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Nutrition as we age

By Food for thought, Guidelines, Hydration, Tips No Comments

A topic I don’t spend enough time talking about, however it’s only after recent discussions with my parents, in laws and my husband’s 92 year old nan that I’ve realised it’s a particularly niche area that not many people know much about. I actually spoke at a retirement home on this topic in late 2019 and shared some easy tips the residents could implement themselves or with the help of their own families.

This is especially important at a time when loneliness and being isolated can impact your nutrition status too.

Nutritional requirements change as we hit our late 30’s, into our 40’s and onwards from there. It’s never too late to start but by building these habits early it means you’ll be setting yourself up for when you are just that little bit older. Without trying to over complicate things, and in no particular order, here are just a few science backed tips that can help.

Protein.

As we age, we actually need more protein, yet we tend to consume much less. Think about your grandparents, would they consume a good source of protein at every meal. Probably not. If we could get every care and retirement home to provide a protein-based drink per day imagine the difference that could make to the elderly population. An increase in protein consumption can assist with the reduction of muscle wastage and even improve rates of new muscle being built. Less muscle to support our frame means we are more likely to fall. Less people falling means less pressure on the NHS and more people living with a better quality of life. Obviously, encouraging protein consumption through consuming protein rich foods would be far more beneficial from a nutritional standpoint but for convenience a drink may be more suitable. Perhaps framing it like a milkshake might get more individuals onboard?

Hydration.

Of all the topics we covered at the retirement home, hydration definitely had the most interest and questions, which in all honesty is great because it means a lot of these residents weren’t hydrated enough. I sent a post workshop follow up with the urine colour chart for them to use. Last year I bought dad a water bottle, he was never drinking enough (water that is). Now every time we Facetime he has it with him, like he’s proving a point. Being dehydrated can lead you to feel less energised, tired and generally flat. It’s a big easy win. Make sure you use a reusable bottle if you can too.

Vitamin D supplementation.

In the UK everyone over the age of one is currently required to take a supplement of 10ug (micrograms) of vitamin D3 per day. This has now been extended to cover not only winter months but also the summer months too due to us being in lock down because of Covid-19. Those with darker skin should also take a vitamin D supplement all year round as they aren’t able to absorb as much vitamin D3 from sunlight due to their skin pigmentation. This also applies to the older population group too, coupled with the fact this group of people spend a fairly large amount of time indoors. Vitamin D is involved in many things, namely, the maintenance of strong bones and teeth, supporting our immune system and has positive associations with mood. It comes in tablets or sprays which may be suitable for those who have trouble swallowing.

Fish oil supplementation, AKA Omega 3.

The research on fish oil intake and supplementation is only growing. Fish oil is comprised of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Studies show it positively effects the bodies reduced ability to build muscle in the elderly (anabolic resistance). As well as helping to facilitate weight loss and assist in improvements with depression. Yet the majority of the adult population fail to consume the recommendation of one portion of oily fish per week which is our main source of omega 3. One average portion is thought to contain around 450mg (milligrams) of EPA & DHA combined. Recommendation wise if you consume no oily fish (salmon, herring, mackerel, trout, sardines, pilchards) you are looking at anywhere between 300-1800 milligrams per day.

If you are taking any blood thinning medication (such as Warfarin) then you should consult your GP before taking a fish oil supplement due to it having similar effects on the blood. You can obtain omega 3 from other food sources however the dose is very low. These include linseeds, rapeseed oil, walnuts and pumpkin seeds. For those with allergies to fish or on a vegetarian/vegan diet there are algae sourced supplements available.

Resistance training.

This was another really good tip for the retirement home in particular as the warden mentioned that they offer chair workouts but don’t usually get a lot of uptake. Your body weight is enough, no expensive equipment is needed. So many people still just focus on cardiovascular exercise in a bid to burn more calories, however by doing resistance/strength training once or twice a week you are in fact strengthening your muscles so when you do go for that run, walk or cycle you’ll perform better and recover faster. As we age, continuing to strength train helps reduce muscle wastage and maintains our bone strength.

In summary….

As always my motto is if every attendee takes just one thing away from every workshop, blog post or social media caption that helps them, then my job is done. And quote of the day goes to one gentleman who was walking outside when I left. In his words “when I heard a nutritionist was coming in, I thought it was going to be really boring, but I actually learnt so much, thankyou!” And that’s what this job is all about.

