Articles and Information from GA Foods

The Importance of Traditions

Posted by Jessica Fleigle on Dec 21, 2016 11:00:00 AM

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Traditions are an important part of the holidays. They bring families together and create lasting memories. Whether it is baking cookies, caroling, or participating in activities, traditions connect multiple generations and contribute to a sense of comfort and belonging.

At GA Foods, we love holiday traditions! A few weeks before the holidays, we put up decorations in our front lobby, and we have a tree lighting ceremony with hot cocoa and treats. It is nice to take a break from the work day, de-stress, and spend time with co-workers. We asked our team to share their holiday traditions, and we’re honored to share them with you! 

  • Every year on Christmas Eve, my kids and I take a ride around town to see all the lights. I now have grandkids so we’re keeping this going for them. On Christmas day, we go to the local shelter to help feed Christmas dinner to the homeless. It‘s always a great experience and even though my kids always complain, they really end up enjoying it.   Tonya McArthur, Office Coordinator
  • My family and I get together every year on Christmas Eve to make cookies and go to Largo Park to enjoy the Christmas lights.   Karen Borders, HDM  Billing Supervisor
  • My family and extended family live all over the country, so every year has always been a little different. But luckily I married into a family where Christmas traditions reign. My husband’s family is Greek and so everyone is a “cousin.” (To be honest, I’m still trying to diagram the family tree to know who belongs to who!) Every year around Christmas time, they have a cousins' brunch where all of the “cousins” get together, present gifts to the little ones, tell stories of brunches past, and enjoy traditional holiday Greek cuisine. It’s fun for me to hear some of the legendary family stories for the first time that they’ve been telling for decades, as well as get a taste of a long-standing holiday tradition.   Beth Ann Valavanis, Senior Vice President | CFO

  • Our holiday tradition is Christmas jammies.  Every year, when I was young, I would beg my parents to open a present from under the tree.  Finally, on Christmas Eve, my mom would pull one present out for me to open. It was always Christmas PJs. It took me many years to figure out that my mom didn’t randomly pick a present for me to open. I have carried this tradition on with my children.  Even though they are both adults, they still get Christmas jammies every Christmas Eve.   Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD, SNS | Senior Marketing Manager

  • My family is Lithuanian, and every Christmas Eve we have a Lithuanian meal called Kūčios. We begin the meal with Oplatki, which is similar to a Communion wafer. Oplatki has a picture of the nativity scene, and it is blessed. We break off a piece to share with everyone and wish Christmas blessings. The table is set with straw and 12 meatless meals (one is cranberry soup!). There are also Christmas ornaments made of white straw that decorate the tree. Towards the end of dinner, everyone pulls straws and whomever gets the longest straw is said to live the longest.    Levinia Clark, RD, LDN | Nutrition Services Manager

  • Every Christmas Eve, my family goes to my Grandparents' house with all my extended family (there are now more than 50 of us!). My Grandparents always buy reindeer food for the grandkids (now the great grandkids) to throw outside on the snow (we’re from Wisconsin) after dinner. While all the grandkids are occupied with feeding the reindeer, Santa always comes and leaves presents in the basement! Now that I’m grown up, I really appreciate having my entire family in the same place, and it’s enjoyable for me to get to experience the excitement of Christmas through my younger cousins.   Jessica Fleigle, Marketing Coordinator

Traditions tell a family story. They honor the family members who are no longer with us. This holiday season, we challenge you to spend less time focusing on cooking holiday meals and buying presents and instead focus on being present. Remember to take time to enjoy the moment and appreciate your loved ones this holiday season. From all of us at GA Foods, we hope you have happy holidays!

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5 Things You Miss with Holiday Stress

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Dec 15, 2016 8:17:40 AM

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Remember the excitement of the holidays as a child? Everything seemed sparkly and magical. As adults, a lot of time, money, and energy is spent trying to recapture that childhood magic. But as the holidays approach, you may begin feeling more like the Grinch than the child inside of you.

Why are so many people overwhelmed and stressed during the holidays? Common causes are unrealistic expectations, too many commitments, and financial pressures. If you are a caregiver, the stress is multiplied. Here are a few special feelings and moments you may miss if you let holiday stress control you:

1. Celebration

Let go of the holiday dreams portrayed by Hallmark movies and Pinterest. You do not have to recreate your grandma’s gingerbread cookies or decorate every room in your house. Instead of spinning your wheels, take the time to celebrate and truly enjoy your family and friends. Focus on a few traditions that make the holidays meaningful to you and your care recipient. Caregiving or caregiver burnout may change your current circumstances, so be open to new ways to celebrate*.

