How Young Do You Feel?

Just how old, or young, do you feel? As it turns out, most Americans feel younger than their actual age. And they say they’re making changes to live longer. But they’re not actually reaching the change needed, especially with the high level of awareness when it comes to healthy eating habits and physical activity.

How young do you feel, and are you making the correct choices to stay young?

How young do you feel, and are you making the correct choices to stay young?

Let’s take a look at two surveys that came out recently, and what you can take from their conclusions.

The Parade/Cleveland Clinic 100Survey
Parade (your Sunday paper insert) and the Cleveland Clinic surveyed 4,000 adult Americans earlier this year. The questions sought to find out how we feel about living to 100. Here are some of the highlights:
• 69% of Americans want to live to be 100.
• 89% expect to live at least to age 80; 55% at least to age 91.
• 72% of Americans feel younger than their age.
• 64% believe staying active is a top way to fight aging, followed by eating right, regular check-ups and getting enough sleep.
• 88% would exercise more to stay healthy and 45% would significantly change their diet.
• 64% are eating less fast food, 51% have tried cutting out sugar, 31% are eating a low-carb/high-protein diet and 19% are moving toward a vegetarian or vegan diet.
• 69% of Americans fear losing mental or physical capacities as a result of aging, followed by being a burden, running out of money or being alone.

So we fitness professionals have done a great job in educating the public about healthy aging: staying active is key to fighting aging, as is eating properly. And Americans have made (or attempted to make) positive changes in their eating habits. We want to live a long life, but fear dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, growing weak and losing our independence.

I get all that. So just how good are we really doing in making positive lifestyle changes? Let’s take a look at another study, the Sightlines Project from Stanford University. Looking at data from the past two decades, these researchers have concluded that the policies, products and personal behaviors to support living into our 80s, 90s and 100s are not yet widespread.

Here are a few highlights recently published from the Stanford study:
Positive:
• More than 80% of Americans recognize that diet and exercise are important to living long, healthy lives.
• Almost one in two Americans under age 65 is exercising regularly.
Room for improvement:
• Dietary guidelines, as inferred by the percentage of Americans eating the recommended minimum amount of fruits and vegetables per day (five or more), are not being met: only 25% of all ages eat enough of these nutritious foods.
• Only 45% of 55 – 64 year olds and 37% of 65 – 74 years olds meet or exceed the recommended weekly “dose” of exercise (at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity).
• The majority of Americans are sedentary for a total of five or more hours per day, up in recent years. And 50% – 59% of adults between 55 -75+ years sit too much.
• Obesity, a significant risk factor for chronic diseases such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, some cancers and chronic pain, is rising. More than one in three Americans under age 75 is obese.
• Four in 10 Americans do not get the recommended seven hours of sleep per day, increasing the risk for chronic disease and mortality.

The data is clear: you know what to do. Now look for ways to make it happen! Talk with your healthcare team, reach out to a Registered Dietitian, personal trainer or wellness coach to identify important health behaviors to change and ways to be successful in sustaining new lifestyle choices.

To discover other ways to improve your mental and physical fitness, give me a call!

We can discuss some practical tips and discover if any of my programs or classes are a good fit for you.
If you’d like to schedule that call with me, just CLICK THIS LINK, and let me know in the message that you would like a 1-on-1 call with me right away and I will be in touch to schedule that – oh, and leave me your phone number in there too since email is not as reliable as it used to be! Thanks.

More Tips to Help Your Parents Stay Independent

(This is the second of a two-part series for fellow Baby Boomers who may soon be caregivers for their parents.)

Mom and dad need to eat foods in high nutrient density.

Mom and dad need to eat foods in high nutrient density.

In the last blog, I talked about the importance of regular movement in allowing seniors to carry out activities of daily living. In today’s article, I’ll discuss the second part of this equation–healthy eating habits.

Physiological Changes
As we age, our bodies change in a number of ways. Perhaps the most noticeable is a decline in caloric need as activity levels and metabolism shift downward, along with muscle mass. So while we need the same amount of nutrients (more in some cases), we need to get them with less calories. The way to achieve this is to eat high nutrient-density foods.

Think of it this way: a food low in nutrient density has little or no nutrients per calorie. For example, soft drinks contain zero nutrients (except carbs) per 150 calorie serving. On the contrary, 150 calories of sweet potato deliver more than 450% daily needs of vitamin A, 5 grams of dietary fiber and a plethora of healthful phytochemicals that help fight inflammation and chronic diseases.

