By Tracy F. Seelye, Express editor
WHITMAN — Good nutrition can be tricky at any age, as dietary guidelines change with advances in scientific research, but for seniors the changing needs of one’s body add to the challenge.
Community Outreach Coordinator Ann Marie Powers and registered dietician Claire Kennedy of the Norwell Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice (NVNA) presented “Healthy Eating As We Age,” at the Whitman Council on Aging Thursday morning, Sept. 4.
Another session, at a time to be announced, is being planned for an evening in October for those who were unable to attend last week’s program.
“I am a senior, as you can tell by looking at me,” quipped Kennedy, who has been with the NVNA for the last 10 years of her long career in nutrition. “I’m still working because I love nutrition and I’m not ready to stay home.”
Her program also included tips for grocery shopping, but the bulk of it centered on nutrients, why they are needed, how one’s body absorbs them and oral health can affect the comfort of eating.
“As we age, people tend to eat less,” Kennedy said. “Medication can change the absorbtion of nutrients, including vitamins and minerals.”
She said concerns over skin cancer have decreased the level of vitamin D, and sunblock also interferes with it. For those limiting sun exposure, calcium supplements and dairy in the diet becomes more important.
“A lot of Americans are low in vitamin D because we don’t get out in the sun,” Kennedy said.
Eggs, too, have had a change in dietary status with changes in scientific thinking. They, like yellow and orange vegetables, are rich in vitamin A, which boosts the immune system and aids bone growth.
“The best source of protein you can eat is an egg,” Kennedy said. “Eggs are not the culprit they used to be … they found that cholesterol in food was not associated with heart disease. It was actually saturated fat.”
She cautioned her audience to consult with their phsyician if they have specific medical conditions.
Hydration is also a challenge for older persons as thirst mechanisms slow and the body loses the ability to regulate fluids.
Kennedy supplied the group with a chart of a balanced daily diet titled MyPlate for Older Adults, which recommends half one’s diet be comprised of fruits and vegetables, one quarter whole grains and one quarter meat, fish and dairy as well as eight 8-ounce servinces of fluids.
The information packets provided to the group by the NVNA also included a chart on how common fats and oil affect lipids in the body, charts on how to store foods (and for how long) in the pantry and refrigerator and recipes for healthy meals.
Kennedy also touched on grocery-shopping strategies for economy and good nutrition.
Comparing sale circulars is a good way to save money, but the best strategy lies in developing a meal plan, making a list — and sticking to it.
Incorporate sales within that meal plan and don’t depend on one store. Use two or more.
“Decide which store has the best prices and go there first,” she said. Use other stores for sale prices only.
Don’t use coupons for items you don’t usually use just to save money, she advised. Shop the perimeter for staples, if a store is designed that way.