Topics on Aging

By Juan Gallo

How Does Good Nutrition Affect Your Quality of Life As You Age?

April 11, 2024

good nutrition

As Heart2Heart ramps up Food for Hope this month, I’ve been thinking a lot about food and the importance of good nutrition — even for our seniors who are struggling financially. 

It’s no secret that housing prices and the cost of living in South Florida is going up. Unfortunately, when that happens, seniors end up suffering. They struggle to stay in their homes and struggle with food insecurity, which is a fancy way of saying they can’t afford groceries. 

More and more seniors are reaching out to us with these financial struggles. And I see the problem only getting worse.

When seniors are forced to choose between paying rent or putting healthy food on the table, their community has failed them. 

That’s why I love that ADRC Broward decided to prioritize good nutrition in its senior meal delivery program. I love that we get to be a part of offering nutritious choices to seniors who are struggling to put food on the table. 

I love that we’re delivering meals prepared by Offerdahl’s Grateful Fresh and Sushi Maki so that seniors can choose to eat healthy food that tastes great, despite any financial or health challenges. 

The Paradox of Healthy Choices 

In North America, we’re used to so many choices when it comes to cuisine. In most U.S. cities, you can take your pick of culture and find a restaurant that’s selling that type of food. 

However, if you want something that’s healthy, you can expect to pay more for that option. 

Before my parents moved our family from Colombia, they never bought us things like soda or hamburgers and french fries. That wasn’t part of the culture in South America. But that’s what I thought of when I thought about “American” food. 

My sister and I grew up with my mom making us home-cooked meals every day. There was no coercing her into giving us anything else. If we were lucky, my parents would take us to Wendy’s for a special outing. 

I was a skinny kid. As I got older and started buying my own food, I thought I could eat whatever I wanted. That just wasn’t true. 

I’m 42 now and not exactly a skinny kid. For a number of years, I’ve been doing CrossFit workouts 3 to 5 mornings a week. But it wasn’t until recently that I started counting my macros: protein, fat, carbs, fiber, and sugar. 

I rediscovered how hard it is to make nutritious choices in this country. We just sell really unhealthy food. If you want the healthier options, you have to go out and find them — and expect to pay more money. 

The Wake Up Call

For so many people, eating healthy becomes a priority when it’s too late or when you’re older and the doctors advise you to slow down your sodium intake or calorie count. By then, it’s hard to change habits. 

My dad is in his late 60s now. When he was in his 40s, he was diagnosed with diabetes. It was a wake-up call, but he made the important changes to prioritize good nutrition. 

Over the last 24 years, he’s gotten into a rhythm of exercising and eating super healthy. Now, his diagnosis is almost non-existent for him because he eats so well. 

I’ve seen how the smallest tweak in my diet makes a big impact. You feel more awake and more alert eating a good balance of the right foods… versus seating super starchy or a carb-loaded lunch and falling asleep at your desk. 

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older that I’m caring more about the food I put into my body. But you only get one body. We have to treat it well. One of the best ways to treat it well, aside from being active, is to eat right. 

Good nutrition goes a long way to creating a high quality of life.  

Helping Seniors Choose Good Nutrition 

At Heart2Heart, we support an older person’s decision to choose how they live their life. If a senior asks us for help with groceries, we don’t delete the Oreo cookies off their wish list. 

However, we want to encourage them to make decisions that promote the best quality of life. Recently, we had a student dietitian from Nova Southeastern University, Peighton Stone, intern with us. Her job was to develop educational materials for seniors about incorporating good nutrition into a healthy lifestyle. She also writes a blog on nutrition, which we’ve found very helpful. 

To directly affect the quality of life of a senior (or two) in your community, become a volunteer. Food for Hope delivery volunteers deliver those nutritious meals to seniors once a week, connecting them to better physical and social health. 

If you’re already a Heart2Heart volunteer, text “Food for Hope” to our volunteer coordinator at 954-807-2220.

Read more about:
Juan Gallo
Juan Gallo is the CEO of Heart2Heart Outreach, where he oversees the mobilization of volunteers to provide hope, share love and restore purpose to the lives of the aging population across South Florida.

He also serves as a local pastor and as an adjunct professor at Trinity International University, where he is teaching a course on diversity and aging. Juan has a master’s degree in counseling and psychology and is a licensed mental health counselor intern.

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Juan Gallo

This blog is a frank conversation about what it means to age in our society.

I want us to consider what a wider range of diverse experiences when we talk about aging. I want to reflect on how we, as a community, want our neighbors and our mothers and fathers and our grandparents to live out their latter decades of life. I want us to consider each one of their voices as we strive to meet their needs.

Join me for weekly discussions about what it means to be a senior in South Florida and how we can and should respond to the growing needs of the aging population.

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Food for Hope is BAAACK!!! And the volunteer-led meal delivery program is bigger than ever!

So we need your help!

To deliver meals to Broward County seniors, we need 118 volunteers to give 2-3 hours each week.

This month, our CEO Juan Gallo made a special appeal to Broward County churches for this community-wide effort.

If you’re reading this, we need your help, too!

Read about the (relaunched!) Food for Hope

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