Seniors can tame rising food costs

Annrose M. Guarino  |  5/22/2008 6:13:46 PM

News You Can Use Distributed 05/22/08

Whether you’re a senior taking care of yourself or caring for another, every senior can save money when buying food, an LSU AgCenter nutritionist says.

“Stretching food dollars is important for single seniors or couples who want to maintain their healthy senior lifestyles and independence,” says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Annrose Guarino.

“Food selection is driven by lifestyles,” Guarino notes, explaining that mealtime is an entirely different occasion when bodies are growing compared to later years when body metabolism slows. As time passes, seniors may find it more and more challenging to prepare balanced meals.

Seniors who are newly single may not know how to cook or may not be motivated to cook for one. Physical limitations also make meal preparation difficult. Guarino says meals that are ready-to-heat (and then eat) in a microwave or oven may help.

Seniors on a budget may worry that they cannot afford the groceries necessary to cook balanced, healthy meals. The nutritionist notes, however, that many prepared packages now offer delicious, portioned breakfasts, lunches and dinners that are well within even the most modest budget.

Guarino cautions, though, that store-bought, prepared foods usually are more expensive than preparing fresh food at home. For example, you can make three pizzas for the price of one home-delivered pizza.

The nutritionist also recommends buying produce locally at the farmers market or produce stand. When produce is in season, it usually costs less.

“Growing your own food is yet another cost-cutting strategy. Plus, it may be a wonderful way to get outside and be active on your own or with neighbors and church or community groups,” the nutritionist says.

“And did you know, if you are eligible for food stamps, you can buy seeds or small plants with the stamps?” Guarino asks.

Seniors who aren’t as mobile as they used to be might consider contacting grocery stores or restaurants for home delivery of meals. Deliveries mean that a healthy meal is available almost anytime or that it can be frozen for future use.

Seniors should keep in mind, however, not to order or eat portions sized for their younger days – or they’ll find themselves gaining weight, Guarino cautions. Muscle mass gradually decreases with age, and this slows body metabolism.

“Remember to portion and adjust calories for less active lifestyles,” Guarino advises, adding, “It’s where those dietary calories come from that makes a nutritious meal!”

She notes that seniors tend to season their meals more because their sense of taste and smell also diminish with age; however, their bodies generally cannot tolerate as much salt as when they were younger.

“Be sure to select foods that are within the daily sodium guidelines outlined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture or your doctor,” the nutritionist advises, adding, “Use less salt and more herbs and spices for flavoring for a healthier and tastier experience.”

For seniors with particular sodium concerns, low-sodium selections offer the same delicious and nutritionally balanced meals as other foods but are specially prepared to suit a low-sodium lifestyle. Rinsing a canned food product with water also is a way to wash away some of the sodium.

“Eating the right foods, especially later in life, helps people stay sharp, emotionally balanced and full of energy while keeping a positive attitude and maintaining a healthy immune system,” Guarino says. “Remember to watch your doctor’s guidelines for sodium, fat and cholesterol.”

For additional information on stretching food dollars healthfully, contact an LSU AgCenter Extension family and consumer science agent or visit the food and health section on the LSU AgCenter Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com 
Contact: Annrose Guarino (225) 578-4449 or aguarino@agcenter.lsu.edu 
Editor: Mark Claesgens at (225) 578-2939 or mclaesgens@agcenter.lsu.edu

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