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This is the 8th in a weekly series of diaries that deal with healthy positive approaches to the process of ageing. They all carry a tag of [ageing gracefully] and can be found by searching on that tag. They are usually published at 3:00PM PDT on Tuesdays.

Archive to All Aging Gracefully Diaries

I have now done 3 diaries that dealt with nutritional issues in managing chronic health problems. I have mentioned in passing that I have found ways to meet those requirements with food that is interesting and pleasant. I am not going to turn to some discussions about how to do that.

Some cuisines seem to lend themselves more readily to healthy eating than others. The sort of basic food that have been developed by people who had to think about where the next meal might be coming from also tends to be a good starting place. The more one moves in the direction designed to appeal to people literally looking for conspicuous consumption, the less healthy it is likely to be.

I avoid packaged ready to eat foods. Even if you take the trouble to look at the required nutritional disclosure, it is difficult to find products that don't have things that you want to avoid. They may fill you up with a minimum of effort, but the reality is that they seldom taste very good. My approach is to do everything from scratch using fresh ingredients where applicable. Now I am retired and I live alone. That gives me time and leeway that other people may not have. However, I think it is possible to move in the direction of this approach and to get some of the benefits. It doesn't have to be all or nothing.

The biggest things that need to be controlled in a healthy diet are refined sugars, saturated and trans fats and cholesterol. At least those are the main things that I am trying to avoid. All of these things play a prominent role in the traditional American diet that most of us were raised on. How do you get rid of them and still get pleasure from eating?

Non-nutritive sweeteners like Splendra and Equal are a pretty effective way to replace things like refined sugar and corn syrup. The taste is somewhat lighter and more focused, but I am thoroughly accustomed to it in my coffee and on fresh fruit. I don't find it necessarily to totally avoid all sugar. I use some brown sugar in baking my whole wheat bread and that doesn't cause me any problems. Sweet foods really can become addictive for a lot of people. For the most part I have learned to do without them.

I found adapting to a low fat diet more difficult. I once tired eating a vegetarian diet for about three months and didn't find it to difficult since it could include things like eggs and cheese. However, those represent more problems for me than chicken and fish. However, I picked up a lot of very useful information about the value of natural food and non-meat meals. At this point I only eat one meal a day with meat which is always either chicken or fish.

The point is to find ways of feeling that you have had enough to eat without having seriously stuffed your gut. I find that spicy food is one way to accomplish this. There is something about your taste buds getting a lot of stimulation that sends a message to your brain that says that's enough. It takes a lot more food to get that sort of message through when it is a matter of being too full. It doesn't have to be all about hot peppers, though I'm quite fond of them. The combination of herbs and fresh vegetables can accomplish something similar.

Those are some general thoughts about how to approach the task of healthy eating. Next week I am going to begin looking at cuisines and specific cooking techniques and recipes.  


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