Healthy Aging

Gerry, 75: Tips for Healthy Cooking and Eating

Welcome back to this special series featuring the stories of the Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes as they pursue their fitness and wellness goals in 2023. You can find all of our Sponsored Athletes’ stories here.

Gerry Smith, age 75, is on a mission to avoid a diabetes diagnosis. By walking, eating healthy, and practicing mindfulness she is improving her physical and mental well-being – with the support of family and community.

My previous blog post and presentation centered around movement, so today my focus is on meals and the quality of food we put in our bodies. As a lifetime WeightWatchers® member and subscriber of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutritional guidance, MyPlate, I put a lot of thought and energy into planning and preparing meals for myself and my family.

I have always been an adventurous eater, trying new foods from around the world. My focus on healthy eating has spurred a love for cooking and learning to prepare many dishes I have tried in restaurants and throughout my travels. When I travel internationally, my goal is to take a cooking class in every country I visit! I am also a big fan of cooking shows and webinars, which encourage me to try new types of food. Some of my favorite dishes to cook are from Asian, African, and Mediterranean cuisines.

A Recipe for Success

Looking for inspiration to start cooking and eating healthier? Here are some MyPlate-inspired tips for older adults:

  • Make eating a social event. Enjoy meals with friends or family members as often as possible. Take advantage of technology like Zoom to enjoy meals virtually with loved ones in different cities or states.
    • I take this to heart and often video chat with my grandchildren during mealtime.
  • Drink plenty of liquids. You may not always feel thirsty when your body needs fluids, and that’s why it’s important to drink beverages throughout the day. Enjoy water, coffee and tea, milk, or 100% juice.
    • My mother has preached the motto of “eight glasses of water daily” since the 1970s, long before bottled water was a staple in our lives. It’s a lesson that her children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren have incorporated into their daily routines.
  • Add a touch of spice! Limiting salt is important as you get older. Fresh and dried herbs and spices — such as basil, oregano, and parsley — add flavor without the salt.
    • I am a super fan of salt alternatives and use them consistently in my cooking. I also love to grow my own herbs and cook with them.

“We all enjoy a guilty pleasure now and then, but nutrient-rich food should be at the core of our diets.”

  • Make the most of your food choices. Older adults need plenty of nutrients, but generally fewer calories. It’s important to make every bite count. Foods that are full of vitamins and minerals are the best way to get what you need.
    • I like to remind my loved ones that the quality of food we put in our bodies is very important. We all enjoy a guilty pleasure now and then, but nutrient-rich food should be at the core of our diets.
  • Be mindful of your nutrient needs and speak with your healthcare provider about possible supplements. You may not be getting enough nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin B12, and protein.
    • During routine visits with my doctor, I ask about any changes I should make to ensure I am satisfying my nutritional needs as I age.
  • Read the Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods. Sugar, salt, and extra fat are often hidden in food, so it is best to check the quantity of each on the label.
    • I read every label before I put something in my shopping cart!
  • Keep food safe. Discard food if it has an “off” odor, flavor, or texture. Refer to the “use by” dates for a guide to freshness.
    • Canned or frozen foods store well if shopping trips are difficult.

Not Enough Cooks in the Kitchen?

In my previous blog post, I promised to provide some hints for those who do not like to cook, but still want to maintain a healthy diet. There are many pre-made and packaged food options; you just need to read the nutrition labels. Here are my suggestions:

  • Rotisserie chicken
  • Ready-to-eat hard-boiled eggs
  • Canned fish (tuna, salmon, sardines)
  • Canned beans
  • Frozen, pre-cooked grilled chicken strips
  • Pre-cooked whole grains, like brown rice, quinoa, or cauliflower rice
  • Pre-cut fresh vegetables and fruit
  • Frozen vegetables and fruit (no added salt, sugar, or sauce)

Foods with Friends

Join me on Wednesday, August 23 at 1:30pm EDT right here on to learn more about healthy eating and how to make a great vegetarian chili. (The recording of this event will be shared soon on the Senior Planet YouTube channel. Subscribe at!) I will be demonstrating one of my favorite recipes, and I hope to see you all there.

Let’s work together to prepare delicious meals for a long healthy life!



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6 responses to “Gerry, 75: Tips for Healthy Cooking and Eating

  1. The suggestions for us non-cooks could use some creativity. All of us know about cut up veggies, fruits, BBQ chickens, etc.
    I don’t cook and I’d love some ideas for easy recipes, I’m talking really easy but a bit more interesting than opening a can of tuna.

  2. Gerry, this recipe looks very good, with one exception. There’s an unnecessary amount of salt. Chili powder contains salt. Canned beans, tomatoes and chilis are salty. The beans should be drained and rinsed before being added to the pot. The
    Tortilla chips and cheese are also laden with salt. I look forward to preparing this recipe, with modifications. Thanks!

  3. I would like to see more about nutrition, lowering risk of disease and improvement of our health generally of going vegan and the benefits of eating a whole-plant based diet – what that means and health tips following that approach. Add in a book to study like How Not to Die by Dr. Gregor about how your diet can help you lower your risk of all the major diseases that kill Americans today and especially look at the ones you may have a genetic disposition for.

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