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Small steps to a healthier you

By Mary Krueger, Douglas County senior coordinator

Happy New Year, everyone.

I thought this would be the best time of the year to talk about healthy eating, since most of us probably have made the New Year’s resolution to try to improve in that area.

How much do we need to eat? A woman older than 50 should consume about 1,600 calories a day if her level of physical activity is low (little to no added exercise), 1800 calories if she is moderately active (walks one and a half to three miles a day) and 2,000 to 2,200 calories if she walks more than three miles a day.

A man older than 50 needs about 2,000 to 2,200 calories a day if he has little to no added exercise, 2,200 to 2,400 calories daily if he is walking about one and a half to three miles a day and 2,400 to 2,800 calories if walking more than three miles a day.

Use portion control whether you are eating at home or at a restaurant. A bowl of pasta from a restaurant may have two cups of pasta or more, which is almost the recommended daily amount of grains.

Also, pay attention to serving size and the number of servings in packages of food that you purchase. Learn to read the nutrition facts label on foods. It will tell you the serving size, how many servings per container, calories per serving and key nutrients.

The benefits of eating well Eating well may reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, some kinds of cancer and anemia. Healthy eating may also help you reduce high blood pressure, lower high cholesterol and manage diabetes.

Eating well helps keep up your energy level, and consuming the right number of calories for your level of physical activity helps you control your weight. Extra weight is a concern for older adults because it can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and increases joint problems.

Your food choices also affect your digestion. For instance, not getting enough fiber or fluids may cause constipation.

Take small steps To eat healthier, begin by taking small steps. Take the salt shaker off your table. Switch to whole grain bread. Purchase more seafood or more fruits and vegetables when you shop.

We often think of fats as unhealthy, but your body needs a limited amount of certain kinds of fats. Fats give you energy and also help your body absorb vitamins. Fats also contain twice as many calories as protein or carbohydrates and eating too many high fat foods will add excess calories and lead to weight gain. If you consume a 2,000 calorie diet, only 400 to 700 of the calories should be from fats.

Tips to limit fats: • Choose seafood, lean poultry or lean cuts of meat.

• Trim off excess fat before cooking.

• Limit whole milk and use low fat or fat free dairy products.

• Use non-stick pots and pans and cook without added fat.

• Broil, roast, bake, stir-fry, steam, microwave or boil foods.

• Avoid frying foods.

• Season food with lemon juice, herbs or spices instead of butter.


Vegetables: A person who eats 2,000 calories a day should have two and a half cups of vegetables a day.

Fruit: A person who eats 2,000 calories a day should have two cups of fruit each day. Most of your daily fruit intake should be from whole fruits, not fruit juice.

Grains: A person who eats 2,000 calories a day should have 6 ounces of grain foods daily. At least 3 ounces should be whole grains.

Dairy: A person who eats 2,000 calories a day should have three cups of low fat or fat free milk, yogurt or other dairy products. One cup of yogurt contains about the same amount of calcium as one cup of milk.

Protein: The daily recommendation for a 2,000 calorie diet is about 5.5 ounces of protein each day. One egg or one fourth cup of cooked dry beans counts as 1 ounce of meat, poultry or seafood. One tablespoon of peanut butter or a half ounce of nuts or seeds also is the same as 1 ounce of meat, poultry or seafood.

Oils: A person who eats 2,000 calories a day should not consume more than the equivalent of six teaspoons of oil per day. Try to use polyunsaturated and monounsaturated oils like those from olive or canola oil.