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Eat Your Peas & Carrots! The Importance of Good Nutrition at Every Age

photo: Alexandr PodvalnyEven the most active of older adults may find it difficult to keep up with creating and eating nutritious meals. There are many reasons, such as trouble chewing, decreased sense of taste or smell, dietary restrictions due to physical conditions, medication side effects, mobility issues (hard to shop or cook), or feeling isolated or lonely. However, as we age, a well-balanced, varied and nutritious diet is vitally important to help maintain not only physical health but cognitive health as well.

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is the key to getting all the important vitamins and minerals; B vitamins, Vitamin D, calcium, and potassium are especially important. Fresh produce is more nutritionally beneficial than canned or frozen counterparts (although those will do in a pinch), can be seasoned in countless ways, and adds wonderful color and fiber to meals. Including a variety of high-fiber foods every day (whole grains are in that category) also helps you improve digestion, maintain a healthy weight, and reduce your risk of heart problems by moderating blood pressure and lowering high cholesterol.

There are several health maintenance nutritional programs recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

  • For people ages 50 and older, the USDA food patterns suggests eating 1.5 to 2.5 cups of fruit (such as a two-inch peach or 1/4 cup of dried fruit) and 2 to 3.5 cups of vegetables (this is measuring uncooked leafy vegetables) every day.
  • The USDA Food Guide MyPlate Plan offers tips for building a healthy, balanced diet, which include making half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • The DASH Diet is designed to help reduce blood pressure and emphasizes foods that are heart healthy. It recommends daily serving amounts of 2 to 2.5 cups each of vegetables and fruit.
  • Avoid high-calorie/low-nutrient foods such as chips, cookies, soda, and alcohol (of course, an occasional treat is always fun).
  • Pick foods that are low in cholesterol and fat (especially saturated and trans fats).
  • Eat together. Make meals a social event you look forward to. Research suggests that people eat better when they are in the company of others. Whether at an Oneg Shabbat, dinner, or lunch with friends or family, social meals are happier meals for everyone around the table.

In cold weather, vegetable soups are a great way to fill up with good-for-you ingredients, and adding legumes, beef or chicken for protein makes for a well-rounded meal in a bowl. (At Lester Senior Living, our homemade soups are so popular, we stock them in our General Store so residents can enjoy them any time in their apartments.) Working with a nutritionist can help provide easy-to-follow guidelines to ensure you’re getting what you need to stay healthy. Some physical exercise is also important, whether it’s walking at a comfortable pace for some distance, chair yoga, or working out in the gym.

If you’re thinking of a retirement community and want to sample the dining options at Lester Senior Living, we invite you to contact David Rozen about our Friends & Neighbors weekday program or take advantage of a short-term respite stay in our assisted living residence. These both enable guests to sample delicious, glatt kosher meals with residents in our elegant dining rooms. Contact David at (973) 929-2725 or davidr@jchcorp.org.

Lester Senior Living is located at 903-905 Route 10 East on the Alex Aidekman Family Campus of the Jewish Federation in Whippany. The distinctive retirement community offers independent and assisted living as well as memory care options for seniors, ages 62+. For more information visit www.jchcorp.org.

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