By Alyssa Trautman, MS, RD, LD, Parkland Health Center dietitian
Our eating habits evolve throughout our lifetimes, adapting to our growth patterns, activity level, schedules and even food preferences. As women age, they find themselves amidst a variety of life changes that inevitably alters eating practices.
Maybe the children have left home. “I don’t want to cook for just me.”
Maybe appetite has changed. “Nothing sounds good, I’ll just have a cup of coffee for breakfast.”
Maybe there is new concern about health status. “My doctor told me to lose weight, and I don’t know what I can eat.”
Whatever the reason, poor nutritional intake is a resounding concern among women 50 and older. Even when she feels like she is eating an adequate amount of food, the question is how nutritionally dense are those foods. Drinking a pot of coffee may make her feel full, but what nutrients has she consumed? Rather than focusing on the volume of food, she should focus on the quality of food – making each bite beneficial.
•Concentrate on consuming these nutrients that are generally lacking in the maturing woman: vitamin D, calcium, iron, fiber and vitamin B12.
•Vitamin D and calcium can be found in dark green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, milk products and canned fish with soft bones.
•To increase iron, get out the cast iron skillet because any food you cook in it will absorb some iron from the pan. Bonus – getting enough vitamin C will help your body absorb iron!
•Think plants for fiber such as raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains like flax, chia seed and quinoa.
•Vitamin B12 can be found in eggs, fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, trout and fortified cereals.
For women facing barriers that limit good nutritional intake, try these tips:
•If you have less desire to cook – try attending church meals, community events or meet up with a friend – you could even alternate days cooking for each other.
•If you experience decreased appetite – talk to your doctor about the possibility of a medication side effect. Also, becoming more physically active will increase your appetite.
•Tastes can change over time – make it exciting by trying new foods and new seasonings. You never know what flavors you might discover as your tastes mature.
If your health concerns are affecting your food choices – talk to a registered dietitian. Call 573.760.8396 to schedule nutritional counseling at Parkland Health Center.