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Joann Pierre, MS, RD, LDN

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What are the Nutrition Strategies for Baby Boomers Managing Chronic Disease?

Posted by Joann Pierre, MS, RD, LDN on Aug 16, 2017 11:00:00 AM

This is the second article of a 4-part series on the role that nutrition plays in the health of Baby Boomers. Click here to read part one.

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A chronic disease is one that lingers for a while, such as diabetes and hypertension. The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics defines chronic disease as one that lasts at least three months. What many baby boomers might find surprising is the fact that they might have a chronic disease. Nearly 90% of seniors have at least one chronic disease, and many may have more than one.

A lack of physical activity and poor eating habits might be partly to blame for that high number. Physical activity spread throughout the day and consuming nutrient dense foods have both shown to lower your chances of developing a chronic disease like hypertension, diabetes, and arthritis.

Antioxidants Reduce Your Risk of Developing Chronic Diseases

Doctors are finding out that cellular damage caused by free radicals could be at the heart of many chronic diseases, including cancer. Antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, protect the body against free radicals. Foods that are rich in antioxidants such as spinach, broccoli and raspberries, might reduce your risk of developing a chronic disease.

Reducing Arthritis (and Inflammation) with Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The omega-3 fatty acids found naturally in fish and in fish oil supplements have been shown to improve joint mobility and reduce the chances of your developing arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory - meaning they reduce inflammation in the body - so eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids could help baby boomers fight arthritis and other chronic diseases.

Arthritis is currently the number one cause of disability in the United States. Arthritis is generally thought to afflict about 45 million Americans, but other estimates put the number at over 50 million Americans, or about 1 in 5 adults.

The good news is baby boomers that pick the right foods and get moderate exercise can significantly reduce their risk of developing arthritis, or having their arthritis worsen. Getting enough exercise can alleviate joint pain and strengthen the muscles around the joints; this helps increase mobility for those living with arthritis.

Omega-3 fatty acids are also beneficial for your cholesterol levels, reducing inflammation, and improving your heart health. Seafood, walnuts and spinach all have high levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Calcium and Magnesium Strengthen Bones and Muscles and Improve Heart Health

Calcium and magnesium help to build strong bones and muscles as well as improve your cardiovascular (heart) health. Eating leafy greens high in calcium and magnesium could actually reduce your arthritis symptoms by strengthening the muscles around your joints and improve heart health too.

More Foods to Improve Cardiovascular (Heart) Health

There are a number of additional foods that you can conveniently find in your local grocery store that have been shown to lower your risk of developing cardiovascular issues.

Oatmeal, Oats and Beta Glucan 

Something as simple as incorporating oatmeal into your breakfast provides a dietary fiber known as beta glucan, which has been shown to reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease. The beta glucan in oats has also been found to reduce the "bad" kind of LDL cholesterol.

That's important because high levels of LDL cholesterol have been linked to a higher chance of developing cardiovascular disease, a chronic condition that too many baby boomers today are at high risk of developing, or already have developed.

Oatmeal and oats can help improve your cholesterol numbers and lower your heart disease risk, but what are some other foods you might want to check out? Other high fiber foods like whole grains, dried beans and peas, and fruit can also improve your heart health.

Olive Oil and Monounsaturated Fats 

Another great food to consider incorporating into your diet is olive oil. For years, scientists in the United States were puzzled by what they called the Mediterranean diet paradox: Many people in Greece, Italy and France consumed high levels of fat, but had lower rates of heart disease. It turned out that the monounsaturated fatty acids found in the olive oil that people in Greece and Italy drizzle on their salads had heart-protective benefits. Nuts like almonds, pecans, and cashews are also high in monounsaturated fats.

For more information on nutrients that help keep baby boomers healthy, download our free eBook:

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Topics: Nutrition, Senior Nutrition, Baby Boomers

Child Nutrition: How to Get the Students to Eat Healthy Meals

Posted by Joann Pierre, MS, RD, LDN on Oct 20, 2016 9:15:04 AM

school-lunch-2.jpgAccording to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity in children has more than doubled over the past three decades and quadrupled for adolescents. Data from the same source also indicates that more than 30 percent of children and adolescents were either over their ideal weight or obese as of 2012.

