How to be Your Healthiest Self: 100 Tips for 2021

Every new year brings hope for new beginnings. While we are still facing the ravages of the pandemic, there are thing we can control to be our healthiest self in 2021. And it doesn’t take a gym membership, an expensive piece of exercise equipment, or organic foods. Nope, just simple steps to better health. Food & Fitness After 50 is based on eating well, moving well, and being well. Here are 99 tips to help you do that and one bonus tip at the end.

Eat Well

Photo credit: The Ginger Network

Tips to increase fiber

  • Add leftover veggies to scrambled eggs.
  • Top casseroles with crushed high fiber breakfast cereal.
  • Add oatmeal to homemade chocolate chip cookies.
  • Make lentil soup; dried lentils are easy to use and inexpensive.
  • Eat fresh, in-season fruits more often than drinking fruit juice.
  • Choose whole wheat bread, brown rice, or whole wheat pasta at least half the time.
  • Use more canned beans and peas as main dishes.

Tips to eat more fruits and veggies

  • Top hot or cold breakfast cereal with berries or bananas.
  • Make your own trail mix with dried apples, cherries, raisins, and apricots.
  • Add chunks of sweet potato and winter squash to any soup or stew.
  • Add grated apple or pear to pancake batter or muffin mix.
  • Top pizza with at least 2 veggies: peppers, onions, mushrooms, or tomato, are good options.
  • Spread unsweetened applesauce on toast in place of jelly or jam.
  • Add a can of drained mixed veggies to your favorite canned soup.
  • Combine canned pumpkin with yogurt and cinnamon for a smoothie.
Photo credit USDA ARS

Tips for healthy snacks

  • Drink vegetable juice for a mid-morning or afternoon pick-me-up.
  • Bake an apple and sprinkle with cinnamon and a pinch of brown sugar.
  • Eat a handful of nuts…peanuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts, and pecans are all great snacks.
  • Popcorn is a whole grain, healthy snack; just don’t drown it butter.
  • Cut up some veggies and keep them visible in the fridge so when you are searching for a snack, they are ready; kids love to dip them in Ranch dressing.

Tips for choosing nutrient-rich foods

Photo credit: NCBA
  • A smart portion of lean beef (3-ounces) is rich in iron, zinc, and B-vitamins for healthy aging.
  • Eat more seafood; aim for at least twice per week. Frozen seafood and canned or pouch tuna and salmon are affordable choices.
  • Choose a variety of colorful fruits and veggies, but don’t overlook white veggies, like onions, potatoes, or cauliflower.
  • Skip the egg white omelet and eat the yolk, all the good nutrients are in the yellow part.
  • Embrace a Mediterranean eating pattern; rich in seafood, beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and olive oil.
  • Eat cold cereal and milk; even sugar-sweetened cereals contain needed vitamins and minerals, and they keep good company when you add milk.
Photo credit: The Ginger Network

Tips for increasing bone-saving nutrients

  • Drink low-fat dairy milk.
  • If lactose-intolerant, drink calcium-fortified soy milk.
  • Buy dried milk powder….it is the original whey protein and lots cheaper.
  • Drink kefir.
  • Eat canned salmon.
  • Mix up yogurt choices: Yogurt in a tube for kids, and for adults, Icelandic, Greek, or regular yogurt all contain bone-building nutrients.
  • Choose 100% orange juice with added calcium.
  • Rediscover cottage cheese; rich in protein and calcium.
Photo credit: Chris Rosenbloom

Tips for reducing sodium

  • Drain and rinse canned beans, even the low sodium versions, to reduce sodium by about 40%.
  • Eat fewer salty protein foods, like cured meats, cold cuts, sausage, bacon, and smoked meats and fish.
  • Enjoy unsalted nuts.
  • Read labels for hidden sodium; salt is often the first ingredient in seasoning blends like lemon pepper, poultry seasoning, Italian seasoning, or other herbal seasoning blends.
  • Make salad dressing at home with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a truly salt-free dressing.
  • Check labels on poultry and look for products that don’t have added saline broth.

Tips for managing your weight

  • Obesity is a chronic disease and is not caused by lack of willpower; learn how to get good care at the Truth About Weight.
  • To help motivate you to maintain your weight as you age, monitor it. Personally, I weigh myself every day to help me keep my weight within a certain range.
  • Aim for good health, not a number on the scale.
  • Start strength training. We lose muscle as we age, and muscle is an engine that helps burn calories.
  • Spread your meals throughout the day; aim for 3 meals a day and if you snack, keep the portions small.
  • Share an appetizer and split an entrée when you dine out or order take out to cut the calories in restaurant foods.
  • If you drink alcohol, stick to the Dietary Guidelines Advice of 1 drink/day for women and 2 drinks/day for men; remember you don’t have to drink alcohol to be healthy and less is better than more in many ways.
  • Ditch the extreme diets, including “cleanses” and “detoxes.” Your body can clean and detox you just fine.

