Does Healthy Eating = Healthy Aging?
Do you have healthy and nutritious habits? Or are you a die-hard fan of those rich foods you grew up eating? As someone concerned with health and nutrition, I have done a lot of research on this subject.
I have personally fought pre-diabetes and worked with a team of doctors to determine the best way to eat at this latter stage of my life.
Trying to educate others however, isn’t always so easy. In speaking with friends close to my age, I often hear the old refrain, “But I’ve been eating (insert food here: meat and potatoes, doughnuts, mashed potatoes and gravy) all my life. It hasn’t hurt me yet and I’m not going to change now.”
Is that really true? Are you confident that you can continue to eat the same way you did as a kid or young adult and feel perfectly healthy as a result?
The Way Things Were
For most Baby Boomers, much of our food came from a home garden or a local farmer. We appreciated the food on our plates, and pitched in to help with household chores that had yet to be transformed by automation.
Every year my mother planted a huge garden and at the end of the growing season, she canned what was left. For grocery shopping, she pulled me in a little red wagon to the market. The butcher would hand us paper-wrapped packages of fresh meat cut to order.
Then we put a few staples in our cart including rice, beans, flour and sugar. After putting our groceries in the wagon, we’d head for home. Mom would then bake a loaf of bread and make a pie for that night’s after-dinner dessert. I learned the value of buying and enjoying fresh food.
Like many women in the Sixty and Me community, my siblings and I were expected to play outdoors as much as possible. We had daily chore lists. My mother refused to buy a dryer and we had to hang our clean clothes outside on the clothesline. We did this even in the middle of a Wisconsin winter, as long as it wasn’t snowing.
When old enough, each of us kids were expected to work in the family business. I started delivering auto parts before I could drive, taking them on foot to nearby repair shops. This gave me a deep work ethic and strong muscles as well.
No doubt today you spend more time posting photos to Facebook or surfing the internet than scrubbing floors by hand or baking bread from scratch. I’m not implying that we are all sluggards, but we just don’t have need to maintain the same level of physical activity we once did.
In addition, our bodies have changed. We don’t need the same number or type of calories that was necessary to sustain our growing bodies.
Food itself has changed over time, too. In decades’ past, farmers and food manufacturers didn’t use the chemicals, antibiotics and processing methods they do today. All of our dairy products were organic. Remember drinking milk that came in a pail straight from the cow or goat? Today, that unpasteurized and unprocessed milk is prohibited from being sold publicly. A modern concern is genetically modified food. These are crops that are dusted with chemicals.
That starchy corn, which is nothing like we had when growing up, is an essential part of the human diet, too. It is a main ingredient in everything from soda to cheese spread to margarine. While corn isn’t inherently bad, it is not good in large doses, especially when it is an additive in nearly every processed food.
We also followed trends. For example, the government told us that a healthy diet was one low in fat, so suddenly every item at the market was low fat. To compensate for that bland mouth feel, foods were injected with copious amounts of sugar, both natural and chemical. More and more of us became obese not because we ate too much fat, but because we were ingesting tons of sugar. The truth is, we need fats and they can be part of a healthy diet.
Change Your Eating Habits to Change Your Life
“I got healthy eating larger portions of fried and starchy foods, sugar and red meat,” said no one, ever.
We eat far more processed and fast food today than we did when we were younger, simply due to the fact that it is more readily available. When we were young, going out to eat was a treat and most small towns didn’t even have a fast food restaurant.
Yes, we used to be able to get away with it. But not any longer. That same diet of bacon and eggs with a tall glass of orange juice for breakfast, white bread sandwich and potato chips for lunch with a soda and meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy for dinner just isn’t going to cut it anymore.
So let’s stop being stubborn. Let’s eat smaller portions. We can focus on whole, clean, unprocessed foods. Fruits and vegetables should make up the majority of your diet. Add plant-based sources of protein and lighten up on the dairy products.
Also, let’s stay away from simple carbohydrates that cause spikes in your blood sugar. Pass up the cookies and cake and pie. Sugar does not provide a single benefit for your body.
As we grow older, it’s not time to give ourselves license to eat what we darn well please. Instead, it’s time to use the technology we have to become better informed about what constitutes a healthy diet. No more excuses.
What healthy eating habits have you established in your sixties? Have you eliminated any foods that you felt were not healthy for you to consume? Are there any foods that you just don’t eat anymore? Please join the conversation.