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It’s Time to Tickle Your Taste Buds

10/1/2018

By Greg Teator

As we humans get older, there are several aspects of our lifestyle which naturally change: sleep habits, activity level, and dependence on others, to name a few. Another change we experience is what we decide to — and even what we are able to — eat.

For most of our lives, the majority of us have enjoyed the many culinary delights of beef, pork and spicy treats. And let’s not forget our desire for sweets. Now, those of us who are 60-plus are finding that many flavors do not taste the same, we cannot eat as much, our bodies no longer tolerate the spicy foods we once enjoyed, and/or we must limit our intake of carbs, sugar, salt, and/or beef.

There are numerous scientific and medical reasons our doctors tell us what foods are good for our bodies. A quick Google search will provide a list of articles that will attempt to answer all of your questions. The main topic I want to focus on is flavor.

As we age, we tend to prefer the simpler over the exciting: sitting on a park bench rather than running through the park, entertaining our grandkids rather than playing a sport, completing a crossword puzzle rather than working in an office. The same can be said for our flavor preferences: Where we once preferred a lot of spice and excitement in our meals, we now find ourselves preferring milder, more natural meals. A simple profile of foods simply delights our taste buds. But that doesn’t mean we stop paying attention to flavor. It just means we have to adjust our thinking. After all, you’re never going to eat properly if you don’t like the flavors of the foods.

One way to keep your eating exciting is to expand your taste buds and try new flavors to enhance the experience at each meal. Pick up some asparagus or kale if you’ve never tried them. Visit a restaurant you’ve never eaten at before, and order an unfamiliar dish. Or pick up a cookbook that has recipes using ingredients new to you. I encourage more experimentation, such as trying a trendy black bean veggie burger or portabella grilled mushroom instead of a fatty meat patty.

I would suggest asking wait staff questions about food preparation and ingredients. You need to determine how user-friendly the restaurant will be with your needs. For example, let’s say you have allergy to fresh lemons and you cannot have them on your fish dish. Simply ask the server, “Can you prepare this dish without lemons?” Most establishments strive to provide not only delicious foods, but also numerous options on how the menu items can be prepared just for you. This communication helps you learn about the preparation limitations of the establishment.

Cooking for yourself at home is the easiest way to make sure your food is prepared the way you like it. Adding ingredients slowly and tasting often can help you flavor each dish to your satisfaction. Also, thinking about how you can explore the flavor of each ingredient in a recipe is key. A classic example of this is a simple stir fry. Start with fresh cabbage and onions. Toss those with herbs with a little seasoning like fresh cloves of garlic and any of a variety of flavor-infused oils or broths. Then, add your favorite protein. Each ingredient adds another level of flavor.

You may feel cooking with real ingredients is too much work. Sometimes there is the added challenge of finding all the fresh ingredients. When possible, it’s a good idea to make enough food for several meals. Also, it’s a good idea to eat lighter, smaller portions more frequently throughout the day instead of the typical American “three square meals.” In their later years, my parents and I would typically have a filling hot meal at lunchtime, and then supper would just be hot soup or a cold sandwich to hold us over until breakfast.

Doggie bags can be very helpful as well. The latest trend is to purchase a freshly prepared meal and/or soup and take it to go. Then you can heat it up as your next meal at a great value with little effort.

Adjusting eating habits and food choices should is important as we age. Select those foods that you can chew properly and handle in your digestive system. I suggest that those who have limitations fill the voids with freshly prepared foods, non-processed products, and fruits. Reduce or eliminate pre-prepared frozen entrees like TV dinners. You are what you eat, so fill your stomach with as much natural food as possible.

About the author: Greg Teator has been Director of ACV Dining Services since June 2017. Prior to coming to ACV, Greg had over 30 years of experience running commercial kitchens including college and university food service and a senior living community in New Mexico.

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