In our fifties we face numerous food challenges. We often choose to ignore them rather than face them head on. Here are the problems we face:
- We burn calories slower. Everything we put into our mouths seems to wind up someplace else: hips, thighs, tummy.
- Our children have often left home or are so wrapped up in their own lives that carefully planned family meals have become fond memories.
- Our careers are peaking, leaving little time or thought for nutrition. We left all that stuff behind when the kids were little, right?
The truth is that after fifty we need to be paying more attention to nutrition, not less. What we eat during this decade will impact our health for the rest of our lives. The key lies in learning how to sneak nutrition in everywhere you can. Even your morning coffee or your afternoon soft drink can get a mini boost of something your body needs.
Step 1 Start with your grocery shopping:
We all go through spurts of paying attention to what we eat. If you have nutritional add-ins on the shelf or in the freezer it will make it easier to take advantage of those spurts. If you always have a goal of buying at least one nutritional bonus food to your shopping cart you'll soon have a pantry filled with stuff you can effortlessly sneak into your everyday foods. Here's a short list to get you started.
- Frozen spinach
- Canned pumpkin
- Canned or dried black beans
- Canned or dried Navy or Great Northern Beans
- Black cherry juice concentrate (this may require a visit to a health food store)
- Half & half real dairy creamers (available in low fat varieties, but check the calcium content)
- Powdered milk
- Oat Bran
- Flax seeds
- Frozen blueberries
Step 2 Divide and Conquer
Okay, so you've got this can of pumpkin sitting on the shelf and you've read all the things you can add it to (you did read that article right?), but you are cooking for two and don't need a whole can of pumpkin in your taco meat and your feet hurt. You just want to eat something and sit down with your Kindle. The easiest solution is to utilize ice trays, or even better, 1 oz plastic cups with lids that you can buy at food warehouses like Sam's Club or Costco. As soon as you bring the can home divide it up. Then put all the little cups into a gallon zipper seal plastic bag and into the freezer.
Use this concept for pureed black beans, blueberries, the black cherry juice or almost any of the items on the shopping list. The goal is to have the items measured, processed if necessary, and ready to throw into your everyday foods. The simpler the better.
Step 3 Keep Thinking Small
Let's face it, that 1,200 mg of calcium recommended daily for women over 50 (1,000 mg for men) is huge. You could eat a cup of yogurt, drink a glass of milk, have an ounce of cheddar cheese, and eat a cup of cottage cheese and still miss the mark. What that means is that every little thing counts. That's why the real dairy creamers and the powdered milk are on the shopping list. I know, those flavored coffee creamers taste good, but most of them have no nutritional value and often contain nutritional no-no's like partially hydrogenated fat and corn syrup. The tiny half & half cups offer as much calcium as cup of broccoli.
It's often the small portions that make all the difference in our nutrition, for good or bad.