Tips for grocery shopping

  • Embrace canned, frozen, and dried fruit…. they all count toward the minimum 5 a day serving of fruits & veggies.
  • Inventory what you have in the fridge, freezer, and pantry and plan meals and grocery trips around what is on hand.
  • Consider buying private label brands to save money on items you buy frequently.
  • Eat fresh fruit in season; mandarins and citrus fruits are at their peak in taste and lowest in price right now.
  • Forget about shopping the perimeter; the center aisles have an abundance of healthy foods.
  • Get weekly grocery store specials sent right to your phone by; it replaces the circular that used to come in the printed newspaper.

Move Well

IStock photo

Tips for getting stronger

  • Start a progressive, resistance exercise program with weights…either machines or free weights or exercise bands will do the job.
  • Include weight training at least twice a week; lift a weight until your muscle says, “no more.”
  • After a strength workout, recover by feeding your muscles with quality protein: a small carton of yogurt, a stick of string cheese, or glass of milk will do.
  • Learn to breath properly through each strength move.
  • Lie flat on your back and move to a standing position. Try this every day and move in different ways to get to a standing position.
  • Think beyond muscle strength; exercise also helps mental strength.

Tips for getting and staying in shape

  • If you have been inactive, “start low and go slow” to avoid injury.
  • Try micro-bursts of exercise; just 10 minutes a day and gradually increase to 30 total minutes.
  • All movement counts: gardening, housework, and dancing to your favorite tunes keeps you moving.
  • Walking is great way to get in shape. If you are a regular walker, pick up the pace with the aim to walk at least 3 miles per hour.
  • Make it fun; doing what you like to do makes it easier to keep it up.
  • Try a new sport, like Pickleball, or clean up your bike and go for a ride.
  • Use your smart watch or phone to set hourly reminders to get up a move; walk around the room, up and down the stairs, or perform some squats.
  • Consider trying HIIT (High Intensity Interval Workouts) if you are looking for a challenge.

Tips for improving your ABCs…agility, balance, and coordination

IStock photo
  • Try practicing yoga or Tai Chi.
  • Stand on one foot while brushing your teeth. Try closing your eyes to make it more challenging.
  • Try activities that require agility, like dance aerobics.
  • Practice walking forward, backwards, and side-to-side in your home, on level ground.
  • Try walking heal-toe while looking over your left shoulder, then back it up and look over your right shoulder.

Be Well

Tips for preventing disease

  • Stay up to date with vaccinations.  For the recommended vaccination schedule from the CDC, click here.
  • Don’t blame your genes for everything; the environment works with genes to manifest disease.
  • Continue cooking at home even after the pandemic is under control; family meals lead to good health for everyone in the family.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables; conventionally grown produce is just as nutritious as organic.
  • Use healthy fats and oils (olive, canola, soybean, etc) and use saturated fats (butter, coconut oil) sparingly.
  • Check out all the free information on the websites devoted to preventing chronic diseases: American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, The Arthritis Foundation, National Institutes of Health, or MyPlate.

Tips for better sleep

  • Put down the phone or tablet an hour before getting into bed.
  • Invest in room darkening shades.
  • Keep the room cool, even if it means extra blankets on the bed.
  • Skip caffeinated beverages and foods after noon.
  • Keep to a schedule; get up and go to bed about the same time each day.

Tips for staying socially connected

Photo credit: Bob Murray
  • Celebrate your friends!
  • Get savvy with technology to stay in touch with younger family members.
  • Volunteer in your church, civic associations, or community organizations.
  • Join a book club, a knitting club, a gardening club, or anything that is of interest to you.

Tips for managing stress

  • Spend time in nature.
  • Meditate for at least 10 minutes a day; apps like Headspace or Calm can help you with guided meditation.
  • Go for a walk and enjoy your surroundings without listening to music, an audiobook, or podcast.
  • Focus on your breath by practicing mindful breathing each day.
  • Read a book or listen to your favorite music.

Tips for keeping your food safe

  • Wash your hands before food preparation; your hands are the dirtiest things in your kitchen!
  • Invest in a digital meat thermometer to cook foods, including reheated and frozen meals, to the correct internal temperature.
  • Practice the 2-hour rule; cooked foods and restaurant leftovers should be refrigerated within 2 hours.
  • Use a separate cutting boards for meat and produce.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables under cool running water before eating.
  • Avoid raw milk, raw cheeses, and unpasteurized juices.
  • Wash reusable shopping bags.
  • Clean your grill after every use.

By my count, that is 99 tips! For the 100th tip, remember to enjoy food. It is so much more than the nutrients it contains. Food is love, connection, and comfort!  

What’s your favorite way to stay healthy? Drop me a comment and let me know!

Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian and nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University. She is co-author of Food & Fitness After 50. Follow her blog at https://chrisrosenbloom.com/fit-to-eat-blog/.

How to Make the Dietary Guidelines Work for You

The release of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) was met by the media with a yawn. In my world the DGAs are a big deal because they represent a comprehensive review of the science on food and nutrition. And I’m not kidding when I say comprehensive; the Scientific Report is 835 pages!

The report gets translated into guidelines, a 164-page report and then released to the public. (Click here for the guidelines.) If that is too much to sift through, here is a link to the 4-page version of the highlights.

Americans need nutrition guidance more than ever, but just like politics, we are in our tribes and unwilling to see the big picture. From Keto to Carnivore, diet tribes swear their eating plan is the best, the healthiest, and are unbending to the science. The science on food and nutrition is ever changing to be sure, but the bulk of the evidence is clear: eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein from lean meat or meat alternatives, such as beans, nuts, and soy, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats and oils is the basis for good health.

