October 30, 2007 in Features

Seek proper nutrition as part of care routine

Paul Graves The Spokesman-Review

Whenever my wife and I are having a meal with family and/or friends, I know I may be asked to offer a table grace. The intent of my grace is always to offer gratitude for the food before us, those who prepared the food, and the relationships of those gathered at the table.

Before I ever thought intentionally about nutrition as a vital component of aging, I understood that we are nourished both by the food we eat and the people we meet while we eat. So today’s “food for thought” is about food and eating companions.

I recently spent time talking about nutrition for elders with a friend, Sue Kohut. Sue is the Nutrition Advisor at the University of Idaho Extension office in Sandpoint. She gave me a page of common-sense, helpful reminders about food that elders are wise to consider when planning their daily meals.

For instance: a healthy daily diet for elders generally includes 6 ounces of grains, 2½ cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruits, 3 cups of milk, 5½ ounces of meat and beans, 6 teaspoons of oils and about 250 discretionary calories. Of course, you should always check with your doctor for specific recommendations.

Elders, I know that many of you are not highly motivated to measure out your food this precisely. It may be difficult to approach your food intake this seriously, however you choose to do it.

But your nutritional health is at least as important as other matters of your daily life – like personal hygiene and grooming, maintaining your home, or your social routine.

I’d be glad to email her summary page to you. It includes a number of other insights you may not even consider on your own.

I also suggest you check with your local hospital or health care agencies for literature that gives you basic nutritional hints and even some menu ideas.

One booklet I have on my desk, “Cooking Solo: Homemade for Health,” is from the American Institute for Cancer Research. It looks to me like persons who do not have to eat solo could benefit from the booklet also.

In our visit about good nutrition for elders, Sue also confirmed that both physical and social nutrition are important for her elder clients. I have known many live-alone elders who have unintentionally compromised their daily nutritional needs because there “is no one to eat with.”

The popularity of senior center meals confirms this combination also. As I visit various senior centers, it occurs to me that in some ways, the food is only a great excuse to be with other people. For some folks, I’m sure that’s true. Fortunately, the food is prepared with balanced physical nutrition in mind.

Meals on Wheels programs in the Inland Northwest try to be effective distributors of food to their clients. I’ve heard some of the jokes about these delivered meals. I also know the folks who prepare those meals do their level-best to prepare healthy, tasty food.

Sometimes, multiple meals are delivered so they can be frozen by clients for future use. I’m not sure that this efficiency is always appreciated by those who receive the food. I suspect they want more than to live on frozen food.

The volunteers who deliver the meals try to spend some visit-time with their clients, but the volunteers’ time is limited. My hunch is that if more volunteers were involved, that would allow those volunteers more time to visit with their “meals friends.” But that’s a challenging story for another column.

If you are an elder, I hope that today you find both nourishing food and companionship. If you know an elder, I encourage you to offer some nourishing food and companionship to an elder you know. What a gift you will both enjoy!

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