Healthy Living Tips From Our Nutritionist

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Merrill Gardens is committed to providing a dining program that exceeds our resident’s expectations. Our restaurant style dining rooms are the heart of our Anytime Dining program and we serve fresh, cooked to order meals all day long from 7a.m. to 7p.m. Our Dining Services team works with a variety of resources to ensure that the meals we serve at each of our communities meet our high standards.

Today our dietician partner, Jon Williams from Crandall Corporate Dietitians, is providing an inside look at our nutrition program with tips to stay healthy and active!

Jon partners with Merrill Gardens to provide the very best dining experience for residents. A member of his team visits each community multiple times throughout the year and conducts a Quality Assurance Audit. During these audits, the dietitian and the community dining team work together to ensure that we are achieving our meal service standards. In-service training is also provided for team members on food safety and menu planning. In addition to auditing each community, the dietitian will also meet with residents who have nutritional concerns, or need help navigating our menu.

What goes into planning a menu at Merrill Gardens?

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All our menus are planned, tested, & prepared by Merrill Gardens chefs. Because there are communities in various parts of the country, Merrill Gardens has created menus to reflect the tastes of the residents in those regions. People who live in the south will have certain favorites while people who live in the Pacific Northwest will expect a slightly different menu. When developing menus, the chefs consider seasonal foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, along with resident preferences and current culinary trends. After the menus are developed, they are sent to Crandall for a complete nutritional analysis.

What tips do you recommend for staying active and healthy?

Dancing At Merrill

Our biggest tip is to avoid fad diets. We recommend eating foods that are low in saturated fat, higher in unsaturated fats (such as olive oil) and avoid preservatives. Stay away from high sugar drinks, such as sodas because sugar can lead to weight gain and diabetes. Be active by exercising in a way that you can enjoy it. Walking is a great option for seniors and provides numerous health benefits. The key is to be consistent and try to exercise at least three to four times per week. Consult a doctor if you have medical condition that may prevent you from exercising.

What constitutes a balanced meal?

Eating a balanced diet starts with knowing how many servings of each food group you should consume. Below is a meal pattern for individuals 51 years or older. When considering the food groups, also consider variety within each group. For instance, it is best to consume a variety of fruits & vegetables as each color or pigment provides specific health benefits.
Each day seniors should consume the following:
Milk: Two or more cups per day.
Meat Group: Two to three servings per day.
Vegetable Group: Three to five servings per day.
Fruit Group: Two to four servings per day. Include a source of vitamin C daily.
Bread and Cereal Group: Five to six servings of whole grain enriched or restored per day.
A bedtime snack should be considered, which consists of two of the following four food components:
1) Fruit or fruit juice
2) Whole grain or enriched variety crackers
3) Variety of cookies
4) Meat, fish, poultry, egg, peanut butter
More information on serving sizes can be found on USDA’s ChooseMyPlate.com.

Can you tell us your favorite nutrition fun facts?

One gram of sugar equals one sugar packet. If you see 60 grams of sugar on a nutrition label, you now know that is equal to 60 packets of sugar. That is a lot of sugar!

Eating rice & beans provides us with a complete protein that contains all nine essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and aid in muscle development within our body.

What is your favorite healthy meal?

One of my favorite menu items is an Italian Taco made with sautéed lean fresh ground turkey. The tacos are topped with a diced tomato and garlic mixture (including olive oil), low-fat mozzarella cheese and fresh basil. Add a side of vegetables and you have a meal. The garlic and olive oil are important for your heart and taste great!

Looking for more great information from our partners? Stay tuned on our blog next month!

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