Nutrition for baby boomers
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Healthy eating for baby boomers

By Andrea Holwegner, For The Calgary Herald   October 28, 2010

nutrition for baby boomers

If you are a boomer in your mid-40s to late 50s, it will likely not come as any surprise that your weight and overall health can start to shift. If you have not been taking care of your health up to now, this is likely where medical issues will begin to show up.
You can benefit from taking a close look at your nutrition habits to ward off chronic disease and manage a healthy weight.

Changing nutrition habits for the better can make a huge difference in how you look and feel in the years to come.

Top 5 Nutrition Challenges

1. Getting Used To Eating Less

With age our hormones shift, metabolic rate declines and body composition changes to favour more body fat and less muscle. As a boomer, you simply require fewer calories than you did in your 20s and 30s.

If you’re gaining weight despite having the same eating and activity patterns for years, it’s natural to feel betrayed by your body and to struggle to make sense of why. But to maintain your earlier weight, you unfortunately need to eat less or, alternatively, exercise more. If you are trying to lose weight it is even tougher.

Food researchers report that we underestimate how much we eat by approximately 20 to 40 per cent. If you pay close attention to quantity and in particular to shrinking your portions of high-calorie food, it will help you manage a healthy weight as you age. It’s easy to eat too much junk food or have a larger portion of grains/starch servings or meat/protein servings per day than you need, but boosting your intake of fruits and veggies can add volume to your diet without many extra calories.

If you are trying to lose weight, keep a journal of what you are eating and take an honest look at where you could make some changes. If you are stuck, book some appointments with a registered dietitian.

2. Tackling Emotional Eating

We eat for many reasons, in response to both true hunger and emotional hunger. Signs of true hunger include stomach rumbles, fatigue, difficulty focusing, food cravings and negative changes in mood.

But you also need to tune in to your emotional reasons for eating. It is completely normal to eat to celebrate when you are happy, to comfort yourself when you are sad, or to soothe yourself when you are stressed. But when emotional eating starts to become a regular negative influence on your health, mood, body image and relationship with food, you need to learn other ways to comfort yourself. Try exploring these important questions:

What is eating me? If I am eating when I am not truly hungry, is it because I am stressed, sad, bored, angry or worried?

What am I hungry for? What am I looking for in my life that has not come my way yet? What fulfils me and brings me joy?

How can I comfort myself without food? How else can I soothe or nurture myself? Is there an enjoyable hobby, task or activity that I could do? Is there a friend I can call or pet I can snuggle with?

Remember to dig deep, be honest with yourself and explore the true answers to these questions. You might also consider consulting with a psychologist to explore this further.

3. Warding Off Lifestyle Diseases

According to the Canadian Health Measures Survey, 47 per cent of Canadians aged 40 to 59 have high cholesterol. Based on 2009 incidence rates, the Canadian Cancer Society reports 40 per cent of Canadian women and 45 per cent of men will develop cancer during their lifetimes. The Canadian Diabetes Association reports that an estimated nine million Canadians are living with diabetes and pre-diabetes.

Since high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis risks increase with age, boomers should take extra care to keep a healthy lifestyle to prevent and treat these issues.

Getting enough vegetables and fruit, whole grains, beans/ legumes, lean protein sources and lower-fat dairy foods are steps in the right direction. You can also benefit from reducing your sodium intake, limiting high-sugar foods and consuming low or moderate alcohol.

Increasing omega-3 fats from foods such as fatty fish, walnuts, ground flax seeds and hemp seeds is especially good for your heart health.

Consuming healthier fats from plants such as olives, nuts and seeds and reducing animal fats and eliminating trans fats found in processed and deep-fried foods is also important.

If you have been eating a certain way for several decades, it is hard to change everything overnight, so start small: pick a few changes to work on and build from there.

4. Kick The Clock — Eat On Your Time

Chances are, you have heard many conflicting messages about how often you should eat. Do we really all have the same hunger patterns? I don’t believe so. Rather than eating by the clock or on someone else’s schedule, choose to eat on your time. Follow your own unique hunger pattern.

To figure out your body’s hunger cues, eat breakfast within about an hour or so of waking even if you are not hungry, since it sets the stage for the whole day.

If you plan your meals with adequate carbohydrates and protein, you will find you get hungry every three to five hours. This means you might eat anywhere between three to six times per day. The more frequently you eat, the smaller the meals should be: the choice is yours.

5. Finding Middle Magic

Dr. Brian Wansink, a leading food researcher, suggests we make more than 20,000 food-related decisions each day. How could we expect them all to be perfect? Allowing yourself to enjoy your favourite treats is the only way I believe you can be successful with your commitment to achieving good health.

I often see people as either stuck strugglers or shaker movers. Stuck strugglers never seem to be able to progress with the health and weight changes they are looking for. The shaker movers, though, have rolled through change and seen the results in health, energy and weight management. These are some of the happiest, healthiest people I know: they’ve figured out the concept of middle magic.

Middle magic is about finding a balance between “all or none” and between healthful and soulful living. One without the other will always run you into trouble.

Andrea Holwegner, The Chocoholic Dietitian, is founder and president of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. Visit www.healthstandnutrition.com and www.chocoholicdietitian.com for tips, articles and recipes, and to subscribe to a free monthly e-zine, or phone 403-262-3466 for nutrition counselling, seminars and resources.

Tortellini Bean Soup

Source: Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc.

1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil

1 medium onion chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cup (250 mL) sliced mushrooms

1 red pepper

1 (14oz/398 mL) can stewed tomatoes, minced

8 cups (2 L) vegetable or chicken broth (homemade, reconstituted from powder, or canned)

2 tbsp (25 mL) dried basil

1/2 of a 750 g package fresh or frozen tortellini (375 g), cooked

1 (14oz/398 mL) can beans in tomato sauce

1 (19oz/540 mL) can lentils, drained and rinsed

Saute onion, garlic, mushrooms and red peppers until soft in the oil in a large saucepan. Add tomatoes, broth and basil and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Add cooked tortellini, beans and lentils.

