of nutrient-dense sources of high-quality protein like dairy and eggs at meals that are traditionally lower protein: breakfast and lunch. My go-to protein food at breakfast (and sometimes lunch too) is Greek-style yogurt or Icelandic Skyr. Both are cultured dairy, rich in high quality protein, and many other necessary nutrients, and tasty and versatile as a base for berries and nuts.”

Dr. Doug Padden-Jones is a professor in the Department of Nutrition and Metabolism at The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas .

“For generally healthy adults, establish a dietary framework that includes a moderate amount of high-quality protein at each meal. Factors such as energy needs, physical activity, health status, body composition goals, and satiety should be weighed to determine protein needs. But, During periods of  physical disuse (injury, illness, inactivity) middle-age and older adults are at increased risk of muscle/function loss so just meeting the RDA for protein ( 0.8 g protein/kg/day)  is insufficient. Aggressive support with high quality protein (whey /leucine) and activity may help preserve muscle health.”

Dr. Donald Layman is a an emeritus professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition a the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois. (Follow him on twitter @donlayman).

 “A key for maintaining muscle health as we get older is dietary protein. Surprisingly, adults have higher protein needs than children because we have a continuous need to repair and replace proteins in our body but our efficiency of making new proteins declines with age. The best proteins are meats (including fish), eggs, and dairy. Vegetable proteins are popular, but they always have lower quality than animal proteins. You will need to consume 30% to 50% more total protein if you chose to use plant proteins. So, a 25 g whey protein shake would require at least 35 g of soy protein to be equivalent.” 

 

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

Food & Fitness After 50: The Scoop on Collagen

Bob bike 2
Dr. Bob enjoying his just desserts after a long bike ride

Survey data from the Council for Responsible Nutrition (a trade association for dietary supplements) shows that 78% of adults over the age of 55 take supplements. Reasons for supplement use include overall wellness and healthy aging. It is no surprise that people are asking about one of the hottest supplements…collagen. I reached out to my friend and co-author of Food & Fitness After 50 to ask him some of your top questions about collagen. Dr. Bob Murray is an exercise physiologist and is passionate about exercise and health. He consults with many companies on hydration, protein, and supplement use in active populations, including older adults.

Let’s start with the basics. What is collagen and are there different types of collagen in the body?

Collagen-structure.800x345-wWe can think of collagen as the glue that holds us together. Collagen is the name for a large family of proteins found in the body.  In fact, there are so many types of collagen proteins that collagen turns out to be the most abundant protein in the body. Collagen proteins make up connective tissues throughout the body.  The term “connective tissues,” makes many people immediately think of tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, three good examples of connective tissues.  Muscles, skin, and bones also contain large amounts of connective tissues and therefore large amounts of the collagen proteins that intertwine to give those tissues the structure, strength, and elasticity required for the many different roles required of connective tissues. It should be obvious that the connective tissue in bone has a different role to play compared to the connective tissue in muscles or skin. That’s why so many different kinds of collagen proteins are needed throughout our bodies.

When I was younger, I remember my friends dissolving Knox gelatin in water and drinking it to strengthen their nails. Is gelatin the same as collagen?

The connective tissues of cows, pigs, and chickens are the primary source of gelatin produced for human consumption.  As a result, gelatin is rich in collagen proteins.

Is collagen a complete protein, that is one that contains all the essential amino acids needed by the body?

Collagen is an incomplete protein and is low in the amino acids that are associated with building muscle mass and strength.  However, collagen proteins are high in two amino acids—glycine and proline—that appear important in stimulating the growth of connective tissues in physically active people.

There are many claims for collagen supplements…from preventing wrinkles and strengthening skin to improving joint flexibility and strengthening muscles and bone. Is there any good human evidence that collagen supplements will help with any of those body systems?

The best way to sum up the current state of affairs is that the benefit claims for consuming collagen are long on theory and short on evidence.  That’s not to say that there isn’t some evidence suggesting benefits to skin, joints and muscles, but that evidence has yet to reach the levels of quality and quantity required to draw comfortable conclusions about the magnitude and reproducibility of the benefits associated with consuming collagen proteins on a regular basis.