Healthy Child Nutrition
Since most children eat at least half of their meals at school, it is important for schools to offer nutritionally-balanced meals. The National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program are great opportunities for schools to provide students with healthier food options.

Let's Move!
First lady Michelle Obama launched the Let's Move! initiative to address the growing challenge of childhood obesity. The aim of the initiative is to instill healthy eating habits in children in their early years, which they will ideally carry for life. Providing healthier foods in schools has been one way of achieving this goal.

One of the major achievements of this initiative was to get the U.S. Department of Agriculture to release new rules in 2012 for school meals. These rules boosted the nutritional quality of the meals served and was the first major revision of school meal standards in more than 15 years. 

Learn more about the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act here.

Getting the Children to Make Healthy Food Choices
While the above achievements are steps in the right direction towards providing healthy food options in schools, the main challenge, and the ultimate triumph, will be getting children to actually eat healthier foods.

Those making decisions about school nutrition can do the following to nudge students towards putting healthy food on their trays:

Getting students involved
Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC), an organization that champions the cause of child nutrition, developed Cooking Up Change. This is a competition where high school culinary students are challenged to cook healthy and tasty school meals. Winners from across the country travel to Washington, D.C. for a national competition every year. In Washington, they get a chance to interact with political leaders and showcase their creations.

Getting involved in the HealthierUS School Challenge
Involvement is an important part of the Let's Move! initiative. It is a challenge that sets high standards for the quality of school food and urges participation in school food improvement programs. It also seeks to create opportunities for physical activity and for nutrition education. This national program has spurred schools to embrace these standards by adopting its activities. Schools that excel at it are recognized and awarded with monetary incentives. Since August of this year, 4,661 schools have been recognized as a HealthierUS School.

Setting up school salad bars
This is yet another initiative of the first lady's Let's Move! initiative where she challenged Americans to set up 6,000 salad bars in schools. The goal is to give kids a choice of healthy fresh fruits and vegetables everyday by encouraging them to have salad daily. The National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance, Whole Foods Market, and the United Fresh Produce Association Foundation and Food Family Foundation all responded with a Let's Move! Salad Bars to Schools initiative.

Fruit and vegetable salads are a key part of healthy child nutrition and the salad bars have done a lot to encourage kids to make healthy food choices in schools. As of September 2016, $12,180,919 was raised and 4, 714 salad bars were made available.

Participating in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP)
This program is run by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service. Along with encouraging healthy child nutrition, this program was also started to combat childhood obesity. The program has worked very well to introduce school children to a wide variety of produce that they might otherwise never had available.

The program is administered in partnership with FNS and state agencies in both public and private sectors. The program also supports recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine to give school children healthier snack choices.

A Starting Point
There are several resources school nutrition professionals can use to encourage kids to choose healthy foods in schools. A good starting point would be to download, Keys to Excellence: Standards of Practice for Nutrition Integrityfrom the School Nutrition Association. Use this tool to review, evaluate and improve the quality of your school nutrition program and get the students in your school or community on the path to good health for life.

For more information, download our free book:

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Topics: School Lunch, School Breakfast, National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

Benefits of School Lunch

Posted by Joann Pierre, MS, RD, LDN on Oct 12, 2016 11:00:00 AM

Students-choosing-healthy-foodSince 1962, the U.S. has been celebrating National School Lunch Week in appreciation of the National School Lunch Program. This year's celebrations will run from October 10th to 14th with the theme 'Show Your Spirit'. The theme was chosen to remind students, parents, and school officials that a healthy school lunch is a big part of enabling children to get through the day. 

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) 

The NSLP is the largest federal child nutrition program. It provides school children with meals that are nutritious, balanced and free, or very low cost, every school day. The program was established in 1946 by President Harry Truman when he signed the National School Lunch Act.

