All Things O’Neill – Smart Eating

“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread and pumpkin pie.”

Jim Davis, humorist and cartoonist.

Take a gander at any of the local farmers’ markets and roadside stands and it is obvious: summer is a time of bountiful fruits and vegetables. We here in the Mid-Ohio Valley are fortunate that we have so many farm families and so many talented gardeners who are willing to share the wealth with the community.

Food insecurity for seniors is still an issue, however, just as much during the warmer months as in the cooler months. And we all have bad eating habits now and then. So consider this a refresher course from the O’Neill Center on how to make smart eating decisions to stay H.I.P.: Healthy, Independent & Productive.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, senior citizens have unique needs when it comes to following a healthy diet. Try these tips to stay in tip-top shape:

  • Enjoy a variety of foods from each food group to help reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Be sure to choose foods with little to no added sugar, saturated fats, and sodium.
  • Get enough protein throughout your day to maintain muscle mass.
  • Focus on the nutrients you need, including potassiumcalciumvitamin Ddietary fiber, and vitamin B12.
  • With age, you may lose some of your sense of thirst. Drink water often. Low- or fat-free milk, including lactose-free options or fortified soy beverage and 100% juice can also help you stay hydrated. Limit beverages that have lots of added sugars or salt. Learn which beverages are healthier choices.
  • Maintain a healthy weight or prevent additional weight gain by following a healthy dietary pattern and adopting an active lifestyle.
  • Avoid unnecessary illness by keeping food safe. 
  • Try adding seafood, dairy or fortified soy alternatives, along with beans, peas and lentils to your meals to help maintain muscle mass.
  • Add fruits and vegetables to meals and snacks. Look for frozen, canned, or ready-to-eat varieties if slicing and chopping is a challenge.
  • Make eating a social event. Meals are more enjoyable when you eat with others. Invite a friend to join you or take part in a potluck at least twice a week. A community center or place of worship may offer meals that are shared with others. There are many ways to make mealtimes pleasing.
  • The ability to absorb vitamin B12 can decrease with age and the use of certain medications can decrease absorption. Eating enough protein and fortified foods, such as fortified cereals, can help you meet your vitamin B12 needs. Speak with your healthcare provider to determine what, if any, supplementation is right for you.
  • Aim for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and at least 2 days of muscle-strengthening activity per week.

Community Action offers daily lunch in the O’Neill Center parking lot through the Senior Nutrition program. Call 373-3455 to make a reservation. Lunch is also served at the Belpre Senior Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Contact us for more information. For locations of area farms and farmers’ markets, visit

Erin O’Neill is Development Coordinator for The O’Neill Center, located at 333 Fourth St. in Marietta. She can be reached at or 740-373-3914.