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Older adult wellness: eating for longevity

Published: Thursday, May 8, 2014 11:19 a.m. CST

Now more than ever the topic of nutrition is a swirling cloud of confusion. From fad diets to age old eats, it seems a daunting task to determine what and how to eat. 

On top of that, exposure to conflicting news about the health benefits of certain foods often results in a backlash against nutrition recommendations.  It so saturates our culture that even those who avoid reading nutrition books and magazine articles get plenty of it. 

But don’t let all of this keep you from taking steps toward optimal nourishment.  By keeping things simple and looking to the people with the longest, healthiest lives, a pattern emerges. The Blue Zones® study discovered that among five communities around the world where people experience a long, high-quality life, a plant based diet emerged as a common denominator. 

Plant-based as a lifestyle approach emphasizes foods from plants, with modest amounts of fish, lean meat, low-fat dairy, and red meat only sparingly. If your current food choices are lacking the nutritious plants or you are ready for a fueling boost, try adopting one or more of the following ideas to incorporate more plants into your diet. 

Keep veggies visible. Don’t tuck your vegetables away in the crisper.  Keep them on the shelf that is at eye level in your refrigerator. Keeping them in sight, keeps them as a top option as you search for fuel for your body. 

Prepare convenient snack bags. Spend time washing and chopping your produce. Then package it in pre-portioned containers for easy grab and go options. 

Explore. Try new and different foods. Just because you hate steamed broccoli doesn’t mean you can’t eat your vegetables. From roasting, steaming, sautéing, to grilling, switching up the preparation method can vary the vegetable experience greatly. 

Go nuts. Nuts offer many health benefits. From protein to healthy fats, a handful a day helps nurture your body and satiate your hunger. Be mindful of your portions though as a serving of nuts is often smaller than we expect. 

Use fruit as decoration. Keep a bowl of fresh fruit like apples, bananas, and oranges on the counter or dining room table. By placing the fruit as a centerpiece, not only are you keeping it in sight which makes you more likely to eat it, but you are making it aesthetically pleasing.  

Meatless Mondays. Pick one day each week to go meatless. By cutting meat for even one day, you reduce calories and fats from meat while increasing nutrients from plants. 

Challenge yourself to reflect on your food choice patterns. Can you say that the majority of your diet consists of whole foods? With the emphasis on vegetables, beans, and whole grains, your body will be fueled to run its best. Tuning up your table choices is one part of building a lifestyle focused on health and well-being. Incorporate more plants into your day and take a step today toward a healthier you!