Seniors get taste of healthy eating - September 2, 2016

Courtesy of Post-Tribune • September 2, 2016

By Sue Ellen Ross

On the menu for a recent lunch for senior citizens at the Gary YWCA were Brussels sprouts salad with homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing and kale and spinach salad with homemade sesame Asian basil dressing.

Add chicken to the salads, and the more than 50 people in attendance got a true taste of “A Healthy Eating & Cooking Demonstration for Seniors.” They also garnered cooking tips, a nutrition discussion, and an opportunity to sign up with the senior program at the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, a sponsor of the event along with Methodist Hospitals and the YWCA of Northwest Indiana.

“This (lunch) today is not just about salad, it’s about portion control,” said Leela Chigurupati, Methodist Hospitals clinical dietitian. “Eating well at any age is important, but especially as we get older. Read labels, look for sodium content. We must make a plan.”

Eating properly is important to take advantage of the opportunity to live longer and healthier lives, she said.

“As we get older, eating adequately becomes a challenge, and developing a good eating plan that will assist in the overall health of aging adults will have positive benefits for the entire body. We feel better when we eat right,” Chigurupati said.

Gary resident Mary Lefton said eating habits are hard to change.

“I was one who always ate a lot of pastries and didn’t see a reason to stop,” she said, as she lined up with others for lunch. “But the extra weight I gained over the years caused me to move more slowly, and that affected my life.”

A formal diet program wasn’t attractive to her, but she knew she had to do something since she couldn’t keep up with her many grandchildren. So she started a walking program on her own.

“I also started to read about changing my food attitude, that’s why I came here today,” she said. “I need to really pay attention to what they are saying about how to make better choices when you eat. You know, I’m finding out you can still have good-tasting food, you just have to make it in a different way.”

Many local organizations are combining efforts to reach out to elderly residents.

Methodist Hospitals offers a Healthy Living presentation at the Gary YWCA for members once a month. After lunch, seniors were given a “healthy food box” that included fresh fruits and vegetables prepared by the Food Bank of NWI.

“This (type of distribution) is important,” food bank representative Emily Cutka said. “A lot of seniors don’t have this type of food in their house.”

The food bank also signed people to the waiting list for the USDA Commodity Supplemental Food Program that provides low-income seniors with nutritious meals each month.

Sue Ellen Ross is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.