I’m also pleased to say, mum and dad are now delving into the world of protein shakes and taking regular fish oil supplements, if they can, you can.

Pregnancy post #6 – sleep

By Mood, Pregnancy, Tips No Comments

This is important

I want to talk about sleep. I was once that person that partied 4 nights a week, worked 15 hours a day and thought lack of sleep gave you hero status. Not anymore.

Since I left my corporate job in 2016, I realised this is no longer the badge of honour I once thought it was.

How my sleep suffered

My sleep severely suffered during week 32 (not much before then), not because I was uncomfortable but mostly because we got new neighbours and our bedroom wall adjoined to their living room. They are elderly and deaf and like to watch television until gone midnight most nights. Given we are both early risers this wasn’t going down very well. We got earplugs and sometimes slept in the spare room, now it’s not so much of a problem.

I continued to suffer for the following few weeks and then it levelled out where I would only wake between 1 and 3 times a night for a pee. And whilst I know this is also my body’s way of getting me ready for what’s to come it’s bloody awful. I’m also not a day napper, it just very rarely works for me. If I do nap, I often find I wake up groggy and just don’t like the feeling of falling asleep during the day. Towards the end of my pregnancy though I did manage to nap occasionally, anytime from in the morning to sometimes at 6pm. By week 38 it was pretty uncomfortable.

Pregnancy pillow and advice

I had a pregnancy pillow which I used on and off, but being honest it just wasn’t my thing. I was most comfortable sleeping on my front/side with one leg bent. Not the most conventional but it worked for me and I’d encourage you all to do the same. Whatever works. There is a school of thought out there that it’s “best” to sleep on your left hand side, however I always thought what if you just can’t fall asleep on that side and are left panicking because you aren’t. My midwife never gave me this advice, it was more passed on from other people and from doctor Google. The stress you’ll put yourself under from trying to sleep on your left and then not being able to will outweigh the benefits of just getting a good nights sleep in the first place.

The impact on mood

It really is fascinating how a shit nights sleep will impact your mood and productivity levels and this experience definitely showed that. When baby arrives (which is now) the message I am already practising in my head is that this sleep deprived time period isn’t forever, so just ride it out and things will improve. But my main message here is don’t forgo your sleep for other things you might think are important. Sure, every now and again we need to meet up with friends and socialise, because that’s part of looking after yourself too (although at present his is more through video conferencing calls than in person). But if you are burning the candle at both ends often, bail and nap or get an early night. That’s ok too. And you are the only person who will know if it’s the right time to do that or not.

Pregnancy post #5 – second hand stuff and recycling

By Food for thought, Personal, Pregnancy, Tips No Comments

Big fans…

Being big fans of reusing and recycling when we found out about the new addition to our family we were adamant to do as much as we could not to buy new things. We just didn’t want to add more items into a system that was already flooded with products. I cannot say a big enough thanks to all my friends and family who gave us so much, their generosity was next level. The baby had almost a full wardrobe of clothes from newborn to nine months before he was even born. I must say this was probably helped by the fact I was one of the last in my group of friends to have children, just as some of them had completed their own families.

What we got

I used Facebook marketplace all the time, because you can filter it to search local to you. My buggy (and all the bits to go with it), baby carrier, newborn insert, cot and rocking chair all came from there. Some of these had not even been used, or only used once. Some brand new but for half the price.

The cot (£30, retailed brand new for over £300) and rocking chair (£20) we just sanded down and re-painted, with low VOC paint to ensure it wasn’t toxic. Both as good as new. And yes, you have to have the time to do this, it’s about making it a priority. We spent a few hours on each item together. The shelves for Kit’s books are also made from reclaimed scaffold boards.

Provided they remain in good condition we will also sell on, or at the very least give to a charity shop who can benefit from it long after we have.

Brand new is not always best

More of us need to move away from the thought process that new is best. Yes, in some cases new items are essential, for hygiene reasons and if you have a personal reason which you feel strongly about. But for babies, it’s really not necessary and as adults we need to apply those principals to us too. Probably half of my very small maternity wardrobe came from the second hand clothes app, Depop. If you don’t have an account, set one up here. Again, lots of clothes which have barely been worn and even more which are brand new. Considering maternity clothes are worn for such a short period of time it just makes sense. There is also loads of baby stuff on here too, however I am yet to use it for that.