National Farm-to School Month

October is also National Farm to School Month. First celebrated in 2011, this month is all about connecting schools and local farms with the aim of ensuring schools have a constant supply of healthy produce. The objective of the National Farm to School Network is also to create opportunities related to agriculture, health and nutrition education, as well as to support local and regional farmers.

Benefits of the NSLP

While celebrating National School Lunch Week, it is important to keep the benefits of the program in mind.

Nutritional benefits

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) published a Child Nutrition Fact Sheet on the NSLP. They found that the program had a number of nutritional benefits to students.

One benefit is in regard to the quality of meals served in schools. In order for schools to be reimbursed for the meals they serve, schools must adhere to strict federal nutrition standards. The lunches must provide one-third, or more, of the recommended quantities of key nutrients. Reimbursable meals also do not exceed the limit of 30 percent fat, and have a maximum of 10 percent saturated fat.

Academic performance has also been shown to be enhanced by healthy school lunches. Research conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established that kids who participate in the NSLP have healthier lunches than those who bring lunch from home or don't participate in the program for other reasons. 

Scientific research has also established that good nutrition can improve behavior, academic performance, and general cognitive development in growing children. Also, children who are well-nourished participate more in class and extra-curricular activities. 

Another benefit of the NSLP is that it provides an opportunity to teach children about healthy nutrition at an early age. This can positively impact their food choices for the rest of their lives.

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The NSLP has been instrumental in keeping kids in school until they graduate. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) releases an annual report on education in the U.S. and other countries, and the NSLP has been an invaluable source of data to establish the number of students living in poverty. However, this is done with the awareness that it should not be confused with the actual number of overall population living in poverty.

For instance, a report filed on April 16, 2015, indicated that in 2012, just a little over half of the students in public schools were eligible for free or reduced-fee school lunches. This was in contrast to the actual poverty rate of public school students which stood at 22% in the same year.

The numbers 

In 2012, the NSLP fed over 31 million children every school day. All the students at schools participating in the program are eligible for regular price lunches but there are several ways that a child can become eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

Eligibility is determined by family income. Students from households with an income that is at or below 130 percent of the poverty income threshold are eligible for free lunch. Those from households with an income that is between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty threshold are eligible for reduced price lunch.

Lowering dropout rates with healthy meals

The NSLP has been instrumental in keeping children in school until they graduate. NCES statistics for the 2007-2008 school year indicated that there is a strong link between poverty and students dropping out. 

The Condition of Education Report published in 2010 indicated that high poverty secondary schools produced fewer students who attended four-year colleges; 28% of graduates from high-poverty schools completed four-year college courses compared to 52% of those who graduated from high schools with low poverty levels.

Reason to celebrate

One thing to celebrate during the 2016 National School Lunch Week is the higher number of elementary and high school students who stayed in school because they were ensured a filling and healthy lunch. 

You can find different tools and guides to celebrating National School Lunch Week on the School Nutrition Association website. A child who wants to go to school to develop their potential, should be able to do so without worrying about what they will be eating.

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Topics: Child Nutrition, School Lunch, National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

Summer Meals Feed Hungry Kids

Posted by Joann Pierre, MS, RD, LDN on May 11, 2016 1:44:24 PM

summer_feeding.pngThroughout the school year, many children rely on school meal programs to keep hunger at bay. Due to food scarcity in the home, these meals may be the only substantial nutrition some of these kids receive each day. However, when summer break arrives, many of these child nutrition programs end and kids are left hungry. This is when they require community assistance to fill the gap. Here are ways that communities can get healthy summer meals to children in need.

The Summer Food Service Program

Summer should be a time of rest and fun. It should also be a time for kids to develop in healthy ways so that they can learn things quickly when the new school year begins. Children living in poverty are at a disadvantage in summer because they no longer have access to the meals they normally get in school.