It is well known and accepted that protein is needed for muscle protein synthesis, is collagen any better than simply getting more protein from whey protein or other protein-rich sources?

iStock Older man lifting weights smallMaybe, but much more research is needed to either confirm or deny that consuming collagen benefits muscle mass and strength beyond what we know occurs by increasing dietary protein intake. There are a growing number of studies that report benefits to muscle strength, joint pain, and repair of connective tissue, but there are a greater number of studies that report no benefits.  The unsatisfying answer to your question is that we’re going to have to wait and see what future research has to say,

Do you think older adults need to use collagen as a supplement?

Collagen production does naturally decline with age and there are studies that report benefits of collagen consumption in older adults.  Maybe the best news is that there is little to no risk of trying collagen supplements, aside from the possibility of spending money on something that does not work.

There are so many forms of collagen being sold…hydrolyzed, peptides, raw, undenatured and found in various forms from liquids, powders, tablets, chews and even gummies….if someone wanted to take collagen what is the form and dose that is currently recommended?

The current research indicates that the effective dose seems to be 15-20 grams of collagen per day, along with 200-250 mg of vitamin C to aid in collagen synthesis. The body seems to respond best to the presence of collagen peptides—short chains of a few amino acids—and most forms of dietary collagen contain such peptides. Look for products containing hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides on the label.

1800ss_getty_rf_vitamin_cI’m glad that Dr. Bob mentioned vitamin C and its role in collagen production. Vitamin C is most frequently thought of a nutrient that helps our immune system, especially fighting the dreaded winter cold, but it has a fascinating history (well, fascinating to most dietitians!). At the end of the 15th century, a disease called scurvy was the major cause of disability and death of sailors undergoing long sea voyages. Without access to fruits or vegetables, sailors developed bleeding gums, lost their teeth, had poor wound healing, and frequently old wounds would open up (called dehiscence). All because they were deficient in vitamin C and its important role in collagen production. Collagen helps anchor teeth in our gums and jawbone, as well as helping to keep skin healthy and elastic. It wasn’t until the 1930s that a Hungarian scientist, Dr. Albert-Szent-Gyorgyi, discovered and isolated ascorbic acid (a contraction of anti-scorbutic), better known as vitamin C.

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

Food & Fitness After 50: Fun with An Air Fryer

It all started at the beginning of the stay-at-home orders. Like a good dietitian, I took stock of what was in my freezer, fridge, and pantry and planned meals around what was on hand. I mentioned to my husband that we had some Wild Alaska Pollock and Wild Caught Cod filets in the freezer. His response? “I wish I could have fried fish. I love fried fish.” I don’t fry foods and when it comes to fish, I prefer grilling. But it made me think of air frying and with one click, the Ninja AF 101 Air Fryer was in my cart and ready to be shipped.

I have no affiliation with Ninja products but after reading some reviews on consumer websites, the product looked good and the price was right. Once it arrived, it was love at first bite. Using the cooking guide that came with the book I found coating almost anything in flour, egg, and panko breadcrumbs is delicious.

Air Fryer Cookbook for Dummies

514G1VUZdAL._SX397_BO1,204,203,200_Then, serendipity! One of my colleagues, Elizabeth Shaw (@ShawSimpleSwaps), posed a question on social media asking about favorite kitchen appliances and I didn’t think twice as I typed in “air fryer.” She had just published a book with, Wendy Jo Peterson (@Just_WendyJo) called, Air Fryer Cookbook for Dummies (John Wiley & Sons, 2020) and offered to send me a press copy.

So, disclosure, the press copy was free, and I wanted to share my thoughts on the book and the recipes. First, a brief introduction to Wendy Jo and Liz. Wendy Jo is a culinary dietitian, a writer, speaker, and recipe developer. Her clients range from military to musicians and she is known as the “Fuelin’ Roadie” for innovation with recipes. She is the author of numerous books. Liz Shaw is also a registered dietitian and her brand is Shaw Simple Swaps. She is a culinary expert and her mission is getting people to enjoy food and make small changes to reap big rewards. Please visit their websites for amazing recipes and other great food and nutrition information.

Too Many Great Recipes to Choose From!