Nappies and wipes

Now, it comes to nappies and wipes. What a minefield. That’s all I can say. We both researched a lot. And I think it then turned into information overload. We had always said from the start that using solely washable nappies and wipes wasn’t going to work and we didn’t want to put ourselves under that much pressure with a newborn. So, we’d said we’d use washable nappies at home and disposable when we were out and about. Or the other option was we’d use washable for one day a week and disposable for the remainder of the time. Something as better than nothing. At the moment we are using disposable but I’m thinking once Kit is around 2 months old to move to the above. I have everything ready.

The wipes are just as confusing. I have a set from Cheeky Wipes which we do use already. And I also invested in bamboo and compostable varieties too. But none of them fully breakdown, and whilst it seems like a good idea, if the product doesn’t fully breakdown then I question if it’s worth the effort, because you are back at square one.

Remember

No one is doing everything. It’s impossible. But if you are doing one thing here and there to be more eco friendly then you are doing your bit. So I challenge you, what’s next on your list?

The Planetary Health Diet

By Food for thought, Guidelines, Tips No Comments
Overview

Late last month a report was launched by the EAT Lancet Commission about the dire state of the global food system and what we need to do to fix it. Many of you won’t have seen this. Or will have brushed over it and put it in the “too hard” basket. I get it. And I want to simplify it for you, so take a read, it won’t take long, and decide on what you are going to do to help. To help you. Your family. And others. Please.

Unhealthy diets are the leading cause of ill health worldwide. Just take a moment to process that. Eating food which doesn’t provide us with the right nutrition is making us sick.

  • 800 million people are hungry, they do not have enough food
  • 2 billion people are malnourished
  • 2 billion people are overweight or obese

Our diet is also the largest contributor to environmental damage in the world. The production, processing, transport, storage and waste of our food account for a quarter of the human contribution to climate change. So when I post tips on cutting your bananas up and freezing them I actually mean it.

Apparently if we just follow these guidelines, it’s a win win. If only we were all educated about food hey? Just that minor detail. Add into that the fact that many of us simply cannot afford to eat in this way and we are left at a cross roads with no way to turn.

What does the study say?

It suggests some pretty major changes for the average Joe:

  • Red meat and sugar consumption to be cut by half (globally). This would mean for each person, around one beef burger per week. Other protein would come from two servings of fish and unlimited pulses and lentils.
  • Vegetables, fruit, pulses and nut intake must double. Considering most of the UK population don’t even consume 5 a day and that message has been running for 15 years, this isn’t going to change quickly. We need to make this shift by 2050, it’s not long.
  • A glass of milk a day, or some cheese or butter, fits within the guidelines, as does an egg or two a week. (Personally, I would be screwed with cutting out eggs).
  • Half of each plate of food under the diet is vegetables and fruit, and a third is wholegrain cereals.

The photographs alone that accompany this report are pretty. That’s all. I mean I don’t even know what some of these foods are and I work in the industry, so for those struggling to feed their family, I do wonder how they are supposed to feel when they look at these. I’d imagine inspired, but the truth is it will probably make them feel quite down. Please remember, your food does not need to be instagrammable, just edible.

What can you do?

I just wanted to pull out five easy to digest points about the study and some tips on how to implement them, one at a time within your family.

  • How much red meat do you consume and how often? Red meat includes beef, lamb, pork, bacon, ham. If you consume red meat more than twice a week it’s time to make some changes. For multiple times a day try going down to once a day. And if it’s a daily occurrence start by trying to only have it every other day.
  • Make note of how many pieces of fruit and veg you consume in a day (excluding potatoes). If it’s less than 5, then your goal is to get to 5 per day. Once you are there, consistently there for a few months try to include one more.
  • Legumes, nuts, lentils, pulses, if you don’t know where to find these in the supermarket that’s a good place to start. Go to world food aisle and put a pack or tin of any type of bean or lentil of pulse in your basket. You can also find them where the tinned vegetables are or in the dried food section. If you aren’t used to using them I’d opt for tinned versions first.
  • It is not more expensive to eat well. You just need to pay more attention to what you are buying. It doesn’t need to be organic. You don’t need fancy food. Tinned and dried foods are cheap and nutritious. Frozen veg is a lifesaver and often better for you and easier to cook with less prep.
  • Food Waste – do not throw food away. Every time you think of throwing food away challenge yourself not to. What else can you do with it? Buy a compost bin. Take it to a food bank. Freeze it. Take it work the next day.

I really hope that helps because if it doesn’t we may just be in danger of a red meat tax? I’m serious.