What we eat has a profound impact on health and here are just a few statistics that could be impacted by changing our dietary habits:

About 74% of adults are overweight or have obesity.

Adults ages 40 to 59 have the highest rate of obesity (43%) of any age group with adults

60 years and older having a 41% rate of obesity.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death.

About 45% of adults have hypertension.

Almost 35% of American adults have prediabetes, and people 65 years and older have

the highest rate (48%) compared to other age groups.

More women (17%) than men (5%) have osteoporosis.

20% of older adults have reduced muscle strength.

But most of us would get a failing grade for our eating habits. The Healthy Eating Index is a scoring system used to evaluate diet quality. Americans score 59 out of a possible 100 and that translates to an F; older adults do slightly better with a 66, but that is still a D in this professor’s grade book. We can improve our scores because it is never too early or never too late to start eating for good health.

The 2020 DGA recognize that food is more than the nutrients it contains. A sustainable diet is one that includes foods we like, honors our cultural traditions, and is affordable. That is why the DGA emphasize dietary patterns over single nutrients. Whether you follow a vegetarian or Mediterranean plan, keep in mind that:

 “Nutrients are not consumed in isolation, foods and beverages are not consumed separately either. Rather they are consumed in various combinations over time—a dietary pattern. The evolving evidence showed that components of a dietary pattern could have interactive, synergistic, and potentially cumulative relationships, such that they could predict overall health status and disease risk more fully than could individual foods or nutrients.” (Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.)

For the first time, the DGA takes a life course approach, offering guidelines based on specific needs at different stages of life. For older adults (defined in this report as those of us over 60 years), there are a few special things worth calling attention to:

Photo credit USDA ARS

Vary your protein source. We’ve talked to expert about the importance of protein but the DGA emphasize not putting all of your eggs into the protein basket. As we move into older ages, both protein quantity and quality are increasing important. About half of women and a third of men over the age of 71 don’t get enough protein. While we are pretty good at eating enough meat, poultry, and eggs, we are woefully short on other protein sources: seafood, dairy, soy, beans, peas, and lentils should all make more frequent appearances on our plates. Foods from these groups also deliver nutrients needed as we age: calcium, vitamin D, omega-3 fats, fiber, and vitamin B12.

Speaking of vitamin B12, that is another nutrient of concern. Absorption of the natural or food-bound form of B12 is less efficient as we age, so the synthetic form is a better absorbed. (Here is one instance where “natural” is not as good as the man-made form.) You will find the synthetic form of B12 added to foods, such as fortified breakfast cereals.

Think about your drink. Many of us do not drink enough fluids to stay hydrated. As we age, our thirst sensation declines, and we may limit fluids to avoid frequent trips to the bathroom. Adults over the age of 60 drink about 2 fewer cups of water per day than younger adults. The solution? Drink more water and don’t overlook water the contained in foods: fresh or canned fruits and veggies, soup, coffee, and tea all contribute to hydration. Yes, alcohol is also a fluid, but limiting alcohol intake is wise at any age. The effects of alcohol can be felt more quickly in older adults, can interact with many prescription and over-the-counter medications, and increase risk of accidents and injuries.

I encourage you to explore this website to take a quiz on your eating habits, find tip sheets, videos, and infographics, and some tasty recipes to help you put it all together.

Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University. Her book, Food & Fitness After 50 helps us to eat well, move well, and be well. Visit her website to learn more healthy aging.

10 Proven Ways to Maintain a Positive Mindset

Guest post written by Dr. Bob Murray, co-author of Food & Fitness After 50

You’re trying to eat well and be active every day, but are you working on your mindset about aging?

How we think about aging has a powerful impact on our lives. Older adults with a positive attitude and mindset about aging live an average of 7.5 years longer than those who harbor negative perceptions about aging (click here for a link to the study.)  

We don’t need to look further than Hollywood legend, Clint Eastwood, who at age 90 is energetic and productive. When asked how he keeps going strong he said, “I get up every day and I don’t let the old man in.” (Country singer Toby Keith turned it into song.)

Developing our mindset about aging starts when we are young. We develop perceptions about aging that we carry with us throughout life. Once we reach whatever age we consider to be “old,” we accept those stereotypical mindsets without questioning their accuracy. It doesn’t help that media images of older adults…befuddled with technology, pictured as alone and lonely, and disconnected and dependent can reinforce our view of aging. A recent report from AARP confirms visual portrayals and stock photography used in media build and reinforce ageist stereotypes.

