Eat Right... Parents are role models for their children
Older adults need the same nutrients -- protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals and water -- as younger people, but in different amounts. When health or lifestyle problems limit food choices, or when meals and medications need careful coordination, consuming enough nutrients in the right amounts may be a challenge.
After age 50, a few nutrients may require special attention: protein, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, iron, vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin B12, zinc and water. Among the reasons: physical changes with ageing affect how your body digests food, absorbs its nutrients and excretes wastes. Eating enough fibre-rich foods aids digestion and helps to prevent constipation.
As people age, most use less energy, or calories, than they did in younger years. That's because the body uses energy at a slower rate, and many older adults live less active lives.
Although calorie needs vary depending on activity level and age, many older adults need about 1,600 calories daily. Chosen carefully, those 1,600 calories can be nutrient-packed and supply the minimum recommendations from the Food Guide Pyramid. The following daily servings add up to about 1,600 calories:
- Bread group: six servings
- Vegetable group: three servings
- Fruit group: two servings
- Dairy group: two servings
- Meat group: two servings
- Fats/oils group: use sparingly
Teaching children to choose a healthy diet is as easy as using the Daily Food Guide Pyramid. The Pyramid is a perfect tool for teaching children about healthy eating because it is a concise, visual model of the Five Food Groups and the foods in them.
Food Guide Pyramid
Source: Journey into Nutrition Education. Nutrition Explorations. http://www.nutritionexplorations.org/educators/pyramid-main.asp
Older adults need at least five ounces, or two servings, of protein a day. However, for some elderly people, protein-rich foods such as meat or poultry may be hard to chew. In addition, some may not buy meat, poultry or fish because they can be more expensive than other foods. Below are some recommendations for protein consumption:
- Choose tender cuts of meat, chicken, turkey or ground meat
- Have teeth, gums and dentures checked regularly if chewing is a problem
- Include dairy products: milk, cheese and yoghurt supply protein.
If money is an issue, stretch meat, poultry and fish in casserole dishes or eat them in small portions. Consider other, less expensive protein sources, such as eggs, beans and peanut butter.
Protein for vegetarians is a most important issue, and can be helpful for the less meat-oriented non-veg persons. Meats may be substituted with soy products, nuts and other non-fatty protein-rich foods.
Healthy eating recommends that children under 2 should not be given semi-skimmed milk and children under five should not be given skimmed milk because it lacks the fat soluble vitamins A and D. Low fat versions of dairy products eg. skimmed or semi skimmed milk, low fat cheese, low fat yoghurt are advised for all other age groups. Ref: http://www.healthyeatingliving.com/
As adults age, calcium needs go up. To help maintain bone mass and reduce the risk of osteoporosis, calcium recommendations increase by 20 percent. Both men and women over age 50 should consume at least 1,200 milligrams of calcium each day. Milk, cheese and yoghurt are the best sources of calcium. In addition, dark green leafy vegetables, fish with edible bones, tofu made with calcium sulphate and calcium-fortified fruit juices and cereal also have significant amounts of calcium.
Keep in mind that it's never too late to begin consuming more calcium. At the same time, consume enough vitamin D and do some weight-bearing exercise, such as walking. Aim for a total of 30 minutes of physical activity each day to help keep bones dense.
Vitamin D: The sunshine vitamin
Vitamin D and calcium go hand-in-hand. Vitamin D helps deposit calcium in bones and helps protect against bone disease by keeping them stronger. Vitamin D is known as the "sunshine vitamin" because the body makes it when sunlight, or ultraviolet light, hits the skin. Twenty to 30 minutes of sun exposure two to three times per week is adequate. However, for those who are housebound, vitamin D can be obtained from foods. Most milk is fortified with vitamin D, as are cereals. Check the nutrition facts on the food label to see if it has been added.
Iron and vitamin C
Iron deficiency is a common nutrition problem as we age and often leads to anaemia and its symptoms: fatigue, weakness and poor health. Consuming foods high in vitamin C along with iron-rich foods will enhance the body's ability to absorb iron.
A few tips to avoid iron deficiency:
- Choose iron-enriched cereals, beans, whole-grains, lean meat and poultry.
- Enjoy vitamin C-rich fruits, fruit juices and vegetables at meals. Good sources include oranges, papaya, asparagus and spinach.
- Add a little meat, poultry, fish or beans to pasta or rice dishes.
Vitamin A, found in dark green leafy vegetables, and yellow and orange vegetables, helps eyes adjust to dim light and protects skin and other body tissues.
Folate helps the body make red blood cells and can lead to anaemia if intake is low. Good sources include leafy green vegetables, fruits, beans, enriched grain products, wheat germ and some fortified cereals.
Vitamin B12 works with folate to make red blood cells. Too little vitamin B12 can also lead to anaemia, and in some older adults, is linked to neurological problems. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy foods are all good sources.
Zinc, from foods such as meat, seafood, whole-grains, milk, and bananas helps the body fight infections and repair body tissue.
Older adults need plenty of fluids: eight to 12 cups a day. Food provides some water, but drinking at least eight cups daily is advised. Water can come from all kinds of beverages, including juice, milk, soup, tea, coffee and soft drinks, but plain water is best. Remember that juice, milk and soup offer other nutrients as well.
Eating plans and activity levels are different for each person. To develop a plan that's right for you, consult with your GP.
Parents are role models for their children
Do you ever wonder whom your child wants to be most like? A Family Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, conducted by the American Dietetic Association Foundation, indicates that it is you, mums and dads! The survey found parents have more potential to influence their children's behaviour, including their eating habits, than anyone else.
International research reveals how parents influence their children's eating habits: some of the findings of the research may surprise you. Two recent studies conducted by the Build a Healthy Eating Foundation looked at the parent-child-eating relationship and highlighted the importance of parental involvement.
The study reported that "parent" outranked "sports celebrity" as the person the child "would like to be most," according to the ADA Foundation's first Family Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, which asked a nationally representative sample of 1,230 parents and children about their attitudes and behaviour regarding weight, eating habits and physical activity.
- Children ages 8 to 12 said their top role models were:
- mother (23 percent)
- father (17.4 percent)
- unsure or no role model (13.2 percent)
- sports celebrity (8.3).
- For 13-to-17-year-olds, the top responses were
- mother (13.8 percent)
- unsure/no one (13.4 percent)
- sports celebrity (11.9 percent)
- father (11.3 percent
Thus, parents and children have a complex relationship when it comes to food and eating right. "It's good for you" doesn't always work and parents try endless schemes to get their children to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
Music celebrities, actors and actresses also were named as role models. Boys were more likely to identify with their father as a role model, while girls more often selected their mother. But the findings underscore the importance of parents' involvement in helping children make good choices in life, including dietary choices.
Further research has found particularly strong links between the food mothers eat and the choices made by their children. And children's eating behaviours are influenced by such family-related factors as the number of meals eaten together.
The survey, conducted in January 2003 in partnership with Knowledge Networks, showed that the number of children who cited any role model decreased as the children got older, which reinforced the belief that parents need to positively affect children's development and behaviours at an early age when parental influence is the greatest.
The survey results are based on telephone interviews and online questionnaires with a nationally representative sample of 1,230 parents and children (615 pairs).
Compiled from American Dietetic Association (ADA) Public Relations Team
17 September 2003
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Better Health Campaign, NSW Health