To prevent caregiver burnout download our free eBook, A Caregiver’s Guide to Taking Care of You.

2. Joy

Psychologists report that it is the giver, not the recipient that receives joy from gift giving. Anxiety over finding the perfect gift will rob you of the pleasure from giving. In addition, if gift giving causes financial hardship, it may lead to even more strain. Begin with a gift budget and be disciplined about staying within that budget. Consider donating to a charity or doing a family gift exchange instead of buying something for everyone on your list. If time allows, consider handmade gifts. Recipients will appreciate the time and thought you put into making their gift.

3. Peace

Planning ahead can lead to a stress-free holiday, particularly if you are a caregiver. There are many free holiday planners available online. (This site has fillable forms!) Several holiday tasks can be done ahead of time. Find recipes that can be cooked and frozen. Ask others to help – including your children. Kids love wrapping presents and decorating the tree. Instead of focusing on buying presents and decorating, focus on being present. Enjoy the moment and take time to give thanks. And, to keep peace during the holiday season, don’t set high expectations of yourself and others. Be flexible and willing to change plans, if needed. 

4. Fun

The first rule of fun during the holidays, is do not overschedule. It is ok to say no, especially to events that aren’t important to you. This will give you more time to do the things you enjoy. Visits with family and friends do not need to be limited to holidays only. If you are unable to attend a friend’s party, offer to meet them for brunch in January.

5. Good Health

Stress can affect your health, causing headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, fatigue, stomach upset, and sleep problems. If you do start to feel anxious or stressed, take a moment for yourself. Spending a few minutes doing something you enjoy may be all it takes to re-energize. Also, many caregivers neglect their own health, so be sure to make healthy choices during the holidays, such as eating healthy foods, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep.

Take Control

Preventing stress is the key to surviving the holidays. Take control of the holidays, don’t let them control you. If a holiday activity makes you feel overwhelmed, re-consider if it is necessary. This holiday season, focus on making memories and enjoying your family and care recipients.

If you or someone you know has caregiver burnout or is ignoring their own needs, download our free eBook, A Caregiver’s Guide to Taking Care of You.

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*Be sure to check out next week's article! We will be sharing favority holiday traditions from GA Foods' employees!

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Topics: Reduce Stress, Caregivers, Stress, Caregiver Burnout

10 Ways to Prepare Aging Adults for Winter Weather

Posted by Jessica Fleigle on Dec 8, 2016 11:00:00 AM

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Extreme weather conditions like snow, ice, and heavy rain make the winter months a challenging time, especially for seniors and their caregivers. Winter storms make traveling difficult, and many businesses close temporarily. In order to make winter storms less stressful, we’ve created a list of 10 ways caregivers can prepare aging adults for winter weather. 

Click here to download our winter preparation tip sheet and emergency information checklist.

1. Schedule an appointment to have the heating system inspected. Many people neglect regular maintenance checks on their heating and air-conditioning systems. If the seniors you care for own their home, schedule an annual maintenance appointment to have the heating system inspected. Schedule the appointment before the winter season begins so that all issues can be taken care of while the weather is still warm. Ask the maintenance person to check for insulation leaks and poor ventilation in addition to inspecting the heating system. These small issues can lead to larger problems if they are not properly handled.

2. Purchase extra winter clothing and blankets, if needed. Severe winter storms can cause power outages, which means that those you care for will need to bundle up indoors. Make sure they are equipped with jackets, hats, gloves, and warm socks. It is also a good idea to have blankets in the rooms where those you care for like to spend most of their time. This way blankets are easily available to them wherever they are in house.

3. Stock-up on medications and medical devices. Make sure the aging adults you're caring for have at least a seven-day supply of their medications. Keeping a list of their medications along with the dose, frequency, and contact information for their prescribing doctors and pharmacists is a great resource to have when preparing for winter storms. It is also a good idea to keep back-ups of wheel chair batteries, oxygen, and other medical devices. 