So how do we develop a positive mindset if all around us is telling us old is synonymous with memory loss, disability, and rocking chairs? Professor Catherine Sanderson of Amherst College, speaking at One Day University offers this advice:

  1. Work to change our stereotypes about what happens with age. If we think that becoming more forgetful is inevitable as we age, that self-fulfilling prophecy is likely to come true. How many times have you said you were having a “senior moment?” Ditch that language and recognize that everyone forgets something now and then.
  2. Move and all movement counts. Gardening, housework, and playing with your grandchildren can be just as valuable as a fitness class.
  3. Find time for a few minutes of mindful solitude. Use an app for a guided 10-minute meditation or sit sill and quiet for 5 minutes each day.
  4. Keep learning—both mental and physical—helps restore, maintain, and expand neural circuits in the brain and throughout the body. 
  5. Faith of any sort. The stronger the faith in a higher power, the more positive the impact on longevity.
  6. Spend time in nature.  Good things happen to physical and mental health when we spend time outside, even when we just sit and enjoy our surroundings. The Japanese call enjoying nature “forest bathing.”
  7. Get a pet. Having a pet prompts us to move more, having the responsibility to care for an animal’s welfare adds a purposeful dimension to life. (see our blog on the benefits of owning a pet by clicking here.)
  8. Maintain good relationships.  Healthy relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors, leads to happiness and happiness leads to longer, healthier lives.
  9. Manage stress.  Often easier said than done, but how we react to unexpected events is usually under our total control. An adverse response to stress has many negative physical and mental consequences.
  10. Embrace adversity.  We can’t avoid it, so we might as well welcome adversity to improve ourselves.

A positive mind-set might not mean everything when it comes to successful aging, but it surely means a lot.  And successful aging is not simply a matter of feeling invincible because that mind-set can lead some—young and old—to avoid a visit to the doctor when one is absolutely necessary.  Perhaps the best news in all of this is that a positive mind-set about aging costs us nothing more than changing whatever negative perceptions we might have been harboring.  When scientists, a movie star, and a country music singer all agree that it helps not to let the old man in, that advice seems good enough for all of us. To see Toby Keith’s video of Don’t Let the Old Man In, featuring none other than Clint Eastwood, click here.

Chris Rosenbloom, PhD, RDN, is a registered dietitian and co-author of Food & Fitness After 50. Follow this blog by clicking here.

Want to age strong? Follow these tips for the strength advantage.

This blog post is a collaboration with Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner., managed by NCBA, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff.

What does the word STRONG mean to you? Bulging muscles, nerves of steel, mental resolve?

We all want to be strong but how do we get there without living in the gym or developing the mindset of the Dali Lama?  It’s easier than you might think, so let’s make it a goal to get strong and stay strong by adopting some simple strategies to move more and eat well.

Strength matters now more than ever. The reasons to get and stay strong might be obvious but did you know that muscle mass isn’t the same as muscle strength or power? “Between the ages of 20 and 90, we can lose over 50% of our muscle mass,” says Dr. Bob Murray, exercise physiologist and co-author of Food & Fitness After 50. “70-year-olds are about 30% weaker than they were at age 50…a large drop in strength over just 20 years.” We need that muscle strength and power for functional fitness and everyday living as we age.

 Simply put, functional fitness is the ability to keep doing what you love to do. For some that might mean tending a vegetable garden, riding bikes with grandchildren, climbing stairs, or hiking a favorite trail. For me, it means lifting my own suitcase in the overhead bin or hauling a 50-pound bag of dog food. Functional fitness also means better balance, agility, and coordination which reduces the risk of falling and improves the odds of remaining independent.

Emerging research shows that physical strength can also improve your mental strength. “We are beginning to understand muscle and brain cross talk,” says Dr. Nick Burd, Associate Professor of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. “In our studies, we are finding that older adults who are physically strong have better reaction times and better performance on memory tests.” Physical activity and structured exercise, such as strength training, can improve well-being, improving our mood, emotions, and feeling of enjoyment.

What’s the recipe for success? The good news is two bouts of strength training each week, can slow or reverse the loss of muscle mass, strength, and power.

Step 1: Get off the couch and find what works for you. Going to a gym and using weight machines works for some, but for others it can be as simple as working out with hand weights, resistance bands, or even items you have around the house, like a gallon jug filled with water. My husband discovered TRX and works out twice a week to stay strong.


Start slowly if you haven’t been active (and always check with your health care provider before starting an exercise routine) and gradually increase the amount of weight lifted. Just like our brain needs a challenge to stay sharp, so do our muscles. We challenge our muscles through progressive resistance exercise, a fancy name for lifting a weight until your muscle says, “no more!” As you get stronger, you can challenge your muscle by lifting a heavier weight, that is the progressive part of strength training.
My favorite way to strength train at home is using resistance bands. They come in several color-coded bands for light, medium, and heavy resistance. I use them for a full body work out without leaving my house, and they are easy to pack in a suitcase for a travel workout.

For a helpful guide on exercise that comes complete with videos check out Go4Life from the National Institute on Aging.

Step 2: Revamp your plate. Muscle need feeding with the good stuff. Whether you follow a Mediterranean style eating plan or the DASH eating plan, a healthy dietary pattern is needed to get and keep you strong. Your diet provides three key energy (calorie) containing nutrients: carbohydrate, protein, and fat and all three are important for good health.


When it comes to muscle and mental strength, dietary protein is the star nutrient. Food sources of protein are preferred to protein powders or shakes because food gives you more than protein. Foods are healthy packages of important vitamins and mineral and key amino acids (the building blocks of body proteins) that are absent in a simple powder. Research suggests that older adults aim for 30 grams of protein at each meal.

