Like many people who have turned to comfort food during the pandemic, my client Louise, age 79, had gained weight from “eating junk food and ice cream like crazy, pint containers at a time!” Louise had always been somewhat overweight but her doctors were concerned that her extra pounds were contributing to her high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

“They’re saying I need to eat a more balanced diet,” Louise told me when she returned from her last medical appointment. “Can you help me figure it out? I guess I have to follow that food pyramid thing?”

Louise had been taught, like many of us years ago, about the food pyramid’s basic four food groups: bread, dairy, meat, and fruits and vegetables. The food pyramid was introduced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1992 to offer guidelines for everyone about what to eat each day. However, many studies over the years have shown that the food pyramid is not ideal for everyone and is not detailed enough to be useful. For example, there is no distinction between whole grains and white bread, broccoli and grapes, or healthy fats and unhealthy fats.

In contrast to the food pyramid, the Healthy Eating Plate focuses on diet quality. The moderate use of healthy plant oils is encouraged, sugary beverages are discouraged, and the types of carbohydrates matter, not the amounts. The Healthy Eating Plate advises limiting red meats and processed meats such as bacon and sausage and eating a half-plate of vegetables and fruits, a quarter-plate of whole grains, and a quarter-plate of protein.

I helped Louise plan her menus and a grocery list. We looked through her pantry and identified the junk foods and sugary sodas that weren’t good for her. But Louise didn’t have to give up all of her favorite foods. Her doctor told her that she could have an occasional serving of ice cream or a square of dark chocolate. She just couldn’t eat these sweets to excess as she had been doing. Together we created a list of things that she would add to her grocery delivery list each week that would help her maintain her new plan.

It would be a bit of an adjustment for her to make changes in her diet, but Louise also realized that the “comfort food” she was eating was a response to the loneliness she felt due to pandemic restrictions. She decided that she would make an effort to call a friend or go for a walk when she had a food craving. Good health is not only eating a healthy diet, but it’s tending to our whole selves: body, mind, and spirit.

If you or someone in your family are facing aging challenges, please give us a call at 850-894-6720 or email us at info@gcmsolutions.net. We’ll be happy to assist!