4. Place emergency supplies in an easy-to-access place. Planning for a power outage during winter storms is very important. Have a discussion with the seniors you care for to decide the best place to store emergency supplies, including batteries, a radio, and flashlights. Store the emergency supplies in an easy-to-access and central location in the house. Also, stock up on extra toiletries like toilet paper, toothpaste, and hand soap.

5. Keep an extra supply of shelf-stable meals handy. Ensure the pantry is well stocked with canned items and other foods with long shelf lives that do not require refrigeration. Consider signing the seniors you're caring for up for a home-delivered meals program. Meal providers, such as GA Foods, deliver shelf-stable meals to the home...even during bad weather!

6. Winterize all vehicles. It is best to avoid driving during storms. However, if the aging adult in your care must travel, make sure their car is winterized. Take their car to the mechanic to have it inspected. Check the antifreeze levels, make sure the heater and defroster are working properly, put winter tires on the car, and store an emergency kit containing a windshield scraper, hats, mittens, a blanket, jumper cables, food, water, and a shovel, in the back seat.

7. Educate your members on heating their home and potential fire hazards. Make sure the people you are caring for feel comfortable operating their heating system. If they struggle to remember the steps, write down instructions on a sheet of paper and tape it on the wall near the thermostat. If they tend to be extra chilly during the winter months teach them how to use their space heaters and fireplaces, if they have them. Find a good place to put the space heater so that it is not near any curtains or other objects that could be a potential fire hazard.

8. Create an emergency contact list. Winter storms and severe weather conditions can lead to road closures and fallen trees and power lines, making it difficult to check in on the seniors in your care. Get to know their neighbors. Make a contact information sheet with friends and family who live close by, as well as neighbors. You may also consider giving a few trusted friends or neighbors a key to their home to check in on them in the event that you cannot.

9. Plan for the animals. If the seniors you're caring for have animals, make sure they have enough food and medications for their pets as well. Research volunteer organizations close by; some cities have volunteer organizations that help seniors take care of their animals.

10. Store road salt in the garage. Black ice lingers long after winter storms pass. Regularly check to make sure the driveway and sidewalks around the senior's home have been salted, especially if they walk outside to get their mail, so they don't slip and fall. 

Winter storms can happen without warning. Be prepared and eliminate unnecessary stress by downloading our prepartion tip sheet, contact and medication information chart, and winter weather supplies checklist. 

Prepare for Winter Weather

 

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Topics: Senior Health

Does Being a Caregiver Keep You Up at Night?

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Dec 5, 2016 2:49:28 PM

Caregivers

Caregiving is demanding. Whether you live next-door or 1,000 miles away, it is challenging. It is estimated there are over 34 million people providing unpaid care to ill, disabled, and elderly adults. Caregiving can range from social calls to your uncle to providing direct medical care for a parent. Not knowing how to navigate through the responsibilities can make you feel helpless.

Tips for Caregivers

As a caregiver, you are not alone. Here are some tips to assist you:

Allow your loved ones to make their own decisions regarding their care, if they are able. Cognitive changes are normal as people age, causing older adults to be slower in processing information and making decisions. However, that doesn’t mean they are incapable. Include them in all discussions about their health and care needs.

Hire a geriatric care manager. Most are licensed social workers or nurses and are trained to identify the care needs of older adults, and help families put together a plan. Their goal is to improve the quality of life for the older adult and help them live as independently as possible. To find a care manager, click here.

Enlist others to help. With your loved ones, make a list of the tasks they need assistance with such as mowing the lawn, shoveling the sidewalk, or grocery shopping. Friends, neighbors, or community organizations might be able to support them with these tasks. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help; you don’t know who is willing unless you ask. Also, your local agency on aging might be able to provide resources for you. www.Eldercare.gov can direct you to the correct agency. Provide everyone with your contact information, so they can reach you if they have any concerns.

Arrange for a home health aide. Aides can help with personal care, homemaking chores, and even health care. Often these services are paid for by government agencies or health insurance.

Consider home-delivered meals. Good nutrition improves the overall health and quality of life for seniors. Studies have shown that home-delivered meals reduce the risk of hospitalizations and defers nursing home placement. Ninety-two percent of seniors receiving home-delivered meals, report these meals allow them to remain independent and living in their own home. Home-delivered meals may be available through the local agency on aging (www.Eldercare.gov) or provided as a benefit through your loved ones’ health plan.

