We don’t eat the same things—and the same way—we did during other previous life stages. Now that we’re at the midlife and boomer junctions of life, we want to eat smartly without making a big production. Help is here and it’s Keri Gans of Keri Gans Nutrition. I asked her to tell us how we can keep meal planning simple, and still be creative without spending too much time. She shows us it isn’t so hard to eat for your life stage.
Food isn’t just food—it’s fuel, says Gans. “We need to think about what we’re choosing to put in our body for it to run and age well. And that means not skipping meals, even if you want to lose a few pounds.”
First things first: Gans is a believer in breakfast, since most likely you haven’t eaten for eight hours upon waking. “Again, this isn’t complicated. It’s about balance now and throughout your day,” she says.
Make sure to plan your meals in advance, so you’re not frazzled at chow time. To that end, let’s run down her favorite meal suggestions, which are easy to shop for and serve.
Oatmeal with non non-fat milk, with fiber for protein: “Add a tablespoon of almond butter for added protein and healthy fat, plus you’ve got carbohydrate for energy. It’s the perfect satisfying breakfast and will keep you full.”
Low fat plain yogurt with berries: “This time of year frozen berries are available and not expensive. Microwave them and mix with the yogurt. It’s delicious topped with slivered almonds. You’re getting calcium for your bones and protein in the yogurt and nuts—protein is so important so we don’t lose muscle mass.”
“This meal can make the difference between having afternoon energy at your desk or wanting a blanket and pillow,” says Gans, who wants you to have energy. She’s a huge fan of:
The sandwich: “There’s nothing more satisfying,” she says. Try her recipe of two slices of whole grain bread, with sliced grilled chicken and avocado. Add some crispy lettuce and ripe tomato slices. Now you’ve got grain, protein, and healthy monosaturated fat with the avocado. To complete this menu, add a piece of fruit.
The salad: For diehards who fear the bread on a sandwich, make a salad, but make the right type. “Use handy mixed greens and for your protein source, add grilled shrimp, chicken, turkey or seared tuna slices,” Gans says. “You can also add beans for protein, like chick peas, and you’ll finish feeling satisfied and not deprived.”
Salad dressing: “You’re free to top with any kind you like, but only 2 tablespoons, and yes, fat in the form of olive oil is a great choice so you’re able to absorb fat-soluble vitamins in the salad. You need dietary fat to absorb nutrients from fruits and vegetables.”
You’ve had breakfast, you’ve had lunch, and odds are you’ll have a long stretch without eating between lunch at noon and dinner around 7 p.m.: Breakfast and lunch are “closer together.”
“It’s important to stay energized, and a mid-day snack also helps curb your appetite for dinner so you’re not starved,” she says. Gans wants you to snack no more than 200 calories with another piece of fruit—five fruits and veggies a day are recommended—or a handful of almonds. With nuts, watch your portion control, and if you’re challenged, pick up an easy 100-calorie snack pack at the store—great for “on the go.” Try pairing your fruit with cottage cheese for ease.
Always start with a salad for nutrition and to help you fill up so you don’t overeat, maybe going for seconds on the entrée. Add some crunchy, slivered almonds to your mixed greens—please, no croutons, which have no redeeming value.
“Dinner doesn’t have to be complicated if you have the right nutrients on hand,” says Gans, so keep it simple and healthy. “Broil up a piece of salmon and serve whole wheat couscous and a vegetable.”
You’re busy, so buy a bag of frozen vegetables if you can’t get to the store weekly for fresh produce—frozen produce has nutrients, too, and the chunks are already cut up. Voila!
Pick up a roasted chicken—low sodium or low salt if available—then microwave a sweet potato for fiber and top with hummus and low-fat sour cream.
Life isn’t all about food, but food plays a major role in our lives. “Make sure and leave room for fitness, sleep, and sharing some happy times with other people,” says Gans.
About Keri Gans: She’s a registered dietitian/nutritionist, spokesperson and media personality with a private practice in New York City. She is the author of The Small Change Diet, a past spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a past president of The New York State Dietetic Association. Keri was voted as one of the top nutritionists by Huffington Post two years in a row.