Lose Weight to Gain Health – A Dietitian on the Dietary Guidelines

This is the second of a series of guest posts from our friends at NutritionForTheHealthOfIt.com.  We think this is helpful information for both seniors and those who care for them.  Those under a physician’s care, especially seniors, should consult a physician before starting an exercise program or making significant changes in diet.

We all know how much lifestyle and diet influence our seniors’ health and how chronic diseases can be prevented or improved when changes are made.  It is not only important for us as caregivers but also for the seniors we care for everyday to make necessary changes to improve health and wellness.

Recently the USDA and HHS published updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  As part of the new guidelines, there are several key improvements that the research indicates can lead to big improvements in our health.

In our ongoing series we will explore each chapter of the new guidelines.  In this installment we review balancing calories to manage weight.  Due to the ever increasing prevalence of obesity among Americans, a strong emphasis in the new guidelines is being placed on helping manage our weight. There are key recommendations in the report to help us maintain a healthy weight all throughout the lifespan.  Managing calories consumed with the calories burned through physical activity will allow us to achieve a balance which in turn will help us manage our weight.

 Key Recommendations From the Guidelines to Help Us All Achieve a Balance

  • Prevent and/or reduce overweight/obesity with a combination of eating better and increased physical activity. To determine if you fall into the category of overweight or obesity, calculate your body mass index (BMI) at http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/
  • Control total calorie intake, this will mean consuming fewer calories from foods and beverages
  • Increase physical activity and reduce time spent in sedentary behaviors
  • Maintain appropriate calorie balance during each stage of life including older age

For our seniors, it has been shown that if you are already overweight, you are encouraged not to gain additional weight.  More importantly, if you are obese and have cardiovascular disease risk factors, intentional weight loss can be beneficial and result in improved quality of life and reduced risk of chronic diseases per the guidelines.

What Can You Do to Manage Both Your Health and Your Loved Ones

  • Limit portion sizes. Calories from fat, carbohydrates, proteins and alcohol come from all we eat and drink. The total number of calories balanced over time affects our weight not the source of the calories according to the research.
  • Limit fast food meals. Substitute unsaturated fat for saturated fat sources while you eliminate trans-fat.
  • Make a special effort to become physically active every day.  Weekly goal is 150 minutes of moderately intensive activity such as brisk walking, biking, dancing or swimming.  More overweight adults may benefit from up to 300 minutes of moderately intensive activity each week to achieve a weight loss.  For safety, older adults should participate in activity that also improves balance and only participate in activities that their abilities will allow.
  • Learn how many calories you need and make food choices that will help you eat no more than you need while incorporating the most nutritious choices each day.  Calorie needs often decrease as we age.  It is recommended that women over 51 years should try to eat 1,600 to 2,200 calories and men over 51 years should eat 2,000-2,800 calories (from sedentary to active).
  • Increase fiber in your diet with more whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables; reduce refined foods and sources of added sugars especially sugar sweetened beverages.
  • Limit alcohol that provides calories without nutrients-not to exceed one drink per day for women and two drinks per day from men.
  • Eat a good breakfast every day selecting nutrient dense foods and whole grains.  Skipping breakfast has been linked to weight gain.

The focus should be on achieving health.  Make a plan for you and your senior making changes each day.  Try new foods, new cooking techniques, new activities and find ways to move away from the table and the TV.  Enjoy each other!

Tune in next week for the next part in the series that will focus on the foods we can reduce to improve our health.  We encourage your feedback and questions!

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