Photos: Sean Dennie

Nature and Nurture

In your community since 2008


Talking about food

Posted by ccartmill on June 1, 2009 at 11:55 AM

Eating well for seniors

My name is Catherine Cartmill; I am a Certified Senior Advisor and owner of Nature and Nurture Senior Concierge Ltd. I appreciate the opportunity to share with you today on one of my favourite subjects, food! As well as being a hobby of mine, food makes up the core portion of my business, we provide a grocery shopping service, meal planning & preparation as well as assistance in co-ordinating resources.

As we mature, our bodies undergo a number of changes; generally occurring gradually, over time. Internal food processing systems become less efficient as well as external food sensing; our sense of taste and smell is not as sharp as it used to be; our teeth aren’t as sharp as they were either! Those experiencing widowhood undergo major changes in meal patterns, for others retirement has led to reduced physical activity and more opportunity to eat. Often diets adjust to accommodate medical conditions, with doctors adding to the list of foods that are forbidden. Somehow eating isn’t as much fun as it used to be.

Sometimes the challenge is getting the food into the house. Physical challenges may get in the way of having sufficient food in the home. Those without their own cars rely on the food that is available in the neighbourhood stores which may be more expensive and less nutritious than food from a grocery store. No vehicle means groceries are limited to the amount that can be carried. Money is also a factor for many and those cooking for one or two can’t take advantage of cost savings available for those buying in bulk.

We know that diet plays a major role in our quality of life especially in the 70+ age groups. The food we eat really needs to pack a punch to deliver the nutrients needed at the same time as it becomes more challenging to get adequate nutrition.

Sometimes we get stuck in a routine and it’s difficult to make radical changes in our habits. Try making small changes to increase minerals, vitamins, fibre and water in your diet. Liquid is an essential part of any diet and drinks with caffeine or alcohol reduce the amount of liquid in our system. A good rule of thumb is to drink a glass of water for every alcoholic or caffeinated drink. Other small changes include focusing on color; choosing brown rice instead of white rice or whole wheat bread and pasta instead of white;

  •  Keep fresh fruit around, cut it up for a snack
  •  Eat more beans and less meat
  •  Choose darker fruits and vegetables, romaine or spinach instead of iceberg lettuce, peaches or berries instead of apples 

Fresh produce is tasty – especially when it comes from your own garden. Gardens don’t have to be large; they can be as simple as herbs grown on a windowsill. Fresh produce can be found in greater variety at a farmers market and may be cheaper as well. There are a number of community gardens around Calgary you can get your own plot or just help out in exchange for some produce. Dandelion greens are free and plentiful, as long as you know they have not been sprayed. Pig weed is similar to butter lettuce when it’s young. Have you seen the boxes of organic baby greens in the grocery store? $5 for a box of green stuff you can pick in your yard even when you don’t have a garden!

Look for volunteer opportunities where a meal is served. Working at a casino or bingo can be a lot of fun and a good way to meet people. Volunteer Calgary has plenty of opportunities and not just in gaming establishments! You can go see the ballet or a play, work in a garden, play with children or animals, use your handyman skills or many other opportunities. When you are eating out, make sure that every bite counts. Avoid empty calories and junk food.

Make cooking and eating a social activity. Get together with friends to prepare single serving meals for the freezer. Create a grocery club with friends and neighbours or use a shopping service to take advantage of bulk prices. Get together with friends for pot luck meals on a regular basis. Have no cook meal options and heat and serve meals for days when you don’t feel like cooking. Make your own heat and serve meals when you cook, just make extra to freeze. If you don’t have a group of friends that is interested, check with your local seniors centre or contact Community Kitchens of Calgary.

There’s all kind of information available. The US Food & Drug Administration developed a “Seniors Food Triangle” reducing the starches and encouraging fibre. We hear about “superfoods” and there are plenty of articles such as the following from News Canada published recently in the Calgary Herald.


Healthy diet, healthy brain

(NC)—More and more experts say that the daily diet—what you eat and how much you eat—plays a big role in mental alertness. Eating the right diet can help the brain make the right connections - at all ages. Foods play a big role in maintaining a healthy brain, like these:


  • Proteins in the diet affect brain performance because they provide the amino acids from which neurotransmitters are made. Eat low fat yoghurt, cottage cheese, peanut butter, whole-wheat cereals, skinless chicken, eggs, turkey, beans, fresh nuts and seeds.
  • Carbohydrates calm the body and help you resist distractions. In the evening eat potatoes, whole grain rice and pasta, couscous, wild rice and beans.
  • Avoid saturated fat and trans fats, as they can easily cause fatigue.
  • Take the appropriate vitamins and supplements, such as a daily multivitamin/ mineral supplement. Some natural health products, such as caffeine-free Remember-fx, have been shown to increase mental alertness.
  • Drink green tea. It is strong in antioxidants and helps lower plaque in the brain. Consuming at least 2 cups daily can improve your cognitive function and keep your mental faculties from declining.



The point is not to treat food as a prescription -although I did hear from one man who when he heard of the benefits of almonds counted out 23 almonds which is one ounce to eat every day. You need to focus on the foods that you can eat and food that you do enjoy and try to make it easier to do. I have given you a lot of information in a short period of time and would be happy to answer your questions at my booth.

No matter if you are 80 or just want to grow up to be 80 cook for nutrition and eat to enjoy!

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Reply collin
6:05 AM on September 15, 2010 
Well said "Healthy diet is healthy brain". A diet can really prevent obesity and other related issues. Adding veggies, low calorie foods and fresh fruits juices provide lot of health benefits and helps to stay fit.

Collin paul
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