Having just bought the Easter eggs and seen all the chocolate goodies on the shelf of my local supermarket, I’ve been reminded once again about the importance of healthy eating. As you get older you need to be a lot more careful with what you eat, if you’re going to maintain the physical and mental acuity you want.
Older men often fall into the trap of eating convenience foods, particularly if they’re alone or are providing care for an infirm wife. At the time it seems so simple. Your wife is in need of as much time as you can give her – and that microwave dinner will give you the nutrition you need to keep going. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t great; it’ll do for now, right?
The problem with convenience food is that it contains a great deal of preservative chemical (even when it claims to be healthy it’s still essentially a “nothing food”) and far too much sodium. So eating it either because there’s no-one else around to cook for, or because you are “too busy” looking after someone, is a false economy. You’ll never make back the lost nutrition from those meals. As your body struggles to find nutrients in the ready meal, it diverts precious resources away from your immune system, your bones – the systems and structures most important to you as you age.
Eating too much sodium and preservatives can cause problems in its own right. Sodium is linked, among other ailments, to a greater incidence of heart disease. It causes high blood pressure and may excessively dehydrate, leading to yet another problem: not drinking enough water.
In some cases, the older man is bound to his microwave because, beyond beans on toast, he can’t cook at all. If your wife has cooked for you all your life, and you find yourself either alone or caring for her, then ready meals aren’t just a quick option – they are the only option.
I’ve written before about the benefits of joining a group to meet new people in your silver years. So here’s an idea: why not join a cooking group? If your schedule permits, you’ll be able to learn how to replace the bad elements in the microwave dinners you’re eating with healthful vitamins, fibre and minerals: all essential for maintaining the wellbeing of your digestive system, your muscles, your organs and your bones.
If you’re giving care to your partner and have little time, you may still be able to squeeze in semi-regular visits to a senior’s cooking club. It’ll do more than teach you to look after yourself nutritionally too. It will give you a chance to unwind, get some time for yourself and share your situation with others who may be in the same boat.
If you’d like some great healthy recipe ideas to get you started, have a look at www.askgranny.com. You’ll find plenty of advice and support there too.
My final thought for the Easter season is this. When we look after our bodies through proper eating and gentle exercise, we can afford to enjoy a treat every now and then. So happy Easter and enjoy those eggs!