Long-Distance Caregivers

Even if you are not the primary caregiver, there are still many responsibilities you can undertake. Offering emotional support to the primary caregiver as well as respite care will be appreciated. The primary caregiver may be hesitant to ask for help, so offer to pay bills, organize paperwork, or update family and friends. As a long-distance caregiver, you can also help the primary caregiver identify benefits and programs for which your loved one may qualify. The website, www.benefitscheckup.org, is a good place to start.

Caregiver Support Groups

You may benefit from joining a caregiver support group. Meeting other caregivers will help you identify resources and exchange ideas. Be sure to take care of yourself during this time. Read this article for more ideas and download our free caregiver eBook, A Caregiver’s Guide to Taking Care of You.

Profile of a Caregiver

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Topics: Senior Health, Caregivers, Care Managers

Developing an Attitude of Gratitude

Posted by Mary O'Hara on Nov 22, 2016 11:00:00 AM

Gratitude.jpgThanksgiving is the time of year when we express gratitude for all the good things in our lives. But did you know that there is scientific proof that maintaining an attitude of gratitudeall year long can be beneficial to your health?

According to Harvard Medical School, expressing thanks may be one of the simplest ways to feel better. Research conducted by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of University of Miami, revealed some compelling facts about the importance that gratitude plays in determining attitudes.

In the study, one group wrote about things for which they were grateful that occurred during the past week, while the second group listed things that had irritated or displeased them. After ten weeks, the group that listed things they were grateful for felt much more positive and had a better outlook on their lives. They also experienced fewer visits to the doctor than the group who focused on their irritations and negative interactions.

Other studies have looked at how gratitude can improve relationships. For example, a study of couples found that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person, but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.

Appreciation of Others

We all experience stress in the workplace. Busy case managers and caregivers certainly have their share of work-related stress. People who spend a good amount of time caring for others may often neglect their own well being, and need to learn ways to enhance their sense of self.

Remembering to say “thank you” to others can go a long way in making somebody’s day. In fact, workers who receive appreciation from their managers on a regular basis report that they feel more motivated and positive about their jobs.

Benefits of Gratitude

There are many simple ways to develop a grateful attitude. Below are some scientifically proven benefits of gratitude:

  • Opens the door to more relationships
  • Improves physical health
  • Improves psychological health
  • Enhances empathy and reduces aggression
  • Better sleep
  • Improves self-esteem
  • Increases mental strength

Practice Thankfulness

Just like learning to replace unhealthy food choices with healthier options, we can also develop new habits to adapt our attitudes and cultivate gratitude. Here are some suggestions from Harvard:

Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person's impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person, if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.

Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.

Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you've received each day.

Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.

Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as "peace"), it is also possible to focus on what you're grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.)

Seeking Peace

Feeling grateful even for daily minor annoyances may be another way to deal with stress. For example, instead of being negative about a re-scheduled meeting, think of that extra time as an opportunity to give more thought about the contributions you can make or questions you may have during the meeting.

Small adjustments to one’s attitude can go a long way in seeking peace. According to an article by Anna Hart, “Replacing ‘I’m so stressed about this’ with ‘I’m so excited I get to do this’ has been a game changer for me….I think gratitude is an invaluable practice to any workplace since it also prevents us from taking co-workers for granted or harboring feelings of resentment,” she added.

Here at GA Foods, we are grateful to be of service to others, which is reflected in our core values of Touching Lives, Integrity, Trust, Ownership and Commitment.

As case managers and caregivers, you make many positive contributions everyday in helping others to live better lives and we are grateful for your dedication and commitment!

Happy Thanksgiving from the GA Foods Family!

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Topics: Senior Health, Caregivers, Healthy Meals for Seniors

Confessions from a Caregiver

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Nov 16, 2016 3:13:44 PM


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Pictured is Maureen and her children with her mother, Alice. (And by the way, it was Maureen's 43rd birthday!)

My Back Story

In 1992, we placed my dad in a long-term care facility. He was partially paralyzed from a stroke, and we couldn’t care for him at home. After a year of living apart from my dad, my mother asked to move in with me. Despite living in a senior living community, she was lonely. She was only 71-years old. She had some health issues and limited mobility, but she was completely independent. At the time, my husband and I had a 2-year old daughter and another baby on the way. I had a busy and demanding career. The thought of having another person in our home to help out was very appealing.

