Extension and Ag Research News


Eat Healthfully Throughout the Seasons of Life

It made me think about the fact that as my children grow larger and taller, I’m growing older

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

The other day I was packing away my kids' summer clothes and unpacking their winter clothes from last year. My children reluctantly tried on their ""old"" clothes. To their amazement, somehow their clothes had ""shrunk"" during storage.

Their jeans were well above their ankles and their sleeves were above their wrists. As I repacked their winter clothes for a future garage sale, I planned a trip to the clothing store.

Of course, children grow quickly. The change in seasons makes their growth very apparent. It also made me think about the fact that as they grow larger and taller, I'm growing older.

Just as seasons are marked by changes in weather, we have seasons in life marked by changes in our bodies. Youth is marked by rapid growth. As we age, we don't grow upward. Instead, growing ""outward"" often becomes an issue. Being overweight or obese is a topic of great concern worldwide.

Some of the changes associated with aging affect our nutritional needs. While we can't turn back the clock, we can make some positive changes in our diet and level of activity.

Many people experience changes in their senses, such as hearing, smell, vision and taste, during the aging process. Foods may not taste the way they used to, which can lead to a loss of appetite. Worsening eyesight can make reading nutrition labels or recipe books more difficult.

The aging process can result in a decrease in bone density and muscle mass, and an increase in body fat. We don't detect thirst as well. The digestive tract slows down, often leading to constipation, making it vital that we get enough fiber and water.

Some of the nutrients of concern during aging are calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins A, C, D, E and folate. Low levels of certain nutrients are linked with memory loss, weakening of bones, anemia and many other health issues.

Yes, these are somber facts. The good news is that there are things you can do to cope with the changes. A balanced, varied diet and regular physical activity can make you feel years younger and possibly live longer, too.

Here are some other good tips:

  • To adapt to sensory changes, try new food flavors such as herbs or sodium-free seasonings. If you wear dentures, be sure they fit properly to allow efficient chewing. Try some different textures, such as whole-grain breads and brown rice. Be sure vegetables aren't cooked to the ""mushy"" stage.
  • Try not to eat the same foods for every meal. Enjoy foods from all the food groups, such as meat/beans, fruits, vegetables, dairy and grains. Aim for a colorful diet, with at least three distinct colors on your plate.
  • Don't rely on dietary supplements to make up for nutrition shortfalls.
  • Make mealtime pleasant. Set the table. Put on some music.
  • Take advantage of senior meal programs in your community. The programs provide companionship and balanced meals.

For more information about your nutritional needs at various ages, visit www.MyPyramid.gov for a personalized plan or contact your local Extension Service office.

Here's a colorful, nutritious recipe to try.

Carrot Raisin Salad

  • 2 c. grated raw carrots
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 c. diced celery
  • 1/4 c. chopped nuts
  • 1/2 c. light salad dressing (mayo type)

Mix carrots, raisins, lemon juice, celery, and nuts. Toss lightly with salad dressing. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes six servings (approximately. 2/3 c. each). Each serving has 140 calories, 19 grams of carbohydrate, 6 grams of fat, 2.7 grams of fiber and 223 grams of sodium.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, jgardenr@ndsuext.nodak.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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