By: Greg Fleming

According to a 2017 survey from the International Council on Active Ageing, 27 per cent of men and women over 50 wished they’d eaten healthier in their younger years.

While we can’t turn back the clock, it’s never too late to take control of your health with good nutrition, says the NZ Nutrition Foundation’s dietician Sarah Hanrahan.

Eventually, bad habits can catch up with you but it’s never too late to change, she says.

“Improving your diet can reduce your risk of diabetes, stroke, heart disease and some cancers, so it’s something that’s definitely worth doing.

“Good eating habits are good eating habits throughout life, although many people find they gain weight more easily as they age. This is partly hormones and partly because even though you think you’re just as active and train just as hard as you have done in the past, you probably don’t. The important things remain the same — eat plenty of vegetables, prepare food at home more often than you eat out and, as much as possible, eat with others.”

Is your nutrition advice for women 50-plus the same as for men?

“For some women, eating, and avoiding certain types of foods can make the menopause a lot more bearable. Women need a higher intake of calcium and vitamin D after menopause to help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Excellent dietary sources of calcium include dairy products [milk, cheese, yoghurt], nuts, dark green vegetables (broccoli and spinach for example), and fish with bones in [such as sardines and salmon].”

It’s often confusing as nutritional advice seems to go in cycles — coffee’s bad; no, it’s good — how does the ordinary person know what’s what?

“In among all the debate there is a lot of consistent common ground — eat plenty of vegetables, use healthy fats, eat plenty of wholegrains, use lean protein foods and include more pulses [beans, lentils, chickpeas].

“Other than that, most other things are okay in moderation, there is very little I would say avoid all together.

“If you’re eating plenty of vegetables, cooking at home more than you’re eating out (including takeaways), and you eat with other people, then you’re on the right track.”

But isn’t eating well time-consuming and expensive?

“It doesn’t need to be. If fresh vegetables are expensive, remember frozen and canned are there too and are part of a healthy diet as well as fresh. If you’re pushed for time, don’t be afraid to get a head start from the supermarket; there are plenty of products like sauces, frozen fish, chicken and vegetable mixes, bags of salad and quick-cooking cuts of meat that can help you get a quick, delicious and healthy meal on the table.”

How does diet and exercise interact with those 50-plus?

“Generally speaking, unless you are doing full-on exercise for more than 60 minutes, you probably don’t need anything special, just good nutrition as already discussed. “

Is sugar as bad as it’s made out to be?

“Foods with a lot of added sugar tend to be less healthy than those with little or no added sugar. This is because they may be more energy dense [more calories per mouthful] than other foods and often less filling. Foods with a lot of added sugar are best eaten in small amounts and are not everyday foods.”

Can you tell us a little bit about the Just Cook Healthy Ageing initiative?

“It’s a four-week programme for older people who have lost the confidence or motivation to cook. It may be that they’re new to cooking or have lost their kitchen mojo and are struggling for motivation.

“Each week there is a three-hour session, starting with a discussion about nutrition. This is followed by hands-on cooking where participants learn how to make delicious, healthy, basic recipes and then finish with sharing lunch. It’s a lot of fun and people who attend walk away confident with preparing healthy meals and making their food budget go further.

“We are very fortunate to have grants from the Ted and Mollie Carr Endowment Trust and the Estate of Ernest Hyam Davis, along with the Louisa and Patrick Emmett Murphy Foundation, which allows us to offer the programme free in Auckland.”

Source: NZ Herald

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