And the Problems They Cause
At least 65% of older adults have nutrition-related chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoporosis. Most of these folks take medications with a variety of negative side effects. For these reasons and others, a number of factors conspire to sabotage mom or dad’s intake of high-caloric density foods (read: fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, legumes and beans):
• A decline in the sense of taste
• Chewing and swallowing problems
• Dry mouth and constipation
• Difficulty cutting foods and using utensils
• Balance issues or joint pain, decreasing amount of time folks can stand for food preparation
• Feelings of depression and isolation
• Money problems

As a result, interest in food goes down. So at a time when they should be eating foods that deliver the biggest bang for the buck, many of our parents purchase items that are easy to prepare, chew and swallow, and provide comfort (think: desserts). With so much is at stake, often little attention is paid to nutrition.

What you can Do
1. Be snoopy. When visiting mom or dad, see what foods are in the cupboard and refrigerator. Do you see any whole-grain pasta, brown rice, whole-grain/lower-sugar cereals? Are there any dairy products in the refrigerator, fresh fruits and vegetables? Are any products out of date?
2. Encourage water intake by having mom or dad track the number of half-pint bottles consumed.
3. Go shopping with them. Check out the deli section of your local grocery store, many have prepared salads and entrees (watch sodium); split a rotisserie chicken, which can be cut into portions and frozen for future meals.
4. Pack snack-sized foods. Make sure they have healthy snacks readily available such as whole-grain crackers, fresh fruits, baby carrots, nut or protein bars (keep the sugar as low as possible, with high dietary fiber), plain Greek yogurt (add own fruit), string cheese, cottage cheese.
5. Encourage lower-cost high-quality protein sources including eggs, dried or canned beans and canned tuna.
6. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often better choices than fresh, as they’re packed at peak season, they’re lower in cost and lead to less waste.
7. Become a stellar health advocate, asking doctors to check for nutritional-related deficiencies including B vitamins (especially B12 and folate), vitamin D, and iron; a bone density scan will help diagnose osteoporosis/osteopenia, which may affect nutritional needs.
8. Invite mom/dad over for meals.
9. Encourage a 2 – 3 oz serving of protein at each meal, especially breakfast.

No Food Nazis!
I’ve heard many dietitians say this when counseling older adults: they don’t want to take favorite foods totally away from seniors, but instead guide them to healthier choices they can accept. Again, a little tough love goes a long way!

Note: If you are ready to FINALLY TAKE CONTROL of your FITNESS, and want to speak with me in an unbiased format, take advantage of my FREE CALL. I promise to give you a few tips and things to look at immediately, plus we can discuss if any of my programs or classes are a good fit for you.

If you’d like to schedule that call with me, just CLICK THIS LINK, fill out my CONTACT FORM and let me know in the message that you would like a 1-on-1 call with me right away and I will be in touch to schedule that – oh, and leave me your phone number in there too since email is not as reliable as it used to be! Thanks.

Can Healthy Eating Be This Easy?

Make sure healthy choices are ready-to-eat!

Make sure healthy food  choices are ready to eat!

Want your spouse or grandchildren to eat a nutritious snack? Keep a bowl of colorful and attractive fruit in a prominent spot in the kitchen. Wondering why nobody grabs the grapes you so proudly purchased last week? Did you rinse them, cut big bunches into smaller ones, and place them on the middle shelf of the refrigerator, or keep the bag hidden away in the bottom drawer?

Sounds obvious, but these are strategies we seldom think about to help others make nutritious food choices.

Proper Nutrition–Important at Any Age
Eating healthfully is critically important at both ends of the age spectrum—when we’re young, and when we’re older. Proper nutrition promotes a healthy immune system, strong muscles and bones, and proper brain growth and maintenance, to name a few benefits. But if you’re the nutrition gatekeeper for your family, it can be an endless struggle to encourage others to eat more healthfully.

Now Science Can Help
A new study from Brian Wansink, Ph.D., of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, analyzed results of 112 studies regarding healthy eating behavior. What he discovered is powerful in its simplicity: we can encourage others to make the healthiest food choice if these items are convenient, attractive, and normal. Wansink has coined the acronym CAN for this easy but effective approach.

