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Levinia Clark, RD, LDN

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Why Should Baby Boomers Care About Nutrition?

Posted by Levinia Clark, RD, LDN on Aug 9, 2017 2:03:54 PM

This is the first article of a 4-part series on the role that nutrition plays in the health of Baby Boomers. 

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Diet has a direct effect on health no matter how young or old you are. However, if you were born between the mid 1940’s and 1960’s, the quality of your diet can have a greater, far-reaching impact than you might realize. Here are some important reasons why baby boomers should make nutrition a priority.

Rising Healthcare Costs

The baby boomer generation is one of the largest, with an estimated 74 million or more people. As this generation ages and moves forward together through retirement and the senior years, healthcare resources are becoming increasingly strained. The risk of cardiovascular disease and other diseases increases with age, and this means medical staff and healthcare systems must cope with a greater number of patients.

This rise also leads to Medicare challenges as baby boomers become eligible for the program and flood the system. Medicare has been a safety net for seniors to offset medical costs by supplementing their existing insurance or, in many cases, acting as their primary medical insurance. The influx of boomers puts an unprecedented toll on Medicare funds.

For boomers, this could mean an increase in out-of-pocket healthcare costs. To cope with these rising costs, it is smart to control what you can through a good diet. Nutrition is a building block to better health. Educating yourself about nutrition’s relationship to disease management and prevention can cut your medical costs by keeping your body healthier and out of the hospital.

Diet and Disease Prevention

Nutrition education is a key to better eating. In the case of eating healthy, what you do not know can hurt you. For example, with age comes changes in nutrient requirements. You need to keep your bones healthy by getting more vitamin D and calcium, and your body might not absorb certain nutrients, such as vitamin B12, as readily as when you were younger.

Aging adults can’t rely on a standard multivitamin to provide all the vitamins and nutrients they need. Malnutrition in seniors often goes undiagnosed, and senior adults need more calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, niacin, folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin E than younger adults.

To prevent or manage serious diseases common to baby boomers, such as diabetes and heart disease, the right nutrition is vital. Examples include adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet for preventing strokes, and limiting carbs to those low on the glycemic index for preventing or managing diabetes. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, research shows that the same dietary strategies that benefit cardiovascular health also benefit brain health. For the sake of your mind and body, you have to pay attention to your nutrition.

In short, what you eat has a direct and lasting impact on your health. The question becomes not if you can afford to eat healthy, but whether you can afford not to eat healthy. The answer is that good nutrition will save you both in terms of health costs and quality of life through your senior years.

Good Nutrition and Aging-in-Place

By staying well-nourished and preventing debilitating diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and dementia you can maintain your independence longer and age-in-place at home. Those on a fixed income might be tempted to reach for the cheapest, easiest meals and pay less regard to nutritional content. Beware of boxed, highly-processed foods, which may seem like good deals, but are full of sodium, preservatives, and sugar, yet are low in nutrient value. While it takes some effort to learn healthy meal planning, the health benefits make it worthwhile.

If you lack the time, energy, or ability to fix wholesome meals, remember that help is available. Consulting with nutritionists for advice and receiving healthy home-delivered meals, for example, are two ways to ensure you are getting some vital nutrients every day. No matter how you incorporate better nutrition into your life now and in the immediate future, you can be assured that you will be healthier and be able to enjoy a richer life.

Download 9 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Home-Delivered Meals Provider

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Topics: Senior Health, Advice from Dietitians, Senior Nutrition, Baby Boomers

National Nutrition Month-Savor the Flavor-Healthy Meals for Seniors

Posted by Levinia Clark, RD, LDN on Mar 30, 2016 10:00:00 AM

National Nutrition Month is here! This is a great time to look at food choices, and evaluate whether you’re getting the most nutrition out of your meals. While the meal requirements for older adults are a bit different, making healthy meals for seniors doesn’t have to be complicated! Here are a few easy guidelines to improve the nutritional value of senior meals.

Look Out For Extra Sodium

A lot of packaged foods contain sodium as a preservative and as a way to make the food more palatable. Unfortunately, these high sodium levels are not ideal for senior meals. Be sure to read the label carefully on store-bought convenience meals, as well as many condiments, as these can be incredibly high in sodium.

Many canned foods offer low sodium (and even no sodium) options, so you can add your own salt as needed. A little table salt can go a long way! Another way to season foods without adding extra salt, is to use herbs and spices. Be sure to check the nutrition information on spice blends, and opt for the salt-free versions where possible.older_adult_shopping.png

Make Veggies King

Vegetables are incredibly nutrient dense - they’re low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals. Their high fiber and water content also makes vegetables more filling, ideal for the reduced-caloric content of meals for seniors.

