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Tips for Healthier Eating Out

March 13, 2017

Eating out is a treat that many of us enjoy - one that can be more or less healthy depending on the choices we make while doing so.

“There are so many benefits to eating out healthy,” said Lauren Beach, Registered Dietician at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community. “When you eat better, you feel better, prevent unwanted weight gain, have a healthier heart and live longer.”

Before your next meal out, check out our tips below:

Drink water with your meal. Skip sodas and sweetened teas to forego hidden calories. A 32-ounce cola, for example, has 425 calories. And no, water doesn’t have to be boring - simply add a some lemon for flavor.

Read menu descriptions carefully. Watch out for words like pan-fried, deep-fried, batter-dipped, breaded, basted, creamy, crispy, scalloped, alfredo and au gratin. These usually indicate that a menu item will be relatively higher in calories. Instead look for words like roasted, baked or grilled.

Choose leaner meats. Avoid fattier meats like steak, ham, tuna salad, meatballs and bacon; choose chicken, turkey or fish instead. Consider also sometimes substituting healthier, non-meat sources of protein like beans, soy-based products and nuts.

Undress your food. Salad dressings, spreads and cheeses are packed with calories and fat. Restaurant staff often apply them generously to foods, so simply ask for condiments on the side. Then you get to control how much of each to add.

Skip supersized portions. Many restaurants serve generous portions, and most of us don’t need to consume that much food. Consider ordering a half portion or putting together a few sides for a more reasonably sized overall meal. Or only eat half your meal and take the rest home for leftovers the next day.

Special order.  Don’t be afraid to make healthier special requests when you order. For example, you could ask for wheat bread instead of white bread, or you could ask for an item to be broiled or steamed instead of fried.

Eat your vegetables. Mom was right - vegetables are good for you! Swap out processed foods for raw or cooked vegetables, and you’ll end up consuming a lower calorie, more nutritious meal overall.

Eat mindfully. Take your time eating, chew slowly and savor every bite. Don’t eat on the run. If you relax while you eat, you’ll be more likely to notice when you’re full. You don’t have to eat all of what is served to you.

Avoid buffets. It’s hard to avoid the mindset that you have to eat large quantities of food to get your money’s worth. If you do eat at a buffet, select small quantities of healthier foods like salads, and avoid fried foods. Then wait 20 minutes after enjoying your first plate before going back for seconds - give your body time to tell you when it’s full.

Beware of salt. It’s no secret that salting foods makes them taste better so many restaurants serve dishes with plenty of salt already on them. You don’t need to add more. Salt also makes you thirstier so you’re more likely to order extra drinks, which will only pile on the calories.

Protect Yourself Against Scams

February 22, 2017

Scammers use a combination of psychological tricks and technology to defraud people of all ages into sending money or revealing compromising personal information; however, older adults can be especially vulnerable to crooks who play upon the good will, naivety or trusting nature of their victims. Follow these tips to protect you and your loved ones against scams.

Never give account or credit card information to anyone who initiates contact with you by phone or email. Scammers will always have a “good” reason as to why you should give them what they ask. Stay safe by only providing such information or payments to trusted businesses or individuals when you are the one who has reached out to them.

Don’t wire money or send cash via mail, FedEx or UPS. Reputable businesses and individuals always accept other, trackable methods of remote payment such as credit cards, checks or online payments.

Don’t send money to unfamiliar charities. Crooks take advantage of people’s willingness to help others by pretending to be raising money for a good cause when they are really soliciting money for their own nefarious purposes. Only give money directly to trusted charities with whom you have initiated contact. Don’t respond to requests from unknown individuals who may be pretending to represent a charity.

Delete unsolicited emails from unfamiliar senders whom you do not know before you open them. If you do accidently open questionable emails, never click on attachments or links in them. Likewise, don’t click on links or offers in pop-up ads while browsing the web. The goal is to keep you from inadvertently downloading viruses or other malware designed to steal your personal information.

Be skeptical about offers for money or free products and services. Scammers may bait you with promises of free products and services or easy ways to make money. Stay away from “deals” that require you to sign up and spend money so that you can get something “free,” make more money or be eligible for “refunds.”

When in doubt, talk to a trusted friend or family member. Don’t send money or provide personal details until you have ascertained the validity of requests for them. VMRC staff are available to help residents verify the legitimacy of any such requests.

If you discover that you have fallen victim to a scam, ask for help. Don’t be ashamed. Scams happen, and people make mistakes and fall for them. Some scammers will try to scare you into continuing your relationship with them by threatening you or your family, but scammers have less power than you might think. Contact trusted friends, family members or law enforcement officials as soon as you believe that you are the victim of a scam. They may not be able to get lost money back, but they can keep you from losing more money.

Think you might be onto a scam? Check out the Federal Trade Commission for an easy-to-reference list of currently popular scams: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts.

Keep Your Brain Healthy

February 5, 2017

Half of Americans are affected by cognitive impairment by the time they reach their mid-80s according to Dr. Neal Barnard in his Technology Entertainment and Design (TED) talk last fall. And while genetics do play a significant role, you can make better choices to positively influence your chances of aging well. Read on for our tips about how to keep your brain healthy from a recent VMRC Wellness Center educational program.

Eat healthy

Chose a diet emphasizing fruits, grains, vegetables, legumes and proteins. Eating foods high in vitamin E, such as spinach, mango and nuts, has been shown to cut the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in half. Seek out foods rich in different colors: blueberries, grapes and other purple-colored foods, for example, are famously high in healthy antioxidants.

Avoid unhealthy, saturated fats such as bacon and dairy products as well as trans fats found in donuts, pastries and processed snack foods; this will cut your risk of memory problems by 80%.


Regular exercise helps stop and even reduce brain shrinkage that inevitably comes with age. Target walking 40 minutes three times per week. It’s ok if you’re not up for that much yet; start with increments of 10 minutes and add another five minutes at a time each week or every few weeks. You’ll build stamina faster than you think with consistent, intentional movement.

Be grateful

Appreciate each day and what it has to offer as it happens. Many cultures famous for human longevity incorporate a conscious practice of mindfulness. It can be as simple as taking time to slow down and observe what is around you. For instance, watch the clouds, enjoy the colors of your surroundings, savor your food or learn the stories of the people around you.

Help your brain regenerate

Neurogenesis is the process of producing neurons in the region of the brain known as the hippocampus. It happens throughout our life and is an important part of a well functioning, healthy brain. As we age, neurogenesis naturally declines, but you can influence it. Learning, getting plenty of sleep and having sex are all factors that increase neurogenesis, but you should reduce stress and alcohol as both negatively impact neurogenesis.

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