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Eat well, age well

March is the American Dietetic Association's National Nutrition Month - how are you celebrating it?

We received a letter this week from Kimberly Vespi, Nutrition Director for Loretto's AdvancedMeal Food Services, that shared some tips about making proper nutrition a habit.

"Proper nutrition is more important than ever as we age," Vespi says. "While good nutrition may not turn back the hands of time, it can certainly help you prevent, treat and recover from illness and improve your quality of life in later years. As we age, we may need fewer calories. However, we still need the same nutrients."

Here are those tips:

- Consume calcium and vitamin D-rich foods. These nutrients help maintain bone health and reduce the risk of fractures. With age, we are less efficient in absorbing calcium from foods and often don't consume enough foods that contain calcium and vitamin D. Low fat dairy foods as well as fortified juices, cereals and breads are good choices.

- Stay hydrated! As we age, our thirst mechanism can decrease. Many older adults tend to limit fluid consumption to prevent frequent trips to the restroom. Try keeping a water bottle with you throughout the day to sip on.

- Fill up on fiber. Fiber can prevent constipation, control hunger and weight and help decrease your risk for heart disease. Fruits and vegetables are always an excellent choice. Whole grain breads, cereals, rice and pasta also provide fiber.

- Choose lean protein. Maintaining muscle mass is important as we age. Fish, skinless chicken and turkey, nuts and beans are excellent sources of protein.

If you feel you may not be getting sufficient amounts of some nutrients, Vespi recommends talking to your doctor about a vitamin/mineral supplement. For those looking to develop a healthier lifestyle, she suggests starting with small, gradual changes.

Old habits can be difficult to break, so don't try and change everything at once," Vespi says.

For a personalized plan to meet your needs, go to www.mypyramid.gov. To find a registered dietitian in your area, log on to www.eatright.org and select "Find a Registered Dietitian."

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