In order to receive enough nutrition, while keeping calories low, challenge yourself this National Nutrition Month to fill half of your plate at every meal with vegetables, dividing the other half between protein and starches. Keep things exciting by eating a variety of different colors and textures. Different colored vegetables tend to offer different nutritional profiles, so varying color choices on your plate can provide a well-rounded selection of nutrients.

Avoid Empty Calories

Cookies, crackers and other baked goods may taste delicious, but they generally offer no nutritional value for all of those calories. If you’re craving a sweet treat, reach for a piece of fruit, or a yogurt with berries and granola.

For healthier, savory options, avoid packaged snacks like chips and crackers, which contain a lot of added salt and oil, but have little nutritional value. Instead of reaching for that box of buttery crackers, try whole grain pretzels instead. Whole grain pretzels contain more vitamins, minerals and fiber, with fewer calories and less fat than traditional crackers.

Try More Whole Grain Options

Another way to increase the nutritional benefits of senior meals, is to choose whole grain products over their refined counterparts. Whole grains still have the bran and germ intact, making them appear darker in color. It’s these parts of the grain that contain the most vitamins and minerals. Whole grains also contain more fiber, so they often take longer to digest than refined grains, and can be more filling.

Try and make half of your grain choices throughout the day whole grains to receive more vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Hydrate!

Be sure that you’re drinking enough water. Hydrating properly will help to flush out extra salt, as well as keep all your organs running as they should. Keeping a water bottle with you throughout the day can ensure that you’ve always got hydration close at hand.

Ease Into Exercise

Healthy eating doesn’t have to stop at food choices. Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and can complement those nutrient-dense senior meals. Bodies are all different, and thrive with different styles and levels of exercise. The important thing is to move, and get blood flowing.

Short walks and light stretching can be a great way to increase blood flow and joint mobility, without being strenuous. It’s important to choose activities that you enjoy, and to remember that every little bit counts. You don’t need to run a marathon to receive the benefits of moving around!

Watch Portion Sizes

The most obvious difference between meals for seniors, and meals for younger adults is portion sizes. As people age, their caloric requirements decrease, so senior meals should be smaller. Many restaurants now offer smaller menu options, though eating proper portions at home can still be a challenge!

National Nutrition Month is a great time to learn more about portion sizes, and grab those measuring cups. Measuring out different foods can ensure that the meal is the appropriate size, and can prevent accidental overeating. Another solution for perfectly portioned meals is to consider a meal delivery service. Home delivered meals are perfectly portioned, nutritionally balanced, and can be tailored to meet special dietary needs.

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Topics: Nutrition, National Nutrition Month

The Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet

Posted by Levinia Clark, RD, LDN on Jun 16, 2015 11:00:00 AM

Levinia Clark is the Manager of Nutrition Services at GA Foods.  This is the fourth and final post in a series of articles about managing chronic diseases with medical nutrition therapy. 

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of illness and death in the United States. The American Heart Association reports that a jaw-dropping 81.1 million American adults have at least one type of cardiovascular disease.

A diet high in saturated fat is a major risk factor for heart disease. Consuming a lot of saturated fat will elevate the body's cholesterol levels, cause cholesterol to accumulate in the arteries, and increases the chance of becoming obese due to the high caloric intake. While many people choose to follow a vegetarian diet due to cultural and religious beliefs, some choose a vegetarian diet to help restrict their intakes of saturated fats and cholesterol.

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What are the advantages of a vegetarian diet?

Vegetarians have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and have a lower body mass index and lower risk of obesity. Vegetarian diets have been associated with improved health outcomes. In fact, several clinical trials have documented that vegetarian eating patterns lower blood pressure. On average, vegetarians consume more fiber, potassium, and vitamin C than non-vegetarians do. 

What does a balanced vegetarian diet look like?

A vegetarian does not eat any meat, fish, or poultry. A lacto-ovo vegetarian will include dairy prodcuts and eggs in his diet. Like all vegetarian's diets, the lacto-ovo diet includes an abundance of plant-based foods, including vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, which provide an array of health-protective nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. 

A balanced lacto-ovo vegetarian diet should include six to eleven servings of whole grains, three to five servings of vegetables, two to four servings of fruit, three servings of dairy, and two to three servings of beans, nuts, and eggs. To make sure that you are meeting all of your nutrient needs, include a variety of foods from each group. 

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GA Foods’ vegetarian meals will appeal to vegetarians and meat-lovers looking for meatless alternatives that don’t sacrifice flavor.  All meals are DRI-compliant and low in sodium, fat, cholesterol, and sugar, making them suitable for individuals needing modified diets for cardiac disease and diabetes. For more information, click here

Frozen Home Delivered  Meals & Nutrition Information  
The above information is intended for an education aid only. It is not intended as medical/nutritional advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor before following any regimen to see if it safe and effective for you.

