Spring into a healthier You

Change is in the air as the temperature slowly begins to warm up and signs of life are beginning to return. That only means one thing, that spring is right around the corner. There is no better way to “spring” into the new season than with National Nutrition Month.

National Nutrition Month is celebrated every March and is a time to promote the importance of making sound food choices and improving physical activity habits. No matter how old you are, healthy eating and physical activity will always be important.

As we go through the lifecycle our bodies are continuously changing, and so are our nutrition needs. For example, the nutrition needs of an infant are not the same as the nutrition needs of an adult in their 50’s, and the nutrition needs of an adult in their 50’s is not the same as the nutrition needs for an adult in their 70’s.

A balanced diet for older adults consists of fruits and vegetables, protein, dairy, grains, healthy oils, and fluids. Incorporating a balanced diet with moderate physical activity into your lifestyle are very important components of active aging. As it begins to warm up outside it is easier to incorporate physical activity into your day. Older adults benefit from moderate physical activity, such as walking or gardening. Consuming adequate calories and protein is an important component of physical activity to help maintain muscle mass. Also, consuming plenty of fluids is important to maintain hydration, especially during increased physical activity and in warmer weather. Fluids are available as water, tea, coffee, soups, fruits, and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are packed full of fiber and nutrients all while being low in calories. Typically, the darker the produce the more nutrients it will contain. Fruits and vegetables can be kept on hand in multiple forms such as frozen, fresh, canned, and dried. This makes it easier to incorporate a variety of fruits and vegetables into your favorite dishes. Grains are a great source of B vitamins and fiber. Today, most grains can also be found in a whole grain version making it easier to incorporate whole grains into your diet. Try making half of your grains whole by trading white rice for brown rice or reaching for whole wheat bread over white bread to help increase your whole grain and fiber intake.

Foods high in protein provide a wide range of nutrients that help maintain muscle mass. High protein foods include seafood, poultry, eggs, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, soy products, and low/non-fat dairy. Protein rich foods are best prepared with herbs and spices, little added salt, and minimal butter and cheese. This helps minimize sodium and saturated fat intake. Another way to help decrease fat intake is by baking or grilling your protein instead of frying it. Fat-free and low-fat dairy products are another great source of protein and another important component of a balanced diet. Along with being a good source of protein, dairy is also a good source of calcium and other important nutrients for the body. Try incorporating a variety of dairy products into your diet by selecting fat-free or low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt.

Healthy oils are an important component in a balanced diet because they provide essential fatty acids and some fat-soluble vitamins. Vegetable oils and margarine are great substitutes for solid saturated fats, such as butter or lard. Use soybean, canola, or olive oil when cooking and preparing foods. Healthy oils can be used when sauteing vegetables, browning meats, and making salad dressings.

A healthy lifestyle starts with small changes. Whether it’s changing white noodles for whole wheat noodles, drinking an extra glass of water during the day, or adding a 15-minute walk into the day, take the opportunity this month to make one small change toward a healthier lifestyle.

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