Help With Aging Parents: Staying Healthy

| Thursday, December 22, 2011
By Agnes Baker

As an aging person, I thought I had the food pyramid down. It was easy; carbohydrates like bread were at the bottommost, followed by fruits and vegetables, then meat, then oils and sugars at the top. But, how was I to know it had been modified a number of times?

Now it has become the Food Plate. Here it is according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA:

Balancing Calories

1) Enjoy your food, but eat less

2) Avoid oversized portions

Foods to Increase

3) Make half your plate fruits and vegetables

4) Make at least half your grains whole grains

5) Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk

Foods to Reduce

6) Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals * and choose the foods with lower numbers

7) Drink water instead of sugary drinks

It seems the USDA is emphasizing the importance of fruits and vegetables over grains. Hmm, more reason for us to have our own vegetable garden!

It's unfortunate that eating at McDonald's is cheaper than eating a mealful of fresh fruits and vegetables. But think about it... eating fresh fruits and vegetables is more economical in the long run as we save on the hospital and medication bills that come with being ill due to an unhealthy diet! Fruits and vegetables are a FANTASTIC source of vitamins and minerals. Especially for us, to help fight against infection and constipation.

Dairy products are also important. With the prevalence of osteoporosis especially among us elderly, this reminds us of the importance of calcium. Not just calcium found in milk, but in low-fat milk. I think it's because your usual full milk is meant for children. As we age, we should really switch to low-fat or fat-free.

Everywhere I go, I have been hearing about "going for whole grains" instead of the usual refined grains. The change in taste took some getting use to, I admit. Now that I have been focusing on whole grains for a couple of years, I cannot imagine switching back to refined grains.

The grain switch that had the biggest effect on me? Switching to brown rice. Up to now I still prefer the taste of white rice. But brown rice just made me so less constipated! I love it! I still eat the occasional white rice; my staple at home is brown rice. Red rice also had the same good effect on me. I don't know why, but the switch from white bread to whole wheat bread didn't have as big on an effect on me. I still buy whole wheat nonetheless.

What really caught my eye on the USDA website was to "drink water instead of sugary drinks." My, Coca-cola has really made a killing, to the point that drinking soda is the norm instead of the exception. I don't like the taste of soda, maybe because we were not allowed to have any growing up. I now appreciate the wisdom stemming from that, as I have never had a problem with my water intake. My dear friend has switched to drinking water instead of soda. She had a difficult time at first. Much like staying away from nicotine, she couldn't stay away, but as time passed, craving for sugary drinks lessened. As a sidenote: I know staying away from nicotine is probably a hundred times harder, but that's for another article entirely!

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