Hunger leads to increased illnesses and delayed development, which puts these children behind their peers when school starts again. If you wonder what can be done about this, you aren’t alone. Many people are unaware of government resources that are available for providing free summer meals to kids. One of the biggest programs is the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, which provides reimbursement for organizations offering summer meal programsfor eligible children. If you want to mobilize a new summer food service for hungry kids in your area, your first step should be to look over the USDA’s programguidelines and contact them for assistance.

Ideas for Distributing Summer Meals to Children

Using mobile units
Even when there are food programs in place, the number of needy children receiving meals can fall drastically in summer. This usually occurs because many lack transportation to the food sites. Mobile food units solve this problem by bringing the food closer to home.

Different types of mobile units can be used. For example, if a neighborhood contains daycare centers or community centers with kitchenettes, refrigerated trucks can be used to deliver the food and leave it at the site. However, in rural areas and neighborhoods without suitable kitchen areas, mobile units like food trucks are usually a better option. These do not have to be actual food trucks. Many communities have creatively repurposed old buses, campers or minivans to serve as mobile kitchens. 

For the best impact, mobile units should be distributed to several different areas in the community. By planning half hour to one hour stops at various points in neighborhoods, a greater number of children can be reached and fed each day.

Combining meals with fun activities
One of the most important parts of creating a successful meal program is making kids feel welcome. Combining the service with games, contests and athletic events, or bringing in entertainers helps generate more publicity and excitement. Pairing free meals with summer fun can also draw kids who are wary of being identified as poor and hungry. The activities give them another reason to show up.

These events can be held at public parks, schools, recreation centers and similar sites around the community. To reach the most children in large metropolitan areas, it is best to host these at several locations.

Combining child nutrition services with senior programs
Some communities offer programs similar to Meals on Wheels but they deliver food to children in summer and not just senior citizens. However, this isn’t the only way that child and senior services could be combined. By sponsoring summer food service programs at senior centers, assisted living centers and similar venues, you can improve child nutrition while providing social opportunities between generations.

Getting the Word Out

The impact of the best meals program won’t be very strong if few people know about it. No matter how great the program is, it relies on some footwork to make the community aware of it. Here are easy ways to spread the word:

  • Ask television stations to mention it during broadcasts.
  • Put and announcement in the community section of your local newspaper.
  • Distribute flyers to neighborhood churches, shops, homes and community centers.

Flyers should contain all the information that kids and parents need to know about the program. This includes who is eligible for free meals, days and times the meals will be distributed, and what, if anything, kids should bring. In most cases, kids just need to show up to be fed.

Thanks to the help of the summer food service program and local volunteers, summer meal programs can cost little to operate yet they make a big difference in the lives of hungry kids. GA Foods provides food service to summer meals centers, both large and small.  

Improving child nutrition in summer means these kids can perform better the following school year. Healthy mental, physical and social development requires adequate food. As we support summer meals for kids, we are paving the way for a healthier community as a whole. If you are looking for a local program for your children, click here.

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Topics: Child Nutrition, Food Assistance, Food Assistance Programs, Food Security

National Nutrition Month - Savor the Flavor - Eating Right on a Budget

Posted by Joann Pierre, MS, RD, LDN on Mar 23, 2016 10:30:00 AM

March is National Nutrition Month, a great time to tune up your healthy eating routine! Keeping up healthy habits can certainly be a challenge, especially as healthy food can often be more expensive than its junk food counterparts.

But fear not! You can celebrate National Nutrition Month without breaking the bank with these tips for making budget friendly, healthy meals and choices.

Familiarize Yourself With Food Labels

Food labels aren’t the easiest thing in the world to decode, but spending a few extra minutes studying all of the ingredients and macronutrients can save you time and money at the grocery store.

Often, packaging can mislead consumers into thinking a food is healthy, when it’s actually filled with sugar, salt and trans fats. Learning which ingredients to watch out for, and what all those percentages mean on the back of a box, can help you separate the healthy foods from the junk foods, and make better choices.

Don’t Worry About Food Trends

The health foods landscape can often be confusing, with so many superfoods and trendy health foods entering the market daily. Certain foods are classified as superfoods because of their high concentrations of vitamins and minerals. They’re typically imported, and often found only in certain locations. Their scarcity and the excitement that surrounds a word like “superfood” means that these berries, seeds and powders fetch a pretty penny at the health food store.

