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Healthy eating made easy

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June 25th, 2013
Healthy fruits and vegetables
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Everyone knows that eating well is good for you, but not everyone knows about the specific benefits that go along with it. Numerous studies have shown that a well-rounded, low-fat diet with plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, strokes, diabetes, dementia-related illnesses, and more. A healthful diet also gives you energy to stay active.

But adhering to the principles of healthy eating can be difficult for some people as they get older. It can be easier if someone does the planning and preparation for you. All dining programs at Erickson Living communities do just that.

A wellness approach in the kitchen

Wayne Knowles, corporate executive chef at Erickson Living, describes what goes on behind the scenes at Erickson Living restaurants. “Our chefs do several things to keep the food we serve healthy for residents. For instance, we do not add sodium as a cooking ingredient to any of our food items. People on low-salt diets don’t have to worry about over-salted menu items when they dine with us,” he says.

Trans fats are another concern for many people because research shows that these types of fats can be particularly harmful to your health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eating trans fat increases the amount of LDL (so-called “bad” cholesterol) in your blood. A high LDL is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, the number one cause of death in the U.S. “We work with our suppliers so we can eliminate trans fats from our foods and food ingredients,” Knowles says.

When preparing meals, Erickson Living chefs use whole foods rather than processed products as much as possible. “Processed foods can contain hidden sodium and extra sugar, so we prepare most of our food items from fresh ingredients right in our kitchens,” Knowles explains.

As many people know, restaurant portion sizes have steadily grown in the U.S. “Many restaurants dictate how much or how little food you’re going to get on your plate,” Knowles says. “At our restaurants, portion size is flexible. With many items, you choose how much or how little you want.”

Nutrition for everyone’s health needs

Erickson Living restaurants offer residents easy ways to choose healthful foods. “Our program called Healthier Choice follows the USDA dietary guidelines for Americans and the American Heart Association’s recommendations with regard to the amount of fat, sodium, and sugar that people should have in their diets,” Knowles explains.

“We also offer Smart Sweet, which is an alternative dessert program for people who want to avoid fat and sugar but still enjoy dessert after a meal,” he adds. “We remove or replace the fat and substitute artificial sweeteners.”

Meals tailored to your preferences

“We give you the information to make an educated decision about your food choices at our restaurants,” Knowles says. “Our menus are available in a free online database called My Nutrition (mynutrition.erickson.com). Residents can view the ingredients and nutrition information for the foods we serve.”

Using My Nutrition, residents can also see which items meet their criteria for certain preferences or food allergies.

To truly enjoy dining, you should be able to modify dishes based on what you like. “Our chefs and servers are flexible and strive to satisfy all requests whenever possible,” Knowles says. “Some people may prefer sauces served on the side, half portions, or having their food prepared without a certain ingredient. If it’s possible, we’ll do it.”

Variety and taste

Variety is, of course, the spice of life and for the best health, you should eat many types of foods from all the major food groups. “At Erickson Living, we design our menus based on residents’ preferences and rotate menus on a regular basis to give everyone plenty of options,” Knowles says. “On the other hand, if residents love a particular item, we’ll serve it more often. Many residents have told me they love having salmon on a regular basis, so we offer it frequently.

“At Erickson Living, we celebrate life, which includes enjoying special occasions, holidays, and festive events,” Knowles continues. “Theme-based menus are created frequently throughout the year, from taco bars to elegant dishes for New Year’s celebrations.”

In order to ensure that menu items are based on good nutritional principles, dietitians get involved. “Our staff dietitians review the menus regularly,” Knowles says. “They are not just clinical experts; they’re also foodies, so they know for sure what’s healthful and delicious.”

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