Top reasons why I recommend beef:

  • Getting 30 grams of protein is easy with a sensible portion of lean meat (3.5 ounces to be exact). Add favorite grains, veggies, and fruit to round off the meal.
  • Weight management is top of mind for many older adults. Using sensible portions of lean meat provides needed protein without excess calories. A 3-ounce cooked serving provides only 8% of the daily value for calories (based on 2000 calorie diet) yet 48% of the daily value for protein.
  • Lean beef, like Top Sirloin, is rich in vitamin B12, B6, niacin, selenium and zinc, and it is also a good source of iron, phosphorus, riboflavin and choline. These nutrients are important in supporting immune function, building healthy blood cells, and supporting cells in the brain and nervous system.
  • Protein at every meal is satisfying, flavorful and helps keep hunger at bay.

Building a strong plate is easier than you think, especially when you include sensible portions of lean meat. Check out the following foods to see how much protein they contain per serving. A 3-ounce of cooked serving is about the size of a deck of cards.

FoodPortion SizeGrams of Protein
Beef, sirloin, broiled3 ounces26
Pork loin, roasted3 ounces23
Chicken breast, grilled3 ounces26
Salmon, sockeye, baked3 ounces23
Ground beef, 90% lean, broiled3 ounces22
Tuna, canned in water3 ounces20
Cottage cheese1/2 cup14
Greek yogurt, nonfat5 ounces13
Low-fat milk8 ounces8
Almond milk8 ounces1
Egg, large16
Peanut butter, creamy2 Tablespoons7
Lentils, cooked1/2 cup9
Almonds1 ounce6

Putting it all together: Here are three sample meals with 30-grams of protein for your breakfast, lunch, and dinner plate.

Breakfast:
1 scrambled egg with 1 ounce of cheese, a handful of spinach and 2 ounces of cooked ground beef wrapped up in a flour tortilla.

6 ounces of vanilla Greek yogurt with 1-ounce of hearty granola and 2 Tablespoons of chopped walnuts and a skim milk latte.

1 fried egg, 1 slice of sharp cheddar cheese, 2-ounce cooked beef sausage patty served on toasted English muffin.

Lunch:
3-ounces lean deli roast beef on rye bread with side of coleslaw.

A serving of classic beef and barley soup served with crusty whole grain bread.

Beef and Barley Soup

3 ounces of canned, drained tuna mixed with chopped dill pickles and banana peppers and mayonnaise on toasted bread.

Dinner:

Asian Beef Stir Fry with thinly sliced top sirloin with steamed white or brown rice.

Asian Beef Stir Fry

Beefy Sweet and Sloppy Joes on soft burger buns.

Beef Sweet and Sloppy Joes

Grilled salmon with rice pilaf and roasted asparagus.

How I put it all together: As I approach my 7th decade, staying strong is my top priority.  Lessons I’ve learned along the way include:

  • Strength training doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Strength training just twice a week is all that is needed.
  • While I may prefer strength training to aerobic or endurance exercise, both are important as we age. Add in some agility, balance, and coordination exercise, like yoga, Tai Chi, to stay functionally fit.
  • Eating is one of life’s great pleasures! Enjoy eating sensible portions of all your favorite foods, including lean beef.

Check out this link for great, tasty recipes.

  • I like to assemble meals. Some of my favorite are:
    • Lean grilled steak sliced over a big green salad, loaded with veggies, and topped with crumbled blue cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.
    • “Use-up-the veggies in the fridge” stir fry with thinly sliced round steak. Marinate the steak in teriyaki sauce and grated ginger and stir fry in hot oil and add chopped veggies. I usually have onion, carrot, broccoli, and bell pepper in the veggie drawer.
    • Enjoy a lean beef burger cooked on the grill until it reaches 160⁰ F on meat thermometer. Layer on grilled mushrooms, grilled onions and top with crunchy, leafy greens and fresh tomatoes.

For me, strong means eating foods I enjoy that nourish me and support physical and mental activity. How about you? For more helpful information on nutrition and strength, check out Strength the Field Manual available by clicking here.

Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian and nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University. She is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

References

Alamilla, Rafael A.; McKenna, Colleen F.; Salvador, Amadeo F.; Scaroni, Susannah; Martinez, Isabel G.; Beals, Joseph W.; Paluska, Scott A. FACSM; Burd, Nicholas A. Higher Protein Intake does Not Potentiate Resistance Training-Induced Muscular Adaptations in Middle-aged Adults, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2019 June 51;(65):791 doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000562862.73585.43

Askow AT, McKenna CF, Box AG, Khan NA, Petruzzello SJ, DeLisio M, Phillips SM, Burd NA. Of Sound Mind and Body: Exploring the Diet-Strength Interaction in Healthy Aging. Front Nutr. 2020 Aug 28;7:145. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2020.00145.

Granic A, Dismore L, Hurst C, Robinson SM, Sayer AA. Myoprotective Whole Foods, Muscle Health and Sarcopenia: A Systematic Review of Observational and Intervention Studies in Older Adults. Nutrients. 2020 Jul 28;12(8):2257. doi: 10.3390/nu12082257. PMID: 32731580; PMCID: PMC7469021.