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Topics: Chronic Disease Management, Vegetarian Meals, Cardiac Diet, Heart Disease

The Cold, Hard Truth About Heart Disease

Posted by Levinia Clark, RD, LDN on Jun 2, 2015 11:00:00 AM

Levinia Clark is the Manager of Nutrition Services at GA Foods.  This is the third of a series of articles about managing chronic diseases with medical nutrition therapy. 

According to the American Heart Association, or AHA, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of illness and death in the United States. In fact, the AHA reports that an astounding 81.1 million American adults have at least one type of cardiovascular disease, which includes people with coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke, and congenital heart defects.

What are the causes of heart disease?

The United States National Institutes of Health (www.nih.gov) warns that a diet high in saturated fat is a major risk factor for heart disease. Consuming a lot of saturated fat will elevate the body's cholesterol levels, cause cholesterol to accumulate in the arteries, and increases the chance of becoming obese due to the high caloric intake.

Improving diet and lifestyle is an essential part of the strategy for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in the general population. 

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Proper diet reduces risk of heart disease

Since high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure increase the risk for heart disease, reducing your daily intake of cholesterol, saturated fat and sodium can help prevent serious heart complications. Following these dietary restrictions reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke, coronary artery disease, and other serious heart conditions. Discuss your diet with your doctor to determine the right combination of foods for your heart health.

 

What is the cardiac diet?

The cardiac diet limits the amount of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium you eat each day. If following the cardiac diet, total fat intake should be limited to no more than 30% of total calories consumed each day, and saturated fat should make up less than 7% of the calories eatten on a daily basis. If you have no significant health proplems, the Mayo Clinic recommends eating less than 300 mg of cholesterol each day. However, if you have high levels of "bad cholesterol" or take medication to reduce your total cholesterol level, then you should limit your cholesterol intake to 200 mg per day.

While the body does need sodium to absorb major nutrients, maintain normal balances of water and minerals, and control the nerves and muscles properly, excess sodium causes fluid retention, which increases the volume of the blood. Increased blood volume makes the heart work harder, increasing blood pressure and the risk of heart disease and other cardiac complications. The cardiac diet limits the amount of sodium you consume each day based on your personal risk factors.

Consult with your doctor to determine how much sodium you should consume.

The importance of screening

The lipid profile blood test helps your doctor determine if your cholesterol levels have decreased in response to adhering to the cardiac diet. This screening test determines the levels of low-density lipoprotein, high-density lipoprotein, triglycerides and total cholesterol in your blood, and helps your doctor decide if you need to make any adjustments to your cardiac diet. A simple blood pressure check will determine if the diet has reduced your blood pressure, or if you need to further reduce your sodium intake.

GA Foods’ meals are all DRI-compliant and low in sodium, fat, cholesterol, and sugar, making them suitable for individuals needing modified diets for cardiac disease and diabetes. For more information, click here

Frozen Home Delivered  Meals & Nutrition Information  
The above information is intended for an education aid only. It is not intended as medical/nutritional advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor before following any regimen to see if it safe and effective for you.

 
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Topics: Chronic Disease Management, Cardiac Diet, Heart Disease

The Facts about Diabetes

Posted by Levinia Clark, RD, LDN on May 19, 2015 11:00:00 AM

Levinia Clark is the Manager of Nutrition Services at GA Foods.  This is the second of a series of articles about managing chronic diseases with medical nutrition therapy. 

What is diabetes?

Diabetes, the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Our bodies convert the food we eat into glucose while the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, which helps glucose to get into the cells of our bodies where it can be used to make energy. With diabetes, the body may not make enough insulin, use the insulin in the right way, or both, causing blood sugar levels to be too high.

Over time, diabetes can cause additional health issues such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage, and circulation problems that could lead to amputation. 

What are the different types of diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes develops most often in children and young adults. This type of diabetes accounts for approximately 5% of all diagnosed cases. With type 2 diabetes, commonly referred to as adult-onset diabetes, the body produces insulin, but doesn't use it the right way. This is the most common type of diabetes, as it accounts for approximately 90-95% of all diagnosed cases.  The third type of diabetes is gestational diabetes, which only pregnant women get. 

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What are the risk factors for diabetes?

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include older age, obesity, family history, prior history of gestational diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, physical inactivity, and race/ethnicity. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are at a particularly high risk for type 2 diabetes. 

Risk factors are not as well defined for type 1 diabetes. However, autoimmune, genetic, and environmental factors are involved in developing the less common type 1 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes occurs more frequently in African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and people with a family history of diabetes than in other groups. Obesity is also associated with higher risk. Women who have had gestational diabetes have a 35 - 60% chance of developing diabetes in the next 10 - 20 years.

What is the treatment for diabetes?

