Older adults want to look their best and be as healthy as possible, just like the rest of us. A dear friend is hoping her recent knee replacement surgery recuperation will help her knock off a few pounds. If you’re not in a rehabilitation hospital like she is, and are interested in a “do-able” not fad diet, here is a quick summary of the New American Diet (NAD), put out by AARP and authored by Dr. John Whyte. His recommendations are in-line with current thinking about maintaining a heart-healthy approach and improved nutritional choices, in short, a new way to eat, not a diet.
- Drink more water and skip the regular and diet sodas.
- Eat fish at least twice a week for brain health and reducing your chances of cancer and arthritis. Eat red meat only once a week. Skip hotdogs altogether; sorry baseball fans!
- Eat whole grains. They are packed with fiber, and vitamin B and can help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and respiratory illness.
- Fruits and Veggies, but not potatoes, unless you eat them plain.
- Include low-fat dairy products in moderation; humans need calcium and vitamin D for bone health and protecting brain function.
- Diet fare usually means low nutrient value and maybe moderate calories; the combination isn’t satisfying so, people tend to eat more of the diet food, defeating the purpose. It is better to eat small, few, real treats.
- Watch portions and dine at home! Restaurant portions may be 3 times what you would normally choose for yourself. Additionally, chefs often use high fat ingredients and lots of salt. (Healthy portions: fruits and vegetables, the size of your fist, meat or poultry serving the size of a pack of cards, and a serving of fish the size of a checkbook.) After a few weeks, you can go out again, but choose with care.
- Examine labels: this is your key to understanding what is going into your body. Dr. Whyte uses this example: “Some brands of yogurt, for instance, have as much sugar as a candy bar. If one brand has 12 grams of sugar and another has 20, the choice is clear.”
- Eat great snacks to keep your blood sugar up. (small handful of nuts, a piece of fruit, a little hummus with red bell pepper slices.)
He even says what to eat and what not to:
Eat figs not cookies
Eat brown rice not white rice
Eat oil and vinegar not prepared salad dressing
Eat sweet potatoes not white potatoes
Eat whole wheat bread not white bread
Eat grilled or roasted chicken not fried chicken
Eat dark chocolate not milk chocolate
Eat handful of blueberries not a cereal bar
Eat whole-wheat pasta not white pasta
Eat broiled salmon not fish sticks
Eat steel cut oats not instant oatmeal
Eat Greek yogurt not ice cream
Eat olive oil not butter
Never once did the NAD mention counting calories or keeping a food journal. I guess Dr. Whyte knows that would be hard to do for the rest of your life. Changing the way you think about what to eat is possible, even if it might take practice.