SelectCare Home Care Services of NY recently celebrated Healthy Weight Week, a time to set reasonable health goals and make small, easy-to-achieve lifestyle changes that can have a huge impact on our overall health. To that end, we hope this blog offers some useful tips to help our community make healthy dietary decisions.
Why Start Small?
Every new year, countless New Yorkers make resolutions to lose weight and live healthier lives, throwing themselves full-on into new health regimes drastically different from their routines. Unfortunately, making these drastic changes is oftentimes the best way to burn yourself out on healthier living, and many people wind up right where they started.
By setting smaller health goals that are easier to maintain, it becomes much more likely that the goals you set in January will have a lasting impact on your health.
Healthy Weight and Aging
As we age, the makeup and behavior of our bodies change over time. Our metabolisms begin to slow at age 40 and our bodies burn fewer calories every year, especially if mobility limitations make getting exercise difficult.
While our caloric needs decrease over time, our bodies still need all the nutrients of a normal diet, meaning that it is critically important to add “nutrient dense” foods to our plates.
Nutrient dense foods include:
- fruits and vegetables (choose a range of types with vibrant colors)
- whole grains, like oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, and brown rice
- fat-free or low-fat milk and cheese, or soy or rice milk that is fortified with vitamin D and calcium
- seafood, lean meats, poultry, and eggs
- beans, nuts, and seeds
By contrast, the following foods are extremely low in nutrients, despite being high in calories:
- sugar-sweetened drinks and desserts that have added sugars
- foods with butter, shortening, or other fats that are solid at room temperature
- white bread, rice, and pasta made from refined grains
Being aware of these changes and seeking foods that offer lots of nutrients for less calories is key to maintaining a healthy body weight, which in turn can have a huge impact on long term health.
Not eating enough can lead to low body weight and an increased risk of illness, as well as make our bodies more frail and prone to severe injury in the event of a fall. Meanwhile, becoming overweight by failing to adjust your diet can lead to a number of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, while the added weight on your body can make day-to-day ambulation tiring and present its own set of fall risks.
For additional advice on how to identify healthy foods through nutritional labels, be sure to read the following guide from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
One of the easiest ways to maintain a healthy weight is by setting out an appropriate amount of food at every meal. Below are some easy ways to ensure you aren’t going overboard at the dinner table:
- Read nutrition labels to see how much food is generally considered a serving by the manufacturer. This also makes labels more useful in determining how healthy your meal will be.
- Don’t eat in front of a TV or other distraction, since your attention will likely be drawn away from whether or not you actually feel full.
- If you grew up being told to always clean your plate, consider eating meals on smaller plates, allowing you to manage portion size without feeling like you wasted food.
Eating at Home
Preparing your own meals is a great way to track the overall healthiness of your diet, since you know exactly how much salt, butter, and other tasty, but unhealthy ingredients are landing on your plate. Below are some tips to help ensure cooking for one stays fun:
- Cook ahead and freeze portions for days when you don’t want to cook.
- Keep frozen or canned vegetables, beans, and fruits on hand for quick and healthy meal add-ons. Rinse canned foods to remove extra salt. Drain juice and syrup from canned fruit to remove extra sugar.
- Eat often with someone you enjoy. Sharing a meal with a neighbor or friend can add some fun to meal time and encourage you to sit down for meals at regular times.
Many would-be dieters think the easiest way to lose weight is to skip a meal – typically lunch or dinner. This strategy really only makes sense if you don’t think about it. Your body depends on regular meals to maintain its metabolic cycle and function properly.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but avoiding meals can actually result in increased weight gain because of how our bodies react to a lack of food. When a meal is skipped and you become hungry, your body goes into emergency calorie saving mode, turning more calories than normal into fat cells during your next meal as a way to protect you from what your body believes to be a food shortage.
Drink Water (Not Soda!)
Water intake actually plays an important role in managing your metabolism. Drinking a glass of water at the start of the day signals to your body that you are awake and likely to begin some form of activity, thus beginning the process of turning stored energy into usable calories.
As we age, our sensitivity to thirst tends to diminish, meaning that it is especially important for older people to track their personal water intake and grab a glass even when they are not particularly thirsty.
We hope you found these nutritional tips useful. At SelectCare, it’s our goal to empower New Yorkers to live healthy, happy lives in the comfort of their longtime homes, and understanding how to create a healthy diet is absolutely critical to this goal.
To learn more about SelectCare and how our staff of compassionate home health caregivers can help you or a loved one enjoy more nutritious meals, call us today!
Sources: This article was written using information offered by the following organizations: