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Starting the Dialogue with Your Aging Parents: Food Ramblings

March 10, 2014

I’m a foodie (foody sp?). I fully admit it. I love food. I love reading about it, growing it, preparing it, eating it, and most of all sharing it.

I’ve owned restaurants, taught classes in food preparation, taught classes on proper foods for various chronic illnesses and diseases, and I’ve worked my way across the country and back many times based on where my food preferences were leading me.

Here’s what I’ve learned about food:

  • There’s always more to learn about food.
  • Food is often expressed as love.
  • Food is the easiest way to remain healthy.
  • Eating natural foods is an experience many people don’t realize is as nurturing as taking a walk in the forest.

Let me expound a bit on these concepts.

Food knowledge: I have read hundreds of books, magazines, and articles on food. Some were about growing it while others were about preparing and serving it, and even more were about the effects on the body of different foods. As much as I’ve learned I come across something new and interesting about food every day.

Currently, I have the good fortune to be teaching diabetics and pre-diabetics about food choices they can make that will prevent the development of Type II diabetes and it’s attendant complications within the body. It’s a joy to hear the excitement in the voices of my participants as they share new discoveries on their journey to healthier lifestyle decisions about food.  The joy they experience as they lose weight without cutting out food and the new energy they have discovered because of healthier eating is a testament to how important food is in our relationship with our bodies.

Food as love: Think about food as love. Did you have a favorite food that your mom prepared on your birthday or grandma made when you went to visit her? How do you celebrate major holidays? Many people do it with special dishes prepared lovingly to share only on those special days.

When my children were little we would make a monthly trip to visit an elderly extended family member. She would spend days preparing treats for our visit. She didn’t speak much English, but even with her broken Italian we all knew she loved us because of the care and devotion she put into preparing those foods. When we would leave to make the three-hour drive back home the trunk of the car would be laden with boxes full of veal cutlets, bacon wrapped chicken legs, meatballs in homemade sauce, cheesecakes, and special cookies. Every one of the boys knew that the love she expressed was through the food she prepared for us. To this day the kids still talk about the food she made for us even though she’s been deceased for over 13 years. How many kids can say that about a present they received from an elderly family member?

Food for health: As a nurse I have had many conversations with patients about food. Those who eat healthier foods tend to have healthier bodies. They also have more stamina, less chronic disease, and often a greater appreciation for life than those who just eat because they have to. Of course there are exceptions, but overall the more thought and effort one puts into the food they put into their mouth the healthier that individual ends up being in the long run.

As part of my reading on food I often come across articles that state that eating certain foods, or avoiding other foods, leads to better health. Newspapers and the media flood us with information about cutting out salt, increasing our consumption of fruits and vegetables, the benefits of lean protein, and the rewards of increasing whole grains. Of course there is alot of competing advertising for prepackaged and sugar laden foods, but follow the more scientific studies and you will find research that will point you in the right direction. Basically eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (fresh or frozen is best), whole grains rather than super processed cereals and flour, lean meat in smaller portions than what our “super sized” society is now consuming, nuts and seeds, healthy oils, and watch portion size.

Drinking plenty of water plays a huge role in the process as well. We need both food and water in order to survive and keep our bodies functioning at their optimal performance levels. We also need these things to keep our immune systems fighting off infection and disease.

Food is nurturing: Have you ever seen someone who is incorporating healthy eating into their lifestyle? Usually their skin is pink and moist as opposed to pale and dry, their eyes sparkle rather than being framed by dark circles, and their zest for life is infectious. Wouldn’t you like to feel that way? Wouldn’t you like your aging parents to feel that way and maybe help them regain some of their excitement and joy for living rather than watching them sitting around waiting to die?

The concept of eating for better health and a happier life is one that can be started at any stage of life. Past gastronomic experiences may have led to disease and decline, but with something as simple as dietary changes some of the debilitating effects of chronic disease can be decreased, and in some cases, reversed. It’s worth a try don’t you think?

Feel free to leave a comment, ask a question, or share your own story about dietary changes and how they impacted your life or the lives of others. I appreciate your comments and will respond to any inquiries or comments. Thanks for reading my blog.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2014 6:36 pm

    I agree Laura, food is such an important part of life- directly and indirectly. Those trip to your elderly relative sound wonderful- and I know that I have similar memories of my aunts and my grandmother’s cooking- well you know I wrote a book about it 🙂

    Sadly as we age we lose a lot of taste sensation, and I think that’s what drives my parents to saltier and sweeter food than before. My dad cannot have any extra sodium due to his congestive heartfailure potential. My mother has high blood pressure so it’s no good for her either. But because they feel like eating is one of the few pleasures they have left in life, it’s often a contentious subject for those that have to take care of them. I’m looking forward to the warmer weather when healthy food is more abundant, especially the Rhode Island tomatoes that my father loves.

    Great post!

    • Laura permalink*
      March 14, 2014 7:11 pm

      Thanks for your support and your comment Patty. One way to at least lower the risk of sodium overload in those who are supposed to cut back, or cut out, the salt shaker is to use pure sea salt instead. It reacts in the body differently than the salt we buy in the grocery store. I’m not saying that anyone can go out and use it with abandon, but it is more healthy for those who feel the must indulge. So, if you haven’t done so already, replace the salt in the shaker with sea salt. As the spring and summer season moves upon us it will be a delight for many to have access to premium fresh vegetables and fruits once again. Even though the taste buds (and the thirst reflex) decrease with age, just the sight of fresh sliced tomatoes or a beautiful fruit salad engages even the most recalcitrant eaters into a few bites of this healthy fare.

      Keep up the wonderful work you are doing with your parents and also your beautiful writing.

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