There is a pile of notes here on my desk for a blog post about ageism and retirement. You'll see it here eventually, but the effects on the lives of elders haven't improved in the years I've been covering it and I'm not in the mood for a bummer today.
The news - online, on TV, the radio and newspapers - is even more terrible: climate change, millions of refugees without a place to be, a mass shooting in the U.S. just about every week, growing water shortages, the zika virus, toxic politics.
There's not much good news and I want a break. So today, let's have some fun with food and share our ideas about good, glorious food - about eating well, about being healthy and easy ways to do that.
I have always eaten fairly well. What has changed through the years, particularly in recent ones, is that I have ditched almost all animal protein except fish and live primarily on fruit, vegetables, whole grains and some dairy.
In general, I follow the commonly recommended guidelines from physicians, researchers, nutritionists, dietitians and other experts about eating well with special attention to the needs of elder bodies. My eating habits closely resemble what is called the Mediterranean diet.
It should be noted for this post, that I love good food, I look forward to every meal in my life and keeping it (mostly) healthy hasn't diminished the enjoyment of single bite.
Each of us, depending on the status of our health, physical limitations, likes and dislikes, will choose our own way of eating. As always, nothing I write here today (nor anything in the comments below) should be taken as recommendations – these are just some ideas that you might want to consider for your own enjoyment.
Personally, I believe it is better to get the nutrients I need from food and not from pills and anyway, the billion-dollar supplement industry is unregulated so there is no way to know if what is claimed on a vitamin bottle is what is inside. So I'm careful to eat a wide variety of foods.
Especially in winter, I like a meal of soup with or without croutons and I make all of my soups from scratch because there are no commercial soups that are not overloaded with sodium – usually a full day's sodium recommendation in what the label calls two “servings” but is really one serving for a normal adult.
I keep the freezer full of pint containers of home-made pea soup, tomato soup and occasional forays into other flavors. A couple of hours' work every few weeks means that when I feel lazy about cooking, I have meals at the ready that need no more preparation than the time they take to heat in the microwave.
That's a good lunch or dinner and if I'm still hungry, a piece of seasonal fresh fruit for dessert is a good finisher (especially now that I can bite into an apple again).
Fruit is a big part of my daily meals. My usual breakfast is half a banana, half a cup or more each of two kinds of berries, four or five tablespoons of non-fat, plain yogurt, an equal amount of apple sauce all mushed up together with steel-cut oats.
That's a huge breakfast that amounts to only about 300 calories at most and is packed with nutrition – not to mention that it tastes great.
You probably know this but just in case, frozen berries are as nutritious as fresh, often less expensive and they keep much longer. Just check the packaging to be sure there is no added sugar. This applies to frozen vegetables too as long as there is no added sugar, sodium, butter or other sauces.
In addition to soups, I cook up a batch of apple sauce every few weeks and freeze it in those same pint containers. That way there are zero additives - just apples, water, spices and for a bit more of a kick, I like to add a few pieces of lemon peel and the juice of one lemon.
Sometimes I warm up a small bowl of the apple sauce in the microwave as an evening snack. It keeps me away from chocolate and cookies.
Let me point out that I do not keep candy, cookies, pastries or any other kind of sweets in the house because I am a weakling. I am not capable of eating, for example, one or even two cookies. The entire package is a serving to me and it will be gone before the evening of the day I bring it home.
Here is another way I account for my food weaknesses. As I have mentioned here in the past, to forestall bingeing, I allow a meal of one of my “forbidden” foods on a regular schedule.
Most often these are one of my favorites - good cheese or ice cream – although I've been known to eat a giant chocolate bar or large chunk of carrot cake instead.
There are 21 meals in a week. I allow myself to replace one meal per week with one of those kinds of cravings. Maybe you can imagine how much I look forward to that.
Standard American, salty snacks are not on my list of foods. Ever. I'm lucky that potato chips, Cheetos and all the rest of what I think of as sports-watching foods don't interest me in the slightest (nor the soft drinks or beer that go with them). Maybe it's because sports don't interest me in the slightest either that these are not temptations. It would make my life easier if I felt that way about sugary snacks too but there you go - life isn't fair.
Which brings us to vegetables – the mainstay of my diet. I eat piles and piles of vegetables – raw, steamed, roasted and mixtures of those preparations in warm and cold salads that also include beans, rice and occasionally, pasta. All of it is healthy, none of it can hurt and the only caveat is to watch the amount of dressing.
A trick I learned decades ago to keep the fat calories in salads to a minimum is to use one tablespoon at a time of oil and vinegar (or whatever dressing you like) and toss for a long time. That works with oil for roasting vegetables too.
When I roast veggies, I do it in big batches so that I have leftovers for the next day but I rarely need more than a tablespoon of olive oil. Just toss until your arms hurt, then stop and it will be about right.
In three or four meals a week, I include a piece of fish – sometimes broiled, other times poached or baked. I live in a place with a wide variety of fresh, wild fish at sort-of-but-not-always reasonable prices but if you're eating only a quarter pound at a time, almost anything is affordable.
I don't eat out often but when I do, it is most frequently Japanese and not too long ago I found a place nearby that serves excellent mussels I like with the treat of a Caesar salad to start.
One other thing – I cheat sometimes but I'm careful to keep it sane. I haven't eaten beef or pork in years and chicken only occasionally. I'd always rather have fish or seafood.
But I do like lamb. A lot. So on rare occasions, every couple of months or so, I cook up a fabulous meal of loin lamb chops accompanied by a really good vegetable dish, some sauteed potatoes and a nice glass of local pinot noir. God do I love that meal.
Now it's your turn. What are your tricks to eating healthily without spending all your time in the kitchen and also, how do you cheat, when do you do it and how do you keep it under control? Let us know below.