To celebrate National Nutrition Month this March, PPH’s Director of Nutrition Cathy Boland shares her personalized approach to eating healthier and some small changes that can make a big difference.

This year’s event theme, “Personalize Your Plate,” stresses that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition. That attitude dovetails perfectly with Cathy’s philosophy on eating healthy. She believes in “making a plan that’s going to work for you. You have to like what you’re eating.”

How PPH Helps You Eat Right

The four dining venues at PPH give residents deliciously fresh options while helping them eat healthy, and getting in those all-important 4–5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. To that end, “we offer two vegetables, two kinds of low-sodium soup and salad options at both lunch and dinner,” says Cathy.

Diners also have the option of creating menu items that suit their unique tastes. For instance, upon request, chefs can prepare salmon with a salad instead of a side of vegetables. Or guests can ask for plain baked fish or chicken instead of breaded or sauced entrees. “There is also a vegetarian or vegan option at every meal, as well as heart-healthy and gluten-free options,” explains Cathy. “Every item is labeled, as well, to make it easy to find on the menu.”

Superfood of the Month

In addition to the regular menu, the talented chefs at PPH enhance nutrition through special dishes incorporating the community’s superfood of the month, featuring everything from beets to blueberries, salmon to kale. Information about each superfood’s special health properties is posted on bulletin boards and other spots on campus.

Putting Knowledge Into Practice

“A lot of people already know the information — doing it is the hard part,” Cathy explains. That’s where she comes in. “I offer dietary education throughout PPH,” she says. “If someone’s diabetic, if they have low potassium, if they need to lose or gain weight, we can personalize a plan around their individual needs.”

“Follow-up,” she goes on, “is very important. I follow up with residents to find out how things are going, and help them move forward — whether that’s working with them to tweak their dietary choices, or setting them up with an exercise program through our wellness department.” Of course, programs have been adapted to COVID-19 requirements, but PPH is looking forward to getting back to in-person programming soon.

Cathy has been with PPH for 18 years. During college, she took a nutrition class and realized that field was her calling. After getting her degree at West Chester University, Cathy had an opportunity in long-term care, and has been working in senior living ever since. “I love working with the residents — especially here at PPH,” she said. “There’s a lot of longevity here.”

Cathy’s Eight Practical Tips for Eating and Feeling Healthier

  1. Follow the half-and-half rule. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables, and make at least half your grains whole.
  2. Plan your menu around your day. If you want to eat your favorite cheesesteak for dinner, eat lighter for breakfast and lunch.
  3. Cut back on sodium and empty calories. Avoid solid fats and added sugar, and snack on fruits and vegetables if you’re hungry.
  4. Switch to a different version of your favorites. Substitute fat-free or low-fat dairy products, for instance.
  5. Enjoy your food but eat less. You can cut out a couple hundred calories by eating only half a portion of pasta or an entree.
  6. Vary your protein choices. Substitute fish or legumes for beef.
  7. Fill up on salad before a meal. You’ll be less likely to indulge in higher-calorie items during the next courses.
  8. Be physically active your way. Cathy recommends exercising at least a half hour, five days a week.

To Eat Better, Move to a Community

One great thing about living at a community is being able to eat with others. “Socialization is definitely a huge factor,” Cathy says. “When living at home alone, many people dislike cooking for one. They say, ‘I don’t feel like making anything, so I’ll just eat whatever.’

“Here at PPH, you still have that ability to cook in your apartment,” she explains, “but if you don’t feel like it, you can go eat whatever someone else is making, and they have to clean it up. That’s definitely an advantage!”