Granic A, Sayer AA, Robinson SM. Dietary Patterns, Skeletal Muscle Health, and Sarcopenia in Older Adults. Nutrients. 2019 Mar 30;11(4):745. doi: 10.3390/nu11040745. PMID: 30935012; PMCID: PMC6521630.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central, 2019. fdc.nal.usda.gov.

Beef, sirloin (NDB#13455); Pork, loin (NDB#10069); Chicken breast (NDB#05747); Salmon, sockeye (NDB#15086); Ground beef, 90% lean (NDB#22563); Tuna, in water (NDB#15126); Cottage cheese (NDB#01016); Greek, yogurt, low fat (NDB#01287); 2% Reduced Fat milk (NDB#01079); Almond milk (NDB#14016); Egg, large (NDB#01132); Peanut butter, smooth (NDB#16167); Lentils, cooked (NDB#16070); Almonds (NDB#12563)

Surprising reasons to eat canned foods for big health benefits

It’s not easy being a dietitan in a grocery store. People peer into your cart and say, “I can’t believe you eat processed foods!” It’s a great opportunity to let them in on a secret about “processed” foods found in the middle aisles.

 I want you to eat this processed food this November (and the other 11 months)…canned tomato products Why? For those of you who say, “I never eat processed foods,” think again when it comes to canned tomatoes. According to Alec Wasson, “chief tomato evangelist” with the Tomato Products Wellness Council, “canned tomatoes are harvested in the field and immediately whisked to a nearby processing plant, where they are processed within 4 to 5 hours on average, capturing the flavor and nutrition of tomatoes at their peak.”

Bottom line: Not all processed foods are bad (milk, baby carrots, and yogurt are processed foods) and many healthful foods (tomatoes, beans, tuna, etc.) are found in the middle of the grocery store!

Why the month of November?

November is prostate cancer awareness month. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the U.S. And, 3 million men are living with prostate cancer and maybe one of them is your grandfather, father, spouse, uncle, or brother. Prostate cancer cells grow very slowly, and researchers are investigating strategies to reduce growth through “chemoprevention,” compounds in foods or drugs that can slow the growth. 

One of the most promising is a naturally occurring red pigment called lycopene (lye-co-peen). In plants, lycopene defends their cells from light-induced stress. Apricots, guava, and watermelon contain lycopene, but they can’t beat the lycopene content in tomatoes and tomato-based products, like canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, paste, and marinara sauces. Research into the connection between lycopene and prostate cancer continues to evolve but it suggests that cooked tomatoes play a role in reducing a man’s risk for developing prostate cancer.

Where to find lycopene

Lycopene is a lipophilic, meaning it likes to attach to fat (lipids) so eating tomatoes with some fat increases its absorption. Maybe that is why a drizzle of olive oil over fresh tomatoes tastes so good. But, another way to increase lycopene absorption is through heat treatment in the canning process. Cooking makes lycopene about two and half times more available to the body. While there is no recommended dietary intake (RDA) for lycopene, studies show about 10-20 milligrams/day is a good bet. One cup of tomato sauce has 46 milligrams, whereas a fresh tomato has about 3 milligrams. Wasson adds, “about 85% of the lycopene in our diets comes from tomatoes, canned products are easy, affordable, and versatile.”

While the research is promising for slowing prostate cancer cells, it is far from conclusive, so please don’t turn to lycopene supplements. But do eat plenty of tomato-based products for not only their lycopene, but for vitamins A and C, folate, and potassium. And, taste, don’t forget delicious taste!

Here are my favorite ways to eat tomato products. What’s yours?

  • Spicy chili made with canned tomato sauce and canned diced tomatoes with green peppers and chilis
  • Homemade Pico de Gallo with canned whole tomatoes, diced onion, peppers and jalapenos
  • Steamy tomato basil soup with gooey grilled cheese
  • My grandmother’s stuffed cabbage slowly cooked in tomato juice
  • Black bean burritos with store-bought tomato salsa
  • Marinara sauce over any type of pasta
  • Bruschetta on crusty bread

Check out Tomato Wellness for more information on all things tomatoes and tasty recipes. And, want to know where you can get a  “Legalize Marinara” shirt  and other cool merchandise, click here. 100% of the proceeds are donated to men’s health and prostate cancer research at the Movember Foundation.

This November stock up on canned tomato products to make fall and winter classics to please the whole family and keep them healthy! And, that person who was judging my shopping cart full of processed foods?  I spotted him two aisles over with canned tomatoes in his cart!

For more tips on enjoying all of the foods in the grocery store, check out Food & Fitness After 50.

One last fun fact about tomatoes: Did you know that botanically tomato is a fruit, but in 1893 the U.S. Supreme Court declared tomato a vegetable (it went to the court based on a tariff dispute!)

Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and professor emerita at Georgia State University.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

Food & Fitness After 50: Want to Naturally Lower Your Blood Pressure? Here’s How.

Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. Sounds simple enough but when that pressure gets high it can put you at risk for heart disease and stroke. Nearly half of adults in the U.S. (that is about 108 million) have high blood pressure (also called hypertension) yet only 24% or about 1 in 4 have it under control.

High blood pressure doesn’t make you feel bad so you might not know that you have it until it is too late. What can you do to control it? The good news is that medications can control it, but did you know that dietary changes can be just as effective as some drugs? And, the bonus is that a healthful diet also provides other disease-management benefits such as lowering cholesterol and blood sugar. I sat down with colleague and friend, Rosanne Rust, a registered dietitian and author, to talk about her latest cookbook, DASH Diet for Two.