But, back to the book. The first thing I liked about the recipes is the use of ingredients you are likely to have in your kitchen…important in a pandemic when we are not out shopping in specialty grocery stores and online delivery is hit or miss. You won’t find cold-pressed, double-filtered organic grapeseed oil or any other hard to find (and expensive to buy) ingredient in any of the recipes….thank you Liz and Wendy Jo.

I flipped through the recipes and truly I wanted to try them all, but I settled on one from each section and using ingredients I had in my house. First up was “Crispy Fried Chicken,” and it didn’t disappoint. I had thinly sliced chicken breasts in the freezer, so I cut them into strips for chicken tenders. I found that my 4-quart air fryer cooks a bit faster than the recipe times call for, so some trial to adjust cooking times is in order. I loved how crispy and golden brown the chicken turned out. Each recipe has notes, tips, and suggestion on how to vary it. We made a dipping sauce with honey and mustard, using one of the tips.

fishingOn to that “fried” fish my husband was craving. I got lucky because my brother-in-law hired a fishing guide to take them out on our lake to hook some fresh fish. As you can see in the photo, the trip was a success and we had bass filets ready for the Air Fryer. I tried the recipe, “Lightened Up Breaded-Fish Filets.” It was equally as good as the fresh salmon I had in Alaska last summer. Can’t wait to try it with my frozen filets, too.

AF FD - Tuna Melt 2
Tuna Melt

Next up was another of my husband’s favorite dishes, Eggplant Parmesan, and he declared it excellent, although he suggested we add some gooey, melty fresh mozzarella cheese next time we make it. Last night, for a quick dinner we tried the Tuna Melt and it was grilled to perfection.

Side dishes are a snap in the Air Fryer and there are plenty of recipes for veggies. The Crispy Herb Potatoes beats French Fries any day and I love the chapter on “Ten (or so) No-Recipe Recipes that Make Perfect Sides.” From Brussels Sprout to Zucchini, you can quickly make a tasty side dish to accompany any entrée. I tried the Brussels Sprouts with Bacon this past weekend and I could have eaten the entire dish by myself!

My only “fail” was in the baking section. I tried Cinnamon Sugar Donut Holes, but they were dry. Good flavor, but crumbly texture. I know I will need to adjust temperatures and times to fit my Air Fryer when baking.

Tips and Tricks

In addition to the recipes, the authors give loads of tips and tricks for using an Air Fryer. As a newbie to this device, I found helpful information to get the best results from my Air Fryer. For example, they suggest coating the basket with olive oil instead of using popular cooking sprays. Commercial cooking sprays contain chemicals that can corrode the basket, so I ordered an inexpensive mister and filled it with olive oil to keep foods from sticking.

They also recommend using a meat thermometer to insure proper cooking temperatures. I always recommend using a meat thermometer instead of guessing if the food is done. Not only does using a meat thermometer help you avoid under-cooked food, but it also prevents over cooking.

Additional Benefits for Older Adults

As many older adults find themselves empty-nesters, I think an Air Fryer is a perfect appliance for healthy, quick meals for one or two people Using it for delicious veggie sides or dehydrating veggies for chips (I have not tried the dehydration setting yet!), it is easy to use and easy to clean.

Some people describe an Air Fryer as just another convection oven, but I find it easier to use than the convection oven setting. Cooking times in the Air Fryer are faster than the oven and the food comes out crispy on the outside but tender on the inside.

I live in the south where there is an affinity for fried foods. An Air Fryer gives you the taste of fried food without the excess calories and saturated fat. Another plus is that cooking with an Air Fryer keeps the kitchen cool. No one wants to turn on a hot oven or sweat over a greasy frying pan on a summer day in Georgia.

While I am not an RVer, many of my friends are, and in the Air Fryer Cheat Sheet for Dummies the authors suggest it is a great appliance for the RV lifestyle.

If you’ve got an Air Fryer hiding in a closet, dig it out and try some of these great recipes. And, if you are like me and looking to try something new, I recommend an Air Fryer and Liz and Wendy Jo’s cookbook! A big thanks to Wendy Jo and Liz for showing me all the ways to use my favorite new purchase.

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved