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Older people’s nutrition at risk


Friday September 30, 2011

Older people’s nutrition at risk

Rising food costs could increase the risk of malnutrition in vulnerable older New Zealanders according to a New Zealand Nutrition Foundation Working Group. Julian Jensen, Chair of New Zealand Nutrition Foundation’s Committee for Healthy Ageing, believes the rising costs of food could have a significant impact on this sector of society whose members are generally on fixed, tightly budgeted incomes.

“It can be tempting to skimp on food when the budget is tight, but it is so important to eat a healthy and balanced diet as we grow older. Tomorrow (October 1) is the WHO International Day of Older People and the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation is using this opportunity to draw attention to how important it is for older people to eat well. It is at this time of life that attention to the risk of malnutrition should take precedence over obesity concerns,” says Mrs Jensen.”

Jensen advocates careful shopping and common sense to control those costs; her ten top tips for older people to stay healthy are:

1. Eat in season or try canned and frozen.
Enjoy a variety of fresh, canned, frozen and dried fruit and vegetables. Canned tomatoes, packed with natural lycopene, are just as good for you as fresh tomatoes. The technology used to freeze vegetables ensures a very high quality product at an affordable price.

2. Have good quality protein.
Older people need a good intake of protein foods to preserve the muscle mass and strength needed to maintain independence in later life. Cheaper fish such as canned tuna, smoked fish and sardines can be made into pies, kedgeree, curried fish or fish cakes. Have red meat a couple of times per week to boost your intake of iron and zinc. Slow cookers are a great way to make cheaper cuts of meat, such as shin or gravy beef, tender and tasty. Frozen chicken is often cheaper than fresh. Baked beans, chickpeas, dried beans and lentils are also good sources of cheap protein. And don’t forget eggs; the cheaper ones are just as good nutritionally as the more expensive varieties.

3. Make cereals shopping simple.
A plain, filling option such as Weetbix which is low in sugar and high in fibre is a cheaper choice. Don’t forget the humble oatmeal - you can make your own muesli, or have it as a warming and nourishing breakfast. Rice and pasta are cheap cereals too, as are the store brands of wholemeal bread.

4. Dairy foods.
Usually fresh milk is cheaper than UHT (long life) varieties – although UHT calcium-enriched milk is currently cheaper. As cheese is quite expensive now, use less by enhancing its flavour with a little curry powder or mustard.

5. Buy just what you need.
Where things are pre-packaged, such as meat, ask for a smaller pack if what is on display is too much. If you have a range of stores available, shopping at bigger stores may provide better variety and lower costs.

6. ‘Ready to heat and eat’ meals are good for emergencies.
Ready-made meals can seem expensive, but are handy for emergencies or when you are unable to cook for yourself. Canned or packet soup is another convenient meal – eat them with a toasted sandwich or grainy bread. Pre-prepared items like fresh vegetables, salads, soups and sauce or gravy mixes can make life easier if you find it difficult to do everything from scratch.

7. Get out the old recipe books.
Enjoy the pleasure of creating meals for you and your family or friends. In the cold weather, a hot pudding can be nutritious and comforting – apple crumble, creamy rice, bread and butter pudding are all low cost favourites.

8. Resist temptation.
Supermarkets are full of tempting, high priced offerings. Shop with a list, don’t go to the supermarket when you are hungry, and try not to go too often. The New Zealand Nutrition Foundation has recently produced a couple of weekly shopping lists* to help you choose items that contribute to a healthy diet.

9. Eat with other people.
If you are on your own, make a point of sharing meals with friends and family – take it in turns to cook or each bring a dish. Eating is an important social activity and we tend to eat better when we share meal with others.

10. Keep active, and maintain a good weight.
Losing weight can increase your risk of health problems, and research tells us being a little overweight makes you less susceptible to ill health.


Editor’s notes:

Food Cheaper More expensive
Tomatoes $1.39 per 400g can $6.98 per kg fresh
Chicken $7.99 for size 14 frozen $9.95 size 14 fresh
Mince and baked beans $5 for 500g mince plus
74c for 420g store brand baked beans $9.99 for 1kg mince
Eggs $3.67 per dozen size 7
$3.00 per dozen size 6 $7.14 per dozen size 7 Free range
Cereals $5.79 per 1kg pkt weetbix ~$6.50 per 450g pkt other types
Bread $1.79 per loaf for home brand $4.99 per loaf for specialty brand
Milk $1.89 per litre for UHT calcium enriched $2.70 per litre for fresh calcium enriched

Prices were correct as at September 24, 2011, Countdown Supermarket in Christchurch

*Shopping for One – a handy guide to eat well for one week (produced in partnership with Heinz-Watties).
Released by the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation
The New Zealand Nutrition Foundation is a non-profit organisation which works pro-actively in the nutrition and food sectors with the food industry, Government bodies, other health promotion agencies, health and education professionals and the media. Its mission is “to enhance the quality of life of New Zealanders by encouraging informed, healthy and enjoyable food choices.”

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