Food after fifty

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Antioxidants, trans fats, probiotics, resveratrolt ... the vocabulary of nutrition changes daily. Study after study is reported refuting the information that was reported in the study during the past month : why has healthy eating become such a complicated process?

Obviously, we need to eat to live. But, in the midst of all this chaos, there are a few basic rules to live and eat by.

First, as we age, our bodies often resemble the well-used car that has accumulated a few rust spots, a process called oxidation. Consuming fruits and vegetables that contain high levels of anti-oxidants is the best antidote to body rust. Anti-oxidant foods target free radicals in your body, free radicals that attack and damage healthy cells. Remember your Mom telling you to eat your fruits and vegetables? Well, Mom was absolutely correct even though the word "antioxidant" was not part of her food vocabulary. Focus on a daily intake of a group of rainbow-colored foods : blueberries, tomatoes, apples, sweet potatoes, strawberries, blackberries, even green tea and red wine and you will build an army of anti-oxidants to fight free radicals!

The number two rule is much more difficult! Portion size is a hard habit to break. People say they can never consume the recommended daily nine servings of fruits and vegetables because, "It's too much food for me!" The recommended serving size is usually no more that one half cup, sometimes less. A portion size is the amount we choose to place on our plate. In other words, that large whole banana you ate at breakfast may very easily be two servings. Likewise, one-half cup of French fries is a serving : how long has it been since you have been served 8-10 fries? And what about a large glass of orange juice? Four ounces is a serving. A much better serving choice would be the whole orange that provides not only Vitamin C, but is also a fiber source.

Even though we may not feel less energetic, we no longer burn the same number of calories. So, be prepared to say good-by to filling your dinner plate with "portions" and utilize only salad plates on your table. Think of a serving of protein as the size of a deck of cards, a fruit serving the size of a tennis ball and a fat serving no more than the tip of your thumb. Examine your food choices. If you are a lover of red meat, give tofu a try. Eat fatty fish like salmon at least once if not twice a week to ward off Alzheimer's and maintain heart health.

Restaurant portions are often large enough for two or three meals. To maintain a healthy weight and still eat out, never leave a restaurant without a "doggie bag" in hand. During dinner, slowly sip that one alcohol drink and then keep a supply of dark chocolate at home to provide that "special dessert" treat!

Practice makes perfect is rule number three! Just as we have acknowledged the fact that we can no longer ski bumps all day without paying the price of aching knees and backs, we need to accept as part of our daily routine, smaller portions, nutrient-dense foods and low-impact exercise. Just walking the dog twenty minutes a day qualifies as exercise!

Is the over-fifty age group now the new over-forty group? You bet we are and we are determined to live long, healthy, productive lives. So toss those trans fats and the super-sized servings and bring on the barbequed tofu strips and the pomegranate martini (but only one)!

Roberta Gill is a registered dietician for the VNA. She can be reached at 871-7638.

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