Option: add salsa, hot chili sauce, or dried chili pepper flakes to spice it up if you like! Makes 10 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: calories 266, carbohydrates 42 g, protein 16 g, fat 4 g, dietary fibre 7 g.

Crispy Potato Wedges

Source: Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc.

2 large sweet potatoes or potatoes

1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil

1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground black pepper

1/8 tsp (0.5 mL) salt

2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)

1/2 tsp (2mL) paprika

Place sweet potatoes or potatoes in a large bowl; add cold water to cover. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Spray a non-stick baking sheet with vegetable cooking spray. Set aside.

Drain potatoes in a colander. Spread on a double layer of paper towels. Cover with a second layer of paper towels. Press down on the towels to dry potatoes.

Transfer potatoes to a clean large bowl. Sprinkle with oil, pepper, paprika and salt; toss gently to combine. Arrange seasoned potatoes in a single layer on prepared baking sheet.

Bake potatoes for 20 minutes. Using a spatula, turn potatoes; sprinkle with garlic.

Bake until golden, about 20 minutes, turning baking sheet after 10 minutes for even browning. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: calories 91, carbohydrates 14.4 g, protein 1.1 g, fat 3.5 g, dietary fibre 1.8 g.

Banana Bran Muffins

Source: Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc.

1¼ cups (300 mL) whole wheat flour

1/2 cup (125 mL) rolled oats

1/2 cup (125 mL) natural bran

1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder

1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda

1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt

1/3 cup (75 mL) canola oil

1/3 cup (75 mL) brown sugar

1 egg

1 cup (250 mL) mashed banana (2 to 3 bananas)

1/2 cup (125 mL) buttermilk or sour milk*

2 tbsp (25 mL) molasses

3/4 cup (175 mL) raisins

*Sour milk by adding 1 tbsp (15 mL) vinegar into 1/2 cup (125 mL) milk

Mix oil, brown sugar and egg together. Stir in mashed banana, buttermilk/sour milk and molasses. Add dry ingredients and raisins and stir just until moistened. Fill 12 muffin cups 3/4 full of batter. Bake 375°F (190°C) for 20 to 25 minutes.

Makes 12 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: calories 205, carbohydrates 34 g, protein 4 g, fat 7 g, dietary fibre 4 g.

Speedy Italian Caprese Salad

This is one of the easiest and tastiest salads you can make. Tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, which is a phytonutrient that is helpful for reducing cancer risk.

Source: Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc.

4 medium vine ripened tomatoes, sliced in 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick rounds

8 oz (240 grams) bocconcini cheese (fresh mozzarella cheese sold in delis in containers as large balls), sliced in 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick rounds

About 20 or so fresh basil leaves

1 tsp (5 mL) olive oil

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Layer alternating slices of tomato, cheese and basil leaves on a large platter in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: calories 192, carbohydrates 6 g, protein 13 g, fat 14 g, dietary fibre 1.6 g.

Appetizer Variation: use cherry or grape tomatoes and mini bocconcini cheese and skewer on a toothpick and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste for a healthy and colourful appetizer.


Hummus is great served with pita bread, veggies, or as a spread in a sandwich.

Source: Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc.

1 (19 oz./540 mL) can chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), drained

2 green onions

2 to 4 large cloves garlic

1/4 cup (50 mL) lemon juice

1/4 cup (50 mL) tahini (sesame seed paste)*

1/2 tsp (2 mL) cumin

1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste

1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt

*Tahini is found in jars/containers in deli’s, or ethnic sections of your grocery store.

In a food processor or blender, puree all of the above ingredients except the yogurt, until smooth. Mix in yogurt. Chill or serve at room temperature as a dip for pita bread, crackers, raw veggies or as part of a sandwich.

Makes 12 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: calories 91, carbohydrates 13 g, protein 4 g, fat 3 g, dietary fibre 3 g.

Dilled and Grilled Halibut Steaks

Halibut is a great source for heart and brain-healthy omega-3 fats.

4, 6 oz (170 g) fresh halibut fillets

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup (50 mL) fresh dill fronds (stems removed, chopped)

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil

Lemon wedges for garnish

Place the fish pieces in a baking pan. Season both sides with salt and pepper and coat evenly with the dill. Squeeze lemon over the fish and then drizzle with olive oil to coat. Let sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the grill for direct medium heat. Place the halibut pieces on the grill, skin side down. Cook for about 6 minutes until just cooked through. Remove from grill and let rest for a couple of minutes. To serve, season with a little more salt and pepper, and accompany with lemon wedges and fresh dill.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: calories 223, carbohydrates 1.8 g, protein 35.6 g, fat 7.3 g, dietary fibre 0.2 g.

Quick Egg and Cheese

This is a great quick weekday recipe that comes from eggs.ca. Combine with a toast or English muffin and a piece of fruit or tomato slices to balance the meal.

1 egg

2 tsp (10 mL) shredded cheese

Oil or a non-stick spray

Crack an egg in a microwave safe mug sprayed with oil or a non-stick spray. Pierce egg yolk with toothpick or fork. Cover with plastic wrap with one corner pulled back for venting. Microwave on medium-high (70 per cent) for 45 seconds to 1 minute or until desired doneness. Sprinkle cheese on top of the egg in the mug. Let stand 1 to 2 minutes without removing plastic wrap.

Makes 1 serving.

Nutrition information per serving: calories 91, carbohydrates 0 g, protein 7.3 g, fat 6.5 g, dietary fibre 0 g.

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Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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