There's a world of nutrition information on the Web. So setting sail among the thousands of healthy-eating resources online requires a map for guidance.
Some local dieticians and nutrition experts have suggestions for older adults to help find the best nutrition information online.
Barb Doubet, coordinator of the Food Sense Program through Whatcom County Cooperative Extension, says all adults should find the basics of good nutrition with websites created by well-known health organizations and state and federal programs.
"When I'm looking for solid, scientific information, I stick to the '.org' and '.edu,'" she says.
Doubet, who visits schools and senior citizen groups to discuss healthy eating, says the simplest message should trump diet trends and fads. From there, Web users can find numerous other websites with health information and blogs.
To make sure the websites' advice lines up with the sound information, check if they recommend whole grains, healthy fats and low-fat sources of calcium and protein.
"Keep in mind the nutrition basics when you're looking at any website," she says.
WHERE TO START
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's "Choose My Plate" program - viewable at choosemyplate.com - replaced the long-standing "food pyramid." The website, created two years ago, includes the ratios of various lean proteins, grains, fruits, vegetables and dairy products that should be a part of every adult's meals throughout the day.
The website also has recommendations for whole grains and low-fat foods, as well as meal plan suggestions and recommendations on eating out.
While choosemyplate.com doesn't make specific recommendations for senior citizens, Tufts University's School of Nutrition Science and Policy has made a few tweaks to choosemyplate.com for older adults, Doubet says.
Tufts' website - nutrition.tufts.edu/research/myplate-older-adults - suggests alternatives for salt, emphasizes deeply colored fruits and vegetables for more nutrition, and offers exercise recommendations, too.
Another website - www.nutrition.gov/life-stages/seniors - compiles links from federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about senior health.
After choosemyplate.com, Doubet recommends that people start with science and medical organizations, such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and its website - eatright.org. The website has nutrition tips and explains when and how to find a dietician if you need personalized help with healthy eating and weight loss.
The American Heart Association website - heart.org -is a top site, Doubet says, and its "Getting Healthy" link offers meal plans, a recipe search feature, and cooking techniques to lower cholesterol.
The American Diabetes Association - at diabetes.org - has hundreds of recipes and is a good first stop for newly diagnosed diabetics. The eating plans and recommendations the site are sound, even for people who aren't diabetic but simply want to eat more healthfully.
Nancy Ging, who writes a weekly food column for The Bellingham Herald, has her own website - whatcomlocavore.com - where she shares recipes created with what's in season, as well as information about new growers and purveyors of local foods. If you feel overwhelmed at the farmers market, it offers a helpful hand to guide you through the baskets and bins at the market or your local grocery store.
Targeted directly at seniors, 3 Square Meals calls itself a "nutrition blog for successful aging." Created by a registered dietician in North Carolina, the blog - 3squaremealsblog.wordpress.com - discusses nutrition both for aging adults and advice and for their caregivers. Entries include how dementia can affect eating, and what kinds of medications can be crushed into food. There's also healthy recipes.
For a first step for healthy recipes, there's no need to look further than Whatcom County online. Bellingham nutritionists Ali Segersten and Tom Malterre - at www.nourishingmeals.com - share healthy recipes and their philosophy that food can change your health.
Other online sites include the website for the magazine Eating Well - eatingwell.com - which not only provides recipes but also has weight loss meal plans with accompanying recipes.
Clean Eating magazine's website - cleaneatingmag.com - has an online search for recipes with minimally processed foods as ingredients. Clean Eating also has 14-day menu plans with easy-to-use shopping lists.
Cindy Brinn, a registered dietician at St. Joseph hospital, recommends sparkpeople.com, a free online weight loss website. The site includes personalized meal plans and fitness recommendations based on the health information users fill into their sign-up information.
Forget the paper logs of your daily diet while trying to lose weight. Other websites and their companion smartphone apps make calorie counting easy. New websites and smartphone apps simply require you to add the type and amount of food you've eaten, and the online log keeps track of not just calories but also fiber, fat, carbohydrates and some nutrients you've ingested for the day.
At livestrong.com, the organization's My Plate calorie tracker will even track some packaged and fast foods. Its companion, the Calorie Tracker app for smartphones, keeps your log up-to-date simultaneously on both the website and smartphone.
Another calorie tracker is myfitnesspal.com, a free food journal and calorie counter that also has a companion app for smartphones.
Bellingham registered dietician Sonja Max says seniors who want to delve deeper into the science of nutrition should look at these sites:
- nutritionfacts.org: This nonprofit website created by a physician looks at the science of the latest nutrition information available, and has easy-to-view videos about supplements, nutrition and food safety.
- http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/lifestages/olderadults/: This site from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University includes recommendations for supplements for older adults.
Brinn also recommends consumerlab.com, which requires a paid subscription. ConsumerLab.com conducts private scientific testing to find the best supplements, and reports on studies about the effectiveness of nutrient and herb supplements.
Ericka Pizzillo Cohen is an Ohio-based freelance writer and former reporter for The Bellingham Herald.
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