Good news though - there are nutrient-rich foods available at the supermarket that aren't expensive. Superfoods like sweet potatoes, blueberries, broccoli, kale and pumpkin seeds are all incredibly nutritious, and budget friendly. Save those pricier options for a treat!farmers_market.png

Shop Seasonally

Buying produce according to growing seasons not only keeps your veggie routine exciting, but also allows you to save a little cash. Check out your local farmers' market for great buys!  Many accept EBT.  There is also a food assistance program for seniors purchasing from farmers' markets.  Seasonal produce is often less expensive, due to having fewer transportation costs, and will be fresher than fruits or vegetables that have spent a week on a truck. Eating seasonally can also add some excitement to your meals, as you start to anticipate the foods of the upcoming months.

National Nutrition Month is the perfect time to look up what fruits and vegetables are in season in your area, and design your shopping list accordingly.

Spend Some Extra Time in the Kitchen

A 2014 study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine noted that individuals who spent more time preparing their food were more likely to eat healthy meals, as opposed to those who mostly ate out at restaurants. Cooking your own meals at home gives you control over the ingredients, preparation method and quality.

Of course, planning and cooking your meals at home requires quite a bit of time and effort, so if you’re looking for the same high quality healthy meals, without spending too much time cooking, try a meal delivery service.

Home-Delivered Meals

For healthy meals that are perfectly portioned, nutrient dense and ready to go when you need them, try out a meal delivery service, like GA Foods. Having meals delivered can save you money by providing a variety of choices, without you having to buy all of those different herbs, spices, and vegetables, just for one meal.

Using a meal delivery service also ensures that your meals fit into your healthy lifestyle, whether you’re on a diabetic meal plan, cardiac meal plan or other special diet. And of course, a meal delivery service will save you all of that time you would have spent on food prep! What’s not to love?

Guide to Beginning Home-Delivered Meal Service

 

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Topics: Nutrition, National Nutrition Month

National Nutrition Month Savor the Flavor - Healthy Eating Tips

Posted by Joann Pierre, MS, RD, LDN on Mar 16, 2016 10:55:00 AM

March is National Nutrition Month®, a great time to reflect upon your eating habits and evaluate your food choices. It’s also the perfect time to add some more healthy behaviors to your daily routine. Participate in National Nutrition Month® with these tips to help you savor the flavor of healthy eating!

Drink More Water

Healthy eating isn’t necessarily just about food. Beverage choices can play an important role in creating a healthy meal. You can cut extra calories and sugar out of your day by swapping out those soft drinks and juices for water!

Proper hydration is important to overall health and metabolism regulation, and oftentimes people mistake a thirst cue for hunger. Carrying a water bottle around with you will not only keep your body running properly, but will also prevent you from eating when you’re not hungry.

If you’re still craving the bubbles of soda, seltzer or sparkling water is a great alternative. You can find sparkling water in a variety of flavors to suit any mood or meal.

National_Nutrition_Month_Almonds.jpgKeep Healthy Snacks on Hand

Many pre-packaged foods are highly processed, contain little nutritional value, and are loaded with sugar and unhealthy fats, but they’re convenient in a pinch. Make sure you’ve always got healthy snacks on hand so you don’t find yourself at a vending machine choosing between corn chips and candy bars. Bringing your own healthy snacks wherever you go makes healthy eating convenient, and reduces the chance that you’ll give in to eating less nutritious options.

Portion out small baggies of nuts and dried fruit at the beginning of the week, and store them in your car, desk, and bag so you’re never without a healthy food option.

Check Portion Sizes

Proper portion size isn’t intuitive. With restaurant meals being so large and food manufacturers often downplaying the amount of food in a serving, it can be hard to know just how much you’re supposed to eat. Fortunately, there’s an easy solution - grab your measuring cups!

