Eat healthy! March is Nutrition Month



Did you know that March is National Nutrition Month? I didn’t until Laurie Fanelli told me.

And it could be some other kind of month as well. Just like February was National Heart Month along with being Black History Month.

But I’ll concentrate on nutrition for the time being.  

As our bodies add on years, eating the right foods becomes more important. We’re too old to sit in front of the TV with a big box of Good & Plenty, and it’s not good to load up on our favorite pastries all the time. We have to be moderate with our diet and eat foods that are “healthy.”

Experts agree that fruits and vegetables at every meal is the way to go. And for your protein, eat seafood, lean meat, poultry, beans and nuts. It’s also accepted that we should seek foods that are low in calories, fats and sodium.

I find it pretty easy to recognize the foods with low fat and low caloric value, but I really find it difficult to get low-sodium products.

Did you ever check the labels on canned soups or Asian noodles? The sodium content seems to be off the charts. So be careful. If you can get low-sodium soups, broths, hams and cold cuts, go for it.

And here’s where we have to make some adjustments. Many of the low-sodium items on the grocery store shelves are pretty dull. Did you ever try saltine crackers with unsalted tops?

It seems to be accepted by all health professionals that too much sodium is not good for one’s heart and particularly bad for those battling hypertension. That’s why experts tell us to “throw away the saltshaker” and look for other healthy spices to  jazz up our meals. This may be why  Sriracha has become so popular. There are many healthy spices available to enhance our foods.

And what about caffeine?

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “drinking moderate amounts of coffee (including decaf) has been linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and some cancers.”

But the academy cautions that the elderly and those with hypertension may be more susceptible to the adverse effects of caffeine. They do note that adding milk to coffee is a way to get daily calcium and vitamin D.

This academy also said that canned vegetables and fruits are a very good way to get your nutrition. And these fruits and vegetables are not susceptible to the bacteria that can be carried by fresh fruits and vegetables that are not handled properly.

That’s why I like the little cans of vegetables available at the IGA. Enough for one portion. Serve with a pork chop and a baked potato and you have a healthy meal for one. The only drawback of canned products is that they do not store well. I always throw away what’s not eaten.

Then there are the benefits of fiber that we hear so much about. Some high-fiber foods that we should include in our diets are avocados, green peas, lentils, raspberries, almonds, sweet potatoes and popcorn, according to Consumer Reports. Some of this is tough for those of us living alone and cooking for one. Just remember to get enough fruits, vegetables, protein and non-fat dairy. And it’s always good to cut back on alcohol consumption.

I know that many health conscious people push chicken and turkey. I personally have trouble eating very much of that in view of how careful one must be handling raw poultry.  And then making sure it’s cooked all the way through — with no salmonella lurking anywhere. That’s why I parboil chicken before I barbecue it. Makes me feel better.

Meanwhile, a reminder that Tai Chi class begins at the Senior Activity Center on Tuesday, March 6. You can still sign up. Also, an AARP Driver Safety Program will be offered on Tuesday, May 1. The cost is $20 for an AARP member and $25 for a non-member. I took the class last spring and was able to get a nice reduction in my liability insurance premium. I recommend the class. To register, call (631) 749-1059.