Question: Give us the big picture of the DASH diet…. what is it and how do we know it works to lower blood pressure?

DASH is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (high blood pressure). It’s based on a 1997 landmark clinical trial (it was a randomized, controlled study, often called the “gold standard” for research) and has been repeated with other studies. The original study compared 3 groups, each given a dietary plan to follow over an 8-week period. Those on the DASH diet saw a drop in blood pressure in just 2 weeks, which translates to a 15% drop in heart attack risk and as much as a 27% reduction in stroke risk. The study included 459 people, half women, half men, and all had high blood pressure. Since high blood pressure is prevalent in the African American community, the researchers made sure to include them; 60% of study participants were Black.

DASH is a meal plan that emphasizes plant foods (especially fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), limits salt, sugars and saturated fat, and includes healthy plant fats and oils. It focuses on balanced meals with small portions of lean meats and fish twice a week to round out the plate. Low-fat dairy foods are also an important part of the DASH plan.

(For a good resource on the DASH diet, click here or or pre-order Rosanne’s book, DASH diet for Dummies, 2nd edition, available next month.)

Question: When people hear about diet and high blood pressure, they usually think about a low sodium diet, a tasteless low sodium diet at that. What other nutrients are important in regulating blood pressure?

The DASH diet is rich in minerals that help to manage blood pressure: potassium, calcium, magnesium. The DASH trials showed that sodium is not the main player in lowering blood pressure.  Including fruits, veggies and dairy foods (all rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium) helps lower blood pressure even on a diet that includes 3000 milligrams of sodium a day.

Fruits, veggies, and whole grains are also rich in antioxidants. While antioxidants don’t directly impact blood pressure, they are important to help keep cells healthy.

Question: Sodium is still important in blood pressure control, so I want to talk a bit about choosing foods in the grocery store and when dining out. Any tips?

I love restaurants and dining out. But you’ll end up consuming much more sodium when eating out than when you cook at home. Right now, we are all eating out less and cooking more at home but when you begin to eat out again try to balance the “eating out” days with days of eating less sodium while cooking at home.

Sodium doesn’t just come from the saltshaker. Most of the sodium in our meals comes from packaged foods that contain sodium in a variety of forms, including as a preservative. Reading labels is important because even within a category, there can be huge differences in the sodium content. Many brands have reformulated and call out reduced sodium on the label so that is a good place to start when trying to lower sodium.

Other tips to reduce sodium include:

  • Rinsing canned veggies. Did you know that by draining and rinsing canned beans (a nutrition superstar) you can cut sodium by 40%?
  • Cut salt in your cooking and use herbs and spices for flavor.
  • Compare bread and grains products; bread, while not tasting salty, can contribute to sodium intake, so choose breads with less sodium.
Rosanne Rust

Question: I can hear people saying, “I’m on blood pressure meds so I don’t have to worry about what I eat.” What would you say to that?

That is my pet peeve! Just because medication is lowering your blood pressure doesn’t mean you don’t have high blood pressure. You still have the diagnosis of high blood pressure and you will be healthier by eating better. For those who have been told they have “pre-hypertension,” the DASH diet can help lower blood pressure so you will never need medication. And, if you are currently taking a blood pressure medicine, following a healthy eating plan, like the DASH diet can often allow you to reduce the dosage thereby saving money and reducing side effects from the drug.

Question: I am one of seven kids and when we were all out of the house my mother complained she didn’t’ know how to cook without a crowd around her. Recipes for two sounds genius! Why did you write this cookbook and why are the recipes for two?

I have a strong family history of heart disease on both sides of my family, so I’ve been interested in studying prevention since the 1990s. There is a genetic component to high blood pressure, so despite my best efforts, I ended up being diagnosed with hypertension at age 52. I already ate well and have always included physical activity in my weekly routine, so I asked to be placed on the lowest possible dose of medication, and amped up my efforts to follow a DASH eating plan. It worked.

Having written two other DASH books, and now having HTN, I’m organically married to this lifestyle!

Buffalo Chicken Mac N Cheese

As for the reason for recipes for “two,” I’m now an empty nester as my three sons are out of the house so recipes for two sounded like a perfect fit for me. So far, the reception has been great. I intentionally included traditional recipes that I “made-over,” along with comfort foods and dishes that people might think would be off limits for a blood pressure lowering, heart healthy diet. The Buffalo Chicken Mac N Cheese is a favorite! (Click here for the recipe.)

Question: How did your family react to the recipes…I’m assuming your sons don’t have high blood pressure so did they turn their noses up at the idea of eating recipes developed for those with high blood pressure?

I was amazed when my 22-year old said, “It’s pretty good,” as he proceeded to eat a large portion of the Vegged Up Beef Enchiladas. Other recipes are dishes that we’ve eaten for years, so they’re simply used to eating this way. The men in my household do like meat though, so if it was up to them, they’d have big portions of meat more often. But I keep working on them and I have my husband convinced that a meatless meal occasionally is a good thing. He loves the 50-50 burgers: 50% lean ground beef and 50% finely chopped mushrooms make for a juicy burger with less fat, less sodium, and an extra serving of veggies.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about how to lower blood pressure with your food choices. Please share this post with anyone you know who has high blood pressure and is curious about lowering it and being healthier at the same time.