National Nutrition Month® is a great time to start paying attention to just how much you should be eating. A serving of vegetables is about a half cup, or a cup of uncooked greens. Starches, grains, beans and peas can also be measured in half cup servings. After a few weeks of measuring, you’ll be a pro at portions!

Make Vegetables the Star of Your Meals

National_Nutrition_Month_Vegetables.jpgAn easy way to eat healthier is to load your plate up with vegetables. Serve the veggies first and pile them high, aiming to fill half your plate with vegetables before adding protein and starches. Another way to increase your vegetable intake is to eat all of the vegetables on your plate before moving on to the protein and starch. You’ll get more nutrition out of that broccoli than you will out of an extra roll!

Avoid falling into a vegetable rut by setting a goal to try at least one new vegetable per week. This can increase the variety of nutrients in your diet, as well as the excitement of your healthy meals!

Add Seafood to the Mix

Seafood is a great source of nutrients, including anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids! Eating fish twice a week can help you obtain the necessary amounts of this important nutrient. If you’re worried about mercury levels of seafood, remember that smaller fish like sardines have lower levels of mercury than large fish like tuna.

Salmon, trout and oysters are also lower in mercury, and are high in omega-3s. What’s not to love?

Eat Consciously

Eating dinner while driving, and snacking while watching TV may be convenient, but they’re not the healthiest ways to enjoy a meal. These types of distracted munching can lead to overeating, and misreading hunger cues. You may even train yourself to eat whenever you watch TV without even realizing it!

Instead, sit down at a table to eat, and actively participate in the meal without external distractions. Be sure to chew your food thoroughly, and if you’re eating with your family or friends, engage in conversation between bites. The added time and attention between bites should allow your body to register what you’re eating, so you’ll realize when you’re full sooner.

Spice Up Your Life

Worried that healthy meals won’t be delicious? Adding herbs and spices to your dishes can add extra flavor, without adding sugar, salt, oils or calories. Many herbs and spices also have added antioxidant properties and health benefits. Add dry spices to food at the beginning of cooking, and finish with chopped fresh herbs for maximum flavor!

If you'd like to learn more about healthy eating, read this article!

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Topics: Nutrition, National Nutrition Month

The Dangers of Dehydration in Seniors

Posted by Joann Pierre, MS, RD, LDN on Jul 16, 2015 2:20:08 PM

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Dehydration in Seniors

Dehydration_Home_Delivered_MealsDehydration is a common reason for hospitalization in seniors. One reason seniors tend to become dehydrated is the ability to sense thirst declines with age. Drinking enough fluids is necessary to regulate body temperature, help kidneys transport waste, and maintain normal bowel function.

Seniors within home health care services or eldercare services are frequently reminded by caregivers to drink fluids. Home delivered meals that include juice and milk are another good way to ensure seniors receive adequate fluids.

Seniors need to be aware of the signs of dehydration.  If they begin experiencing any symptoms, they need to increase their fluid intake.  If the symptoms persist, they need to seek medical attention.

Water is the best choice to drink to keep the body hydrated. However, other beverages like juice, decaf tea, decaf coffee, and milk will also help. In addition, fruits and vegetables are good sources of fluids. Tomatoes, cabbage, watermelon, celery, oranges and spinach contain 85-95% water.  

Adequate Fluid Intake

To determine the amount of fluids someone should drink each day, divide their body weight in half. That is the number of ounces you need. For example, if the senior weighs 150 pounds, he or she should drink 75 ounces of fluids per day. Their body may need more if they live in a hot climate, are physically active, or have diarrhea, vomiting or a fever.

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Seniors should not wait until they are thirsty to drink fluids. Encourage them to drink fluids with every meal and snack. They should also drink water before, during, and after being out in the sun or engaging in physical activity. Make sure they keep a bottle or glass of water within reach and drink it throughout the day.  Medications should be taken with an 8 ounce glass of water.

Download a free copy of our Nutrition Education for seniors on this topic by clicking on the image below!

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Topics: Nutrition, Malnutrition in Elderly, Home Delivered Meals, Chronic Disease Management

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