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Distracted Dining: Food fun over 50

In this DD, Nancy considers the changing world of eating after 50

I’m obsessed with food! For the last few years, I’ve spend an inordinate amount of time planning my next meal. This has a direct correlation to my age. Since turning 50, I’ve had to be much more intentional with my eating habits. It’s been an educational ride that sort of plays like a bad movie – without the pop and popcorn! 

My weekly routine includes a self-inflicted weigh-in every Friday morning. There is method to my madness. Friday morning is strategically used as it leaves me my weekends to overindulge and then four week days to get back on track.

As a Certified Senior Fitness Instructor and a promoter of Canada’s Healthy Guidelines, I know what I should be eating. It’s just sometimes the rest of the choices seem so much more appealing to me. I like fruit as a snack, but I can be easily distracted by the chips. 

The chips. My favourite nemesis. Part of the aforementioned Friday routine is to nip into the grocery store that is oh so conveniently located right beside my office on Friday afternoons for what is affectionately known as my chip run. Stocking up for the weekend on a bag of chips or two – or more if they’re on sale – is one of the highlights of my week. There used to be a limited variety of flavours and brands to choose from - but these days - the plethora of choices is like winning the chip lottery. The chip run is a most enjoyable start to my weekend. 

Back to having food fun over 50. See how easily chips distract me? 

Choosing healthy foods is a smart thing to do no matter how old you are. Reality is, the way we eat changes or should change after age 50. If we don’t consciously improve our eating habits as we age, evidence-based research proves our health will diminish.

What to eat? What to eat? At one time or another in our lives, we’ve all been through the various food groups. We know that eating a variety of foods from each food group will help us get the nutrients we need. Sometimes when I’m weak, I like to think of chips as my own special food group. Sadly, they’re not. They’re really part of the SoFAS group – solid fats and added sugars and sodium. Eat too many chips and you’ll not have enough calories left for the more nutritious foods you should be eating. Do as I say, not as I do! 

The good news is – and I’m a firm believer in there always being good news – the good news is, if we’ve established fairly healthy eating habits prior to age 50, the change may only be in the portion size. Portion control is a critical element of healthy eating. 

Here’s some helpful ways to see how food on your plate should measure up. These measures are what are deemed acceptable sized servings.

  • One deck of cards = three ounces of meat
  • Half baseball = half cup of fruit, rice or pasta
  • One baseball - one cup of salad greens
  • Four dice = 1.5 ounces of cheese
  • Tip of your first finger = one teaspoon of butter or margarine
  • One ping-pong ball = two tablespoons of peanut butter
  • One fist = one cup of flaked cereal or a baked potato 

How do we know how much we should eat? This depends on how active you are. Again, after 50, activity versus calories consumed becomes much more obvious. Simple fact – if you eat more calories than your body uses, you gain weight. Yes, there is a lot of research out there supporting this – if you want to lose weight, you gotta expend more calories than you take in. It’s a simple calculation. You can actually lose weight if you consume fewer calories and remain sedentary. The healthy alternative is to eat the proper number of calories and include some healthy activity too!

According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, adults between 18-64 years of age should be active at least 2.5 hours a week, focussing on moderate to vigorous aerobic activity, broken into sessions of 10 minutes or more. 

You gotta be smart about your calorie intake. Counting calories is not enough for making smart choices. Here’s an example for you. A medium banana,1 cup of flaked cereal, 1.5 cups of cooked spinach, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter or 1 cup of 1% milk all have the same number of calories. You have to know not only the number of calories, but what foods are going to give you more of the nutrients you require. Everybody is different, but foods are the same for everyone. Milk will always give you more calcium than a banana. Peanut butter gives you more protein than cereal. And, some foods make you feel more full than others. 

Food fun over 50 isn’t easy, but it sure is interesting. A healthy lifestyle in  general is something that we need to be intentional about and spend dedicated time being engaged with as we age. 

Remember; everything in moderation, including food, fitness and fun! If we focus too much on the extreme healthy details, we may be missing the pure enjoyment of occasionally eating a bag of chips… that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! 

Nancy Revie is a Guelph author, motivational speaker, fitness instructor and entertainer. Visit Nancy at​​. Her column appears every other week.