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Eat well to age well

Eat well to age well

Eat well to age well

Nourishing your wellbeing is important. Our food choices have a huge impact on our bodies, and become even more important as we age. Eating well can enhance your quality of life, fuel vitality and longevity, and help you maintain your independence and connections. It boosts your immune system and can lower the risk of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and other chronic diseases.

“Spring is the perfect time to commit to making more informed food choices and developing great habits,” advises chef Jo Lusted, author of the cookbook Dish Do-Over – Family Favourites Reinvented. “Focus on including more nutrient-dense foods, being mindful of your body’s needs, and doing the best you can within your budget and time constraints.”

Adapting and changing our diets can make a big difference in our health, how we feel and perform. “I find it’s often overlooked that a well-balanced diet is crucial for emotional well-being and cognitive ability as well,” says Chef Jo. “It’s essential as we age to make the best choices possible, and consult with healthcare professionals to ensure that our unique nutritional needs are being met.

Read more about: Food For Good Mood

Make meals easy and balanced

Enjoy a variety of foods from each food group and get enough lean protein to maintain muscle mass. You want to limit too much sodium, sugar, saturated fats and complex carbs like white flour, refined sugar and white rice. Choose good carbs like beans, and bright-coloured fruits and veggies. Boost bone health with calcium-rich sources like diary products, along with tofu, fortified orange juice, broccoli, almonds and kale. Get important nutrients like potassium, vitamin D, dietary fibre and vitamin B12. Be sure to stay hydrated – drink water often.

To make healthy eating an easier task for seniors, Chef Jo recommends simplifying meal preparation: That includes batch cooking, using pre-cut vegetables, frozen fruit and vegetables, pre-washed greens, and employing tools like food processors and an instant pot to make meal prep less labour intensive.

Think about smart swaps. “Go for whole grains instead of refined white bread and rice, Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, and honey for white sugar.”

Enjoy shared meals: Batch cook and swap with friends; invite friends or family over, it doesn’t have to be a special occasion! “Sharing meals makes mealtime more enjoyable and feeds social connections, and encourages more balanced eating habits and nutritional diversity.” 

How to eat nutritiously on a budget

With skyrocketing food prices, eating a well-balanced diet can take a big chunk out of fixed incomes. Chef Jo offers up these tips for those on a budget:

  • Shop your pantry. Use up all those odds and ends you’ve been ignoring. Substitute where possible in recipes.
  • Shop the sales. Stock up on pantry staples and regular items, meat and other foods you can freeze immediately, or process and freeze. There are lots of grocery apps, for example Flipp, that are great for finding bargains.
  • Limit the takeout and prepared foods. These items are more costly, and often higher in sugar/sodium.
  • Shop with a list and stick to it, other than deeply discounted sale items that work within your budget.

A healthy Mac and Cheese makeover

Here’s a taste from Chef Jo’s Dish Do-Over – Family Favourites Reinvented with ingredients that are affordable and widely available in most grocery stores. “The recipes are designed to be easy, lower in sugar/sodium and fat, with reasonable portion sizes, which would fit very well into a senior’s meal plan.”

Macaroni N’ Cheese

Quite possibly the most perfect food on the planet! “The original uses full-fat cheese, cream and white pasta; the whole dish is pretty much fat and carbs. My version uses creamy sweet potato to thicken the sauce and add nutrients and flavour, non-fat evaporated milk and brown rice pasta.”

Serves 8: Ingredients 

2 ½ cups sweet potato, peeled and chopped (one medium)

3 tbsp olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup brown rice or whole wheat flour

2 tsp mustard powder

1 370 mL can non-fat evaporated milk

1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock

2 cups grated low-fat old cheddar cheese

¾ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese, divided

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

Dash hot sauce

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 cups brown rice or whole wheat macaroni (454 g pkg)

1 cup Oikos non-fat Greek yogurt

1 cup gluten-free panko breadcrumbs or fresh whole wheat breadcrumbs

1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 375F.

Place sweet potato into a steamer basket over a saucepan of boiling water. Steam potato until fork tender, about 15 minutes. Mash until smooth and set aside.

Heat oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently until onions are softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute. Stir in mustard powder and sweet potato.

Whisk in milk and chicken stock until smooth, and bring to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring frequently until thickened, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat, gradually stir in cheddar and ½ cup parmesan cheese until smooth. Season with nutmeg, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Whisk in Greek yogurt until mixture is smooth.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package instructions for al dente. Drain, reserving 1/3 cup pasta cooking water. Return pasta to pot and stir in sauce, and reserved pasta cooking water as needed to loosen sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a 9×13-inch baking pan misted with cooking spray.

In a small bowl combine panko, parsley and remaining parmesan cheese. Sprinkle mixture over pasta and mist with cooking spray. Bake for about 30 minutes until sauce is bubbling and topping is golden brown and crisp.  

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