Download our free eBook, A Caregiver’s Guide to Taking Care of You

True Confessions

However, over the 18 years that she lived with us, her health steadily declined and she became more dependent. Fortunately, she was never to the point of needing help with activities like bathing or feeding, but we couldn’t leave her alone overnight. She needed us to drive her to doctors’ appointments. (No Uber, yet!) Simple activities like grocery shopping, attending church, or going out to dinner required wrestling her wheelchair into our car. We had to run her errands, like going to the bank or picking up prescriptions. There was constant fear that she would fall and break her hip. And she hated having to rely on us for everything.

Here is my confession – I didn’t make it easy for her. Between juggling my career, my family, and her needs, I was tired and exhausted. I resented her presence. Sometimes, I wanted to be alone with my husband and children for dinner. I wanted to be able to go away for a weekend with my family without having to make arrangements for my mom. I got tired of having to take time off work to take her to the doctor. And she knew how I felt about everything.

My mom never wanted to be a burden. So she asked a neighbor to take her shopping. She asked my kids to run her errands. She asked people from church to take her to the doctor. She visited my sister to give us time alone. And she tried to do anything she could to make life easier for me.

This made me feel guilty because now other people’s lives were being disrupted, not just mine. My neighbors, friends, and family shouldn’t be impacted to make my life easier. I should be able to do this on my own. She took care of me for over 18 years. As her daughter, it was now my responsibility to take care of her. And I could not have been more wrong.

No One is a Caregiver Superhero

My mom passed away five years ago after complications from hip surgery. (Yep, she fell and broke her hip.) I’ve had time to get some perspective, which leads me to my next confession – I’m not a caregiving superhero – actually no one is a caregiving superhero.             

Caregiving is hard. Caregiving comes from a place of love and can be rewarding, but it is hard. It is demanding. It is stressful. As a matter of fact, it is bad for your health. Studies have shown that caregivers are more likely to have a chronic illness than non-caregivers. Caregivers are at greater risk for depression and a decline in quality of life.

Caregivers aren’t limited to those caring for an aging, disabled, or ill family member. A caregiver can be a foster parent or a grandma raising her grandchildren. A caregiver can be a professional like a nurse, case manager, or social worker. A caregiver may provide full- or part-time care. They may live with the care recipient or provide care and support from a distance. The care may range from helping with tasks like shopping and cleaning to providing complex medical care.

The best advice I can give a caregiver is take care of yourself. Taking care of you isn’t selfish. It doesn’t mean you are a failure. It gives you the strength and energy needed as a caregiver. It actually helps you become a better caregiver.

I was fortunate -- I had great support from my sister. But if you or someone you know has caregiver burnout or is ignoring their own needs, download our free eBook, A Caregiver’s Guide to Taking Care of You.

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Topics: Senior Health, Caregivers, Care Managers

Veterans Day, a Brief History

Posted by Lianna Lashley on Nov 9, 2016 1:33:06 PM

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery

Veterans Day is an opportunity to honor or pay tribute to the sacrifices made by all U.S. veterans – living or deceased – for serving our country during war or peacetime. It falls on November 11th each year, which is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended hostilities between Germany and the Allied Nations, marking an end to World War I. However, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, many Americans confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day, and even more don’t know the history behind the national holiday.

A day to honor veterans of WWI

World War I officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in June of 1919. However, fighting stopped seven months prior when an armistice was signed and went into effect, temporarily stopping fighting between the Allied Nations and Germany. The armistice was signed on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour in 1918. The first Veterans Day was observed on the anniversary one year later, in 1919. 

It was called Armistice Day at that time, and President Wilson marked the day when he proclaimed “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations...”

Americans observed the day by having a moment of silence beginning at 11am and suspending all business activities for several minutes, and having public parades or town hall meetings. Armistice Day wasn’t recognized as a legal holiday until 1938 – two decades after the end of the Great War. A little over a year after Congress approved the act that recognized Armistice Day as a legal holiday, Germany invaded Poland, beginning World War II. 

Armistice Day → Veterans Day

World War II required the largest mobilization of American forces in the history of the nation. It was the most devastating international conflict in history, claiming the lives of millions of servicemen and civilians. WWII ended in 1945. Unfortunately, a mere five years later it was followed by the deployment of American troops to fight in another war, this time in Korea, when North Korea invaded South Korea.  