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 Urgency of Awareness: How Understanding Yourself Can Help You Understand Others

This isn’t my usual post; it deals with neither food nor fitness, but it might just help with mental fitness.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been in a training session at work or in your community designed to make you an effective team member? You know the kind of meeting…. writing on big sheets of paper stuck to the conference room wall, wordsmithing mission and vision statements, or trust exercises with colleagues. Let’s face it. For most of us the sessions were a snooze fest.

Well, not so with an amazing presenter I heard earlier this year. Jodi Pfarr is not your typical workshop leader. For the past 20 years she has been helping individuals, organizations, and communities understand their place in the societal system and how it impacts every aspect of their lives. Her humor and authenticity shine through. I encourage you to watch her website videos to experience her style. Jodi’s new book, The Urgency of Awareness, can help us be more effective in all spheres of our lives by getting to understand ourselves and our place in the societal system. I asked Jodi some questions about how we can apply this to our lives and why it is so urgent.

Question: When I attended your workshop, you had the group start by looking at 18 pairs of triangles…each pair showed one triangle pointing up and one pointing down. We were to circle the triangle in the pair that represented us. The upward pointing triangles represents what society normalizes. Can you explain what normalization means?

Our societal system is made up of us as individuals, but also by organizations, communities, and policies. And, our societal system normalizes one thing or one group over another. When something is normalized, let’s use the example of being right-handed as the normalized group, the people in that group get benefits that they don’t even realize they get. But, just ask a left-handed person and they can tell you the world is made for right-handers. Even the language we use reflects the normalized group. “Right” is associated with good things, “right hand man” for example, vs “left” as in “having two left feet.”

So, understanding if you are in the normalized group can help you become more aware of how society is geared toward that group and not another group. You get benefits from being in the normalized group even if you don’t recognize it. When you recognize that fact you can be more effective at listening to people and understanding them.

Question: Polices change over time so doesn’t that help equalize things for the group that is not normalized?

Polices do change to help move toward equality, but it can take a very long time and the effects of normalization live on. I like to use the example of South Africa. During apartheid, the white minority was normalized over the majority black population. After apartheid was overthrown, South Africa’s policies changed but inequality in wages, land ownership, and standard of living for blacks remain. Whites, being the normalized group, continue to benefit even after policies change.

Question: We all make assumptions about people, whether it is judging the food choices people make or the health care decisions they make. Why is that unproductive?

When we are not aware of being in a normalized group we act out of our own experiences. We know something based on our experiences and we put our experiences on other people. As you might image, being middle class or upper middle class is normalized and the underclass, the working poor, or those living in poverty are not normalized.

As a person who grew up in poverty, I saw firsthand that food takes on a different meaning from those who grew up middle or upper middle class.  Folks who grow up in poverty talk about food in terms of quantitiy….do I have enough to eat? If you are in the middle class and you had enough to eat the question becomes does it taste good? And, if you are wealthy, food is judged on appearance….is it pretty? Those who didn’t grow up in poverty question the food choices that are made by those who grow up in poverty…. why aren’t “those people” eating organic foods or fresh fruits and vegetables? We have a hard time understanding where others are coming from based on our experiences being in the normalized group. Seeing where we are coming from instead of assuming where others are coming from is more effective than the truth as we see it.

Question: Do you think people need more empathy?

Empathy is an overused word, in my opinion. Saying you have “empathy” can be just one more to do item on a checklist.  I think understanding is a more useful way to look it. When you understand you can move to ownership to have a better understanding of yourself. It allows reflection and can help you understand that there are different experiences and yours or mine isn’t the “best” experience, it is a different experience. When people start becoming aware, they can be more effective listeners, and everyone wants to be heard. It can be uncomfortable to realize you are part of a normalized group that has received benefits…some people feel guilty and some want to “fix” it. You don’t have to feel bad, just be aware and have understanding as a first step.

Question: Those between the ages of 18 and 65 are in the normalized group. I am over the age of 65 so I am not in the normalized group. How do you think older adults fit into the current societal system?

We need older people and their wisdom to lead us, now more than ever. Older folks have more experiences and their perceptions should be shared with younger people. We need older folks to lead and teach lessons to younger kids.  As I said earlier, everyone wants to be heard and feel listened to so older folks can start being more effective in their communication with younger people by not judging the nose rings and tattoos! Remember, one experience is just different, not better or worse than yours.

Question: In a word, what do you think we need right now from each other?

Grace, we need grace.

I found many definitions of the word “grace,” but I think the one that comes closest to what Jodi meant is “quality or state of being considerate and thoughtful, or courteous goodwill.” The world could all use more grace right now.

After hearing Jodi and reading her book it struck me that the difference between Jodi’s approach and all the other training is an internal focus versus external focus. By focusing on discovering awareness within ourselves we can be more effective with others. In Jodi’s words, “We have not learned to connect the understanding of how our unique individual experiences cause us to see and navigate the world differently.” Her book and teachings can help us connect with each other and our communities more effectively.

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: 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