Seniors and Nutrition

Nutritionist Sharnet Nixson, pictured in the foreground, oversees seniors in an exercise to identify and correctly portion items from each of the five major food groups. Nixson presented a healthy eating workshop at the Sulphur Senior Center Wednesday.

Nutritionist Sharnet Nixson spoke to seniors at the Sulphur Senior Center Wednesday about eating balanced meals.

Nixson said getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals from food can help reverse disease.

She advised shoppers to read ingredient labels on all packaged foods. Many products use carefully selected words to imply something they don’t deliver. For instance, advertising claiming some juices to be 100 percent fruit juice, are technically correct. Nixson said manufacturers are using 100 percent fruit juice. But they are mixing a small amount of it with a lot of water. “Be smarter than the marketers and read labels,” she advised.

Nixson illustrated a balanced meal with a plastic plate, apportioned for the right amount of each of the five main food groups: fruits, vegetables, protein, grains, and dairy.

“I encourage people to eat from all five food groups at every meal,” she said. Nixson said that many people don’t want to eat large meals with items from each food group at breakfast. She suggested adding unsalted, plain nuts to the first meal to provide a protein.

Nixson gave the blueprint for a balanced meal as follows:

• Half of any plate should be a variety of fruits and vegetables

• Replace refined grains with whole grains. She said when choosing pasta or other grain products, pick the ones with whole wheat as one of the top three ingredients.

Also, limit grain desserts like cakes and cookies, and replace with whole grain like plain popcorn and whole grain pretzels.

• Vary protein sources to include lean meats, beans, eggs, unsalted nuts, seeds, and soy products. Try recipes with beans and seafood.

• Drink skim, 1 percent, or fat-free milk and opt for low or reduced fat dairy products. Nixson showed the seniors an 8 ounce glass of milk and explained that half of that glass is fat. Pay attention to the sodium and fat content in dairy products, particularly cheeses.

• Eat and drink less sodium, and reduce saturated fats and added sugars. Cook with vegetable oil instead of butter and choose oil-based sauces and dips instead of ones with butter, cream, or cheese. Opt for water instead of sugary drinks.

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