SENIOR BEAT

Seniors sticking to a healthful diet doesn’t have to be painful

Posted June 06, 2012, at 10:27 p.m.

Seems that everywhere you turn, someone is touting the benefits of eating a healthful diet. And there is always some new “miracle food” that will prevent the disease du jour. While there’s a lot to be said for that idea such as increased energy and overall well-being, eating “right” can also be overwhelming.

One of the problems of developing a healthful diet is that some of us have an all or nothing attitude. The “I will eat only good food and no bad food all the time, every day,” mantra is what the junk food producing giants depend on. After all, no one can keep this up forever. And actually no food is really deadly if eaten in moderation.

Seniors cooking for one or even two may find challenges in developing or sticking to a healthful diet. However, adding certain foods or replacing old standbys is not such a difficult task but can make a big difference.

For example, substituting brown rice for white rice will give your diet a boost. While white rice is commonly used, it has no real nutritional value, but brown rice has a host of vitamins and fiber. It also has a hearty, almost nutty flavor. Try the microwave individual servings which are so simple even I can make them perfectly every time.

As Mainers, we are fortunate to live in blueberry heaven. These small, dark blue fruits are another body-booster, just chock full of fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants. Pair them with yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, which is a good source of protein, and you have a terrific breakfast. You can boost the nutrients even more by using a high-fiber crunchy cereal as a topping. And well-known registered dietitian, Katherine Musgrave, has said that seniors do not get enough fiber.

Think broccoli can’t be fun? Throw some on a frozen pizza or sauté with the above mentioned brown rice. How about a broccoli and cheese omelet? This emerald-colored little veggie is versatile and has plenty of cancer-fighting agents.

And speaking of pizza, many don’t realize that it can be a very nutritious food. Try a whole grain crust, low-fat cheese and add chopped up veggies as toppings. The tomato sauce is especially good for you too.

Love French fries? Right, who doesn’t, but did you ever make sweet potato fries? There are some great frozen varieties available; and one company will even deliver them directly to your house. These tasty, frozen strings of nutritious goodness only need a blast of cooking spray and a hot even. You’ll never go back to white potato fries.

If snacking is on your mind, think about whole-grain rye crackers. The often called crispbreads are usually fat-free and a good source of fiber. These are especially good with peanut butter, sliced bananas and sprinkled with raisins. Add a cup of tea, also full of antioxidants, for a delicious and easy little meal.

Now, how about fish for dinner? Sardines and salmon are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids which can contribute to heart health. A tablespoon of flaxseed is also rich in omega-3s and can be added to applesauce and yogurt. It has a nutty flavor and should be ground. Coffee grinders work well for this task.

A few other items to keep in mind as you rove the grocery store in search of healthful yet tasty fare are tomatoes, nuts, butternut squash, oranges, and onions.

With all this good food, your body will probably hardly notice the dish of ice cream. After all, some foods are just good for the soul.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. Email Higgins Taylor at chtaylor@eaaa.org. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free (800) 432-7812, email info@eaaa.org or log on EAAA.org. TTY 992-0150.

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