After American soldiers returned home from the Korean War, at the behest of the nation’s veteran’s service organizations, the name of Armistice Day was changed by removing the word ‘armistice’ and changing it to ‘veterans’, and it was decreed that November 11th is a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

National Veterans Day ceremony

The Veterans Day National Committee holds a ceremony every year on November 11th at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia in observance of Veterans Day and to honor those who have served in the United States Armed Forces. The observance begins at 11:00 a.m. with a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns and continues inside with a parade by veterans' organizations and speeches from American leaders. 

The Veterans Day National Committee also recognizes regional Veterans Day observances held throughout the country.  From parades to military exhibits and tributes, find more information on Veterans Day ceremonies in your area, here.

From those who fought in World War I to those stationed overseas today, the sacrifices of the men and women of our Armed Forces have made living in this great nation possible. All of us here at GA Foods sincerely thank all United States veterans and active-duty troops for their service to this country. 

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Topics: Military, Armed Forces

Managing Diabetes in Senior Adults

Posted by Jessica Fleigle on Nov 2, 2016 11:06:13 AM

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When caring for seniors with diabetes, it is important to focus on nutrition. A diabetic diet needs to be packed with nutrient-rich foods including vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Having regular meal and snack times is also important in order to manage their blood glucose levels.

Since November is National Diabetes Month, now is the perfect time to discuss a consistent carbohydrate diet. This diet is one of the most effective meal plans for people with diabetes because it helps manage blood glucose levels, while giving seniors flexibility in meal planning. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy for metabolic functions and physical activities. Without them, the body cannot function.

Carbohydrates come in three forms: sugars, complex carbohydrates (starches) and fiber. It is important to understand the different types of carbohydrates in order to manage diabetes through diet. 

Sugars: Sugary carbohydrates are also known as simple or fast-acting carbohydrates. Sugar can be found naturally in fruits and milk, and as added sugar in desserts and refined grains.

Complex Carbohydrates:  Also known as starches, complex carbohydrates include potatoes, beans and whole grain foods such as oats, pastas and breads.

Fiber: Fiber is also a complex carbohydrate. It is found in plant foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes. Foods with high fiber content are part of a healthy diet, because they help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

To learn about meal service providers for seniors with diabetes, click here.

What is the necessary carbohydrate intake?

The National Academies' Institute of Medicine recommends that adults should get 45 to 60 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates. This means that 900 to 1,300 calories should encompass carbohydrates for those eating a 2,000 calorie diet. Therefore, it is important to feed the body carbohydrates.

The necessary carbohydrate intake varies from person to person depending on age, weight, blood sugar and activity level. For example, seniors generally need fewer carbohydrates on a daily basis, as they are less active and their bodies metabolize more slowly. However, it is still important for seniors to maintain a consistent intake of carbohydrates in order to sustain their nutrient needs and regulate their blood sugar levels.  

Great ways to ensure seniors with diabetes are getting the correct amount and type of carbohydrates are creating a meal plan or using a food service provider that offers balanced meals. Having a set meal plan or using a food service provider also helps to avoid malnutrition.

What is a consistent carbohydrate diet?

A consistent carbohydrate diet is a meal plan that helps its users keep track of the carbohydrates they consume and stabilize their carbohydrate intake. The ultimate goal is to ensure every meal has the same carbohydrate count. This diet is effective for managing diabetes because it helps control blood sugar levels.

How does a consistent carbohydrate diet work?

When using a consistent carbohydrate meal plan, carbohydrates are counted in portion sizes (15 grams), also known as carb choices. The number of carb choices varies between individuals based on their health status, age or past eating habits. The number of carb choices also varies depending on whether users are eating a meal or a snack. Generally, meals should be between three and four carb choices while snacks should consist of approximately one to two carb choices. However, when caring for seniors with diabetes, individualized carb choice levels for meals and snacks may be necessary. 

How do I educate seniors with diabetes on a consistent carbohydrate diet?

Understanding how many carb choices foods have is the first step to being able to educate seniors on the consistent carbohydrate diet. Foods considered to have one carb choice include a slice of bread, a cup of milk or a small apple. For most manufactured foods, the carb choices are listed under the term "Total Carbohydrate" on the Nutrition Facts label. The “Total Carbohydrate" is listed in grams. Remember, 15 grams equals one carb choice. 

