Server handing out plates of food to three seniors sitting at dining room table.

Why Good Nutrition Is The Best Medicine

We’ve all heard the phrase, “You are what you eat.” As we age, this simple adage becomes truer than ever. Registered Dietician Nutritionist Jenny Starr, Assistant Director of Dining and Nutrition Services at Masonicare, explains: “As our systems slow down, so does our metabolism and the body’s ability to absorb important nutrients. So it’s more important than ever to be mindful about what and how much we eat and drink, and how much we move, as we get older.”

Nutrition has an impact on every aspect of our body’s health:

  • Organ function: eyes, kidneys, liver, and digestion

  • Brain function: memory and cognitive ability

  • Managing chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and dementia

  • Strengthening the immune system and promoting proper healing

  • Muscle and bone health: preventing fractures and falls, maintaining mobility, strength, flexibility, and posture

So choosing the right foods to eat is one of the most important things we can do to nourish and heal our mind, body, and spirit!

March is the perfect time to spring into action

National Nutrition Month®, celebrated each year during March, focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. Here are some of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Health Tips to help you make the most of every meal—and every day!

1. Jumpstart Your Morning

Start the day with a healthy breakfast that includes lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. (Yes, veggies! Try a spinach omelet or a delicious smoothie with greens and berries.)

2. Fill Half Your Plate with Fruits and Vegetables

Make 2 cups of fruit and 2 1⁄2 cups of vegetables your daily goal. Getting plenty of vegetables, especially ones such as broccoli, cabbage, and dark leafy greens may help improve memory. Berries — especially dark ones such as blackberries, blueberries, and cherries — may boost memory function.

3. Watch Portion size 

Get out the measuring cups and see how close your portions are to the recommended serving size. It’s often eye-opening to see what we think is a “regular” portion!

4. Be Active 

Start by doing whatever exercise you can. Aim for at least two hours and 30 minutes per week. You don't have to hit the gym—take a walk after dinner, garden, dance in your living room or enjoy a bike ride.

5. Fix Healthy Snacks 

Choose from two or more of the MyPlate* food groups: grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and protein. Try raw veggies with low-fat cottage cheese, or a tablespoon of peanut butter with an apple or banana. Snack on a handful of walnuts to satisfy midday hunger. Well-known for a positive impact on heart health, walnuts also may improve cognitive function.

*MyPlate is the USDA food guideline that illustrates the five food groups which are the building blocks for a healthy diet. To find out how much you should be eating of each food group, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.

6. Consult a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Whether you want to lose weight, lower your health-risks or manage a chronic disease, consult the experts! A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) can help by providing easy-to-follow, personalized nutrition guidance.

7. Follow Food Safety Guidelines

Reduce your chances of getting sick with proper food safety. This includes: regular hand washing, separating raw foods from ready-to-eat foods, cooking foods to the appropriate temperature, and refrigerating food promptly. Learn more about home food safety at www.homefoodsafety.org

8. Drink More Water!

There's no one-size-fits-all answer, but the daily four-to-six cup rule is for generally healthy people. But your water needs may increase, especially when you’re sweating while exercising or if you're outside on a hot day. To stay hydrated, drink fluids gradually, throughout the day. And above all, pick up a glass of water when you’re thirsty and avoid sugary drinks such as sodas and fruit juices. 

9. Dine Out without Ditching Goals 

You can eat out and stick to your healthy eating plan! The key is to plan ahead, ask questions and choose foods carefully. Compare nutrition information, if available, and look for healthier options that are grilled, baked, broiled or steamed. 


For more Healthy Tips and a referral to a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), visit www.eatright.org.