  • Convenient choices are within reach, not hidden, and conveniently sized (for example, baby carrots versus whole carrots).
  • Attractive foods are fresh and colorful, offered with tempting accompaniments, and given clever names (for example, a “garden fresh salad” is more appealing than “house salad”).
  • Normal foods appear like the obvious choice. They are offered frequently and as a regular part of the family’s cuisine.

Put the CAN Method to Work for Your Family
Here are 10 ways you can easily entice folks of all ages to make more frequent healthy food choices:

1) Offer to prepare a healthy breakfast/lunch/dinner for others.
2) Place low-sugar, high-fiber foods in front of the higher-sugar, less healthy alternatives in your pantry.
3) Quarter or slice an apple, and peel an orange before serving.
4) Pull healthy snacks (fresh fruit and vegetables, or string cheese) out of drawers in the refrigerator, and keep them on the middle or upper shelves.
5) Serve raw veggies with a low-fat salad dressing, a Greek yogurt-based dip, or hummus.
6) When shopping with grandchildren, keep them in the cart so they’re less likely to reach impulsively for the high-sugar, low-nutrient foods often marketed to consumers of short stature.
7) When introducing kids to new foods, do so without a lot of fanfare, and always model good eating habits by enjoying the items, yourself.
8) Follow the lead of the big food manufacturers and invent a clever name for healthy foods. (Remember “ants on a log”–raisins, peanut butter, and a stalk of celery?).
9) Don’t unintentionally hide healthy foods or assume others will remember you bought them; be mindful of how you place foods in all storage units.
10) Don’t force people to “work” for healthy foods. Take the extra time to make these foods “grab-ready” before they’re stashed away (for example, pre-cube melons into bite-size pieces, rinse strawberries and place them in a clear bowl on the refrigerator shelf, or pour some nuts into an attractive  container and leave it next to your fruit bowl on the counter).

What have you done recently to encourage others to make healthy foods choices, consciously or unconsciously?

Further Indictments of Dining Out

We survived a quick trip to Las Vegas this past weekend, where the eating environment is rife with land mines for Baby Boomers and seniors! From buffets to free drinks to celebrity restaurants, it’s definitely “consumer beware” when you’re talking about healthy eating.las vegas

And I returned home to discover two more studies that add to the mounting evidence documenting the perils of dining out.

The first study, published in the journal Appetite, looked at how much food people ate while in the company of an overweight diner. Researchers found that college students consumed:
–32% more food (pasta) and
–43% less salad
when in the presence of an actress dressed in an outfit that added 50 pounds to her weight than in the presence of the same woman without the suit.

The take-home here: pay attention to cues in your eating environment while dining with others. Researchers speculate that if you feel thinner than someone else, you allow yourself to eat more.

A second study was published recently in the International Journal of Obesity. Looking at data from 8,300 adult Americans, researchers found that people who eat six or more meals away from home per week had:
–A higher body mass index (BMI)
–Lower levels of “good cholesterol” (HDL)
–Lower blood concentrations of certain nutrients

The take-home: restaurant meals are notoriously high in calories,  fats, and sodium (especially salads, which at first glance look so innocent!)–largely due to gigantic portion sizes. And when you dine out, you have no control over the ingredients or cooking methods of your selected items.

So when dining out cannot be avoided (as in a vacation where you’re staying in a hotel), I always fall back on these tried-and-true guidelines:

  • Bring snacks that can go into your hotel room refrigerator (lowfat yogurt, fruit) or do not require refrigeration (protein bars, nuts, homemade peanut butter and crackers packages).
  • Consume a protein source at each meal and at snacktime.
  • Do not skip snacks, as they keep blood sugar levels from dropping, and prevent that uncontrollable, famished feeling at mealtime.
  • Have a plan at mealtime and stick with it. Don’t let other people’s comments or choices (or weight, as the above study indicates) influence your decision.
  • Order off the appetizer menu, split an entrée, or ask for a “doggie bag” with your meal and pack away half of it before you’re tempted to eat the whole thing.
  • Customize your order: ask for grilled meat, poultry or fish; request salad dressing, cheese, sauces, or sour cream on the side,
  • Water is a great beverage of choice.
  • Skip dessert or ask for a clean spoon to share a bite of your dining partner’s sweet indulgence.

And of course, walk and exercise as much as you can whenever you’re on vacation!

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