Starting the Dialogue with your Aging Parents about Food
Last week I wrote about the issue of hunger facing elderly adults. I’m hoping the post prompted at least some of you to gain awareness on the issue in your community and to get involved in being part of the solution.
This post will talk about food as something we all have different connections to. Bottom line though, I hope you’ll walk away with the idea that it’s all about love. Love for ourselves, love for our bodies, love for each other, and love for the planet. Food is a big topic these days around all of those subjects.
Let’s face it. When we feel sad or lonely, depressed, and sometimes even when we’re angry we turn to food for comfort or just because it makes us feel in control. Our aging parents may do the same thing. If all things are done in moderation then there really isn’t a problem, but expecting food to make things better can become an out of control problem.
Ease of use: For seniors it is much easier to buy and prepare the pre-packaged foods full of preservatives, added sugars, salt, and chemicals than it is to prepare a meal from scratch for just one or two people. Ease of preparation, easy storage, and shelf longevity make these items appealing .
Cost: I don’t know about you, but I don’t see many coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables. Even canned or frozen fruits and vegetables don’t have a large number of coupons. Farmer’s markets in rural areas aren’t usually set up to take food stamps. Produce and fresh foods, whether organic or not, seem to be higher in cost than junk food and pre-packaged items.
Lack of understanding: Many aging adults were delighted when pre-packaged foods came on the scene. These advances made their busy lives easier. Microwaves and small convection ovens were developed and this caused major changes in the way food was prepared and conceived. There was no understanding about how food affected health conditions or disease processes such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Over the years, as we’ve seen a rise in obesity and the associated disease processes (heart disease, vascular problems, diabetes, vision loss, cancer, irritable bowel, diverticulitis, and such things as gastroesophageal reflux) scientists and doctors have found a strong connection to the food we eat and the condition of our bodies, not only as we age, but throughout the life span.
One thing they all agree on is that the right kinds of food, and a well hydrated body, have a positive effect on the way we look, feel, age, and maintain health. Regardless of age we can change our diets and feel better. Your aging parents can reverse the debilitating effects, and slow the progression of advancing health problems by making dietary changes and without adding additional medications. In some cases they may even be able to get off some of their medications.
The big question is how to assist our aging parents, elderly clients, and seniors in general in a change of lifestyle by getting them involved in healthy eating?
That’s a big question and one not easily answered. It is also one we need to look at for ourselves and our children. We all need to eat healthy diets and drink plenty of clean, fresh water. How do we do that?
First we must recognize that this is not something that is going to happen over night. Baby steps over time will make this easier and also have longer lasting effects.
Second we need to realize that walking in and laying down dictums isn’t going to work. If your parents are anything like me they don’t deal well with someone else laying down the rules. If you think about it you probably don’t either. Work collaboratively and find out what their food preferences are before making any changes. If someone doesn’t like cauliflower they aren’t likely to start eating it just because it’s healthy.
Third we need to educate ourselves and our parents on the proper way to eat. Treat this as a game or an adventure and you’ll have much better success.
Here are some of my suggestions on how you can learn more about what foods to eat and also why. This is a learning process; it takes time and commitment, but once you’re on board and can get your parents on board the change in the way everyone feels is an almost instant reward.
- Check out Dr. Mark Hyman and what he has to say about blood sugar. He has a book out “The Blood Sugar Solution”. It is a great investment in your health and well-being as well as that of your parents.
- Check out Kris Carr’s blog at http://www.mycrazysexylife.com and learn some fun recipes, easy tips, and gain a new perspective on food.
- Increase the amount of water consumed in a day. A super goal to achieve is half the body weight in ounces of water. For example a 160 lb. person would drink 80 oz. of water. That’s about 2 1/2 quarts a day. It may seem like alot of water, but in the long run it’s not so hard to achieve if one starts out slowly and works up to the amount.
- Look into ways to get fresh produce for less $$$. Buy directly from someone who has a large garden. Let other gardeners know you will take excess produce off their hands. See if there is a co-op in your area and sign up both you and your aging parents.
- With all that extra produce plan a canning party two or three times a season to put up vegetables by hand for winter consumption. This is great sharing time with your elderly parents. Everyone can pitch in and help if you make it a family event. If the family is small then make it a block party or invite special friends. The key is to have as many hands as the kitchen can hold and to make it fun.
- Have adventures in checking through cookbooks (remember the Moosewood cookbooks from the 70s-Molly Katzen made vegetarian dishes that were fun and delicious).
- Cut back the pre-packaged foods with fresh substitutes a bit at a time.
- Remember to allow for food preferences, allergies, and plain dislikes when planning and purchasing.
I think I’ve given you enough to think about for today. Let’s remember to include others, lend a helping hand to those in need, and let’s promote the healthy food revolution.
I love hearing from my readers and would enjoy reading your experiences or sharing your recipes. Feel free to make suggestions and leave comments in the comment section.
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