It is also important to read and understand the serving size on the Nutrition Facts label. The “Total Carbohydrate” section of the Nutrition Facts labels is based on one serving size. Therefore, eating three servings is triple the amount of carbohydrates.

Providing seniors with a consistent carbohydrate diet is one of the best ways to manage their diabetes. If seniors do not feel comfortable with preparing their own meals, suggest a food service provider, such as GA Foods, that uses registered dietitians to plan the meals. Having the experts plan and provide the meals takes all the guess work out of the equation.

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

 

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Topics: Senior Health, Diabetes, Healthy Home Delivered Meals, Healthy Meals for Seniors

The Negative Effects of Added Sugar

Posted by Jessica Fleigle on Oct 26, 2016 12:44:53 PM

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There are two different types of sugar – naturally occurring sugar, found in fruits and vegetables, and added sugar, which comes in many forms including granulated sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose and fructose. The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day for women and nine teaspoons for men. However, the average American greatly exceeds this maximum recommendation. Euromonitor, an international research company, revealed that Americans consume 126 grams (31.5 teaspoons) of sugar per day, which equals 101 pounds of granulated sugar annually!

Regularly consuming excessive amounts of added sugar negatively impacts the body’s ability to function properly, leading to poor health. This is especially true for senior citizens who have eaten diets filled with added sugars from a young age. Many seniors experience the negative effects of diets filled with excessive amounts sugar, as they find themselves struggling with diseases including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Due to the fact that many seniors rely on pre-portioned, convenience foods, it is important to research home-delivered meal providers to ensure the meals meet all DRI requirements, including the recommended sugar requirements.  

Click here to learn the impact sugar has on the body.

Effects on the Body

Added sugar has no nutritional value. It offers nothing but high-caloric, empty calories. Every teaspoon (4 grams) of sugar consumed equals 16 calories. Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor in the University of California and a pioneer in decoding sugar metabolism, says that the body can safely metabolize six teaspoons of added sugar per day. However, most Americans are consuming an average of 31.5 teaspoons (126 grams) of sugar per day. Excess sugar turns into body fat, and has been linked to many of the chronic, metabolic diseases people are struggling with. These diseases include, but are not limited to, obesity, cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and dementia.

Obesity: The body stores excess sugar as body fat. This leads to weight gain, and can lead to obesity if excess sugar consumption becomes a repeated habit.

Cancer: The body uses glucose, a form of sugar, to generate energy. However, when too much sugar is ingested into the system, it can be dangerous. Cancerous cells feed on the excess sugar, which can cause tumors to grow.

Diabetes: After eating, the body converts food into glucose while the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps glucose to get into the cells of the body 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.

Heart disease: Consuming large amounts of sugar puts added stress on the heart, decreasing the muscle’s function and leading to heart failure and/or heart disease.

Dementia: Excessive sugar consumption also affects the brain. The brain responds to sugar in the same way it responds to other drugs, including cocaine and alcohol. Brain functions such as thinking, memory and learning are closely linked to glucose levels and how efficiently the brain uses this energy source.

Steps to Take to Prevent Excessive Sugar Consumption

It is important to be able to understand the different ways sugar is added into food and beverages. Healthcare providers, Area Agency on Aging (AAA) networks and Case Managers are great resources when looking for home-delivered meals, as their primary goal is to provide nutritious, well-balanced meals to seniors. There are a couple steps to take to ensure regulated, added sugar consumption.

First, look for meal providers that offer low sugar products. For example, GA Foods’ meals are low in sugar, sodium, fat and cholesterol. Partnering with companies that share the same values will make it easier to achieve the end goal, which is providing nutritious, well-balanced meals to seniors.

Second, check the Nutrition Facts label for added sugars. On May 20, 2016, the FDA announced updates to the Nutrition Facts label of packaged foods. One of these updates was listing “added sugars” in grams and as a percent Daily Value. Package updates are not required until 2018; therefore, the added sugar information may not be on all labels. However, companies should be able to provide the breakdown of naturally occurring sugar versus added sugar in their meals if the information is requested.

When it comes to senior nutrition, regulating excess sugar is crucial. Simple ways to guarantee healthier food choices are partnering with home-delivered meal providers who offer meals low in sugar and understanding the Nutrition Facts label.

To learn more about the impact that sugar has on the body, download our fact sheet.

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Topics: Senior Health, Healthy Meals for Seniors

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)

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