Healthy eating, physical activity, and insulin injections are the basic therapies for type 1 diabetes. The amount of insulin taken must be balanced with food intake and daily activities. Blood glucose levels must be closely monitored through frequent blood glucose testing to ensure that they do not go too low or too high.

Similarly to type 1 diabetes, the basic therapies for type 2 diabetes are healthy eating, physical activity, and blood glucose testing. In addition, many people with type 2 diabetes require oral medication, insulin, or both to control their blood glucose levels from being too low or too high. 

Can diabetes be prevented?

Researchers are making progress in identifying the exact genetics and "triggers" that predispose some individuals to develop type 1 diabetes, but prevention remains key.

A number of studies have shown that regular physical activity can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which is associated with obesity.

Building on this research, the Center for Disease Control's National Diabetes Prevention Program supports establishing a network of community-based, group lifestyle intervention programs for overweight or obese people at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. As of early 2011, it was anticipated that 33 U.S. sites will offer group lifestyle interventions, with plans to expand to other communities.

Is there a cure for diabetes?

While there is no cure for diabetes at this time, the US Department of Health and Human Services is actively researching how to prevent diabetes, cure diabetes, and improve the quality of care for people with diabetes to prevent devastating complications, in response to the growing health burden on Americans with this disease. 

GA Foods’ meals are all DRI-compliant and low in sodium, fat, cholesterol, and sugar, making them suitable for individuals needing modified diets for diabetes and cardiac disease. For more information, click here.

Download White Paper - Reducing Healthcare Costs and Improve Patient Outcomes

The above information is intended for an education aid only. It is not intended as medical/nutritional advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor before following any regimen to see if it safe and effective for you.

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Topics: Chronic Disease Management, Diabetes

Swallowing Difficulties: What You Need to Know

Posted by Levinia Clark, RD, LDN on May 5, 2015 11:00:00 AM

Levinia Clark is the Manager of Nutrition Services at GA Foods.  This is a first of a series of articles about managing chronic diseases  with medical nutrition therapy. 

What is the swallowing process?

Swallowing is a complex process that involves more than 50 pairs of muscles and many nerves. Food is moved from the mouth to the stomach in three stages. In the first stage, food is prepared for swallowing as it is moved around the mouth by the tongue. The second stage begins when the tongue pushes food or liquid to the back of the mouth. The third stage begins when food or liquid enters the esophagus. 

What causes swallowing problems?

Some people are born with swallowing problems, but in many cases it develops as a result of a physical illness or medical condition. Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia, can result from a stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, other neurological disorders, or pain upon consuming regular foods following oral surgery. People with cancers of the head, neck, and mouth and/or cancer treatment may also have trouble swallowing. 

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What are the risks with swallowing difficulties?

In the worst cases, difficulty in swallowing can result in aspiration pneumonia. This occurs when food enters the lungs instead of the esophagus, causing bacterial infection, pneumonia, and occasionally death. Left untreated, dysphagia can lead to malnutrition and dehydration, unintentional weight loss, and decreased quality of life. This can affect all age groups, but it is most often seen in the elderly population.

What is the purpose of a pureed diet?

A pureed food diet provides nutrition for individuals suffering from many different diseases and conditions, but is designed specifically for patients who have difficulty swallowing. Pureed food is described as a smooth, cohesive, pudding-like consistency. A pureed consistency makes it easier to form a bolus, or ball of food, in the mouth before swallowing. The cohesive, smooth texture of pureed foods keeps the bolus together throughout the entire swallowing process to prevent food particles from going into the lungs. Sometimes when a person has dysphagia, it is necessary to thicken liquids to make swallowing them easier. 

People with dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, usually follow this type of diet to prevent choking or silent aspiration. The length of time a person uses a pureed diet varies depending on the cause. People recovering from a stroke often use the diet for a period of weeks to months, and those with worsening throat cancer or a progressive degenerative disease may need to use the diet for the remainder of their lives.

People have different nutritional needs depending on a variety of medical and nutritional factors. As with any therapeutic diet plan, consult your physician and dietitian to individualize any diet to meet those needs.

What foods are allowed in a pureed diet?

Few individual foods are excluded from this diet because most foods can be processed to a pureed consistency, however, foods that require chewing are excluded.  

GA Foods’ Pureed Menu Plan contains pureed meals for seniors and those with with dysphagia, designed with all foods including meats, vegetables and fruits to be the consistency of thickened pudding.  Our meals meet the National Dysphagia Diet guidelines.  For more information, click here.

Pureed Meals Brochure and Nutritionals

The above information is intended for an education aid only. It is not intended as medical/nutritional advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor before following any regimen to see if it safe and effective for you.
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Topics: Chronic Disease Management, Dysphagia, Pureed

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