A healthy diet is essential at any age, but as we get older it's increasingly important. The good news is that highly nutritious, balanced meals are not necessarily more expensive than the alternative. Half the battle is in planning what to buy, so let's have a look at some of the delicious, healthy options available in most New Zealand food stores that won't give you a shock at the checkout...
Brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and whole-wheat bread are the healthy options. White rice is simply brown rice that's been refined, but refinement, in food terms, often means that some of the nutritional value of a food has been removed. Think of brown rice as being more natural; the part that's not removed, which gives it its colour, contains vitamins and minerals including iron, zinc and calcium, and is far easier to digest. It has a low glycaemic index (GI), meaning that's it's good news for anyone with (or concerned about) diabetes.
Many people also find it far more tasty than boring old white rice - and it's quicker to cook! Similar benefits are found in whole-wheat pasta and bread, and all can be found very cheaply in any decent supermarket.
For older people, protein intake is at least as important as it is for the young; studies have shown that the over 70's actually require more protein. Meat and fish are often some of the more expensive items on a shopping list, but they're not the only valuable source. Eggs, beans and pulses (lentils etc) and nuts are also excellent. Lentils are an extremely cheap way of adding protein, fibre and texture to stews, for example, and take just 15 minutes to cook.
Canned beans, including red kidney beans, are a little more expensive but also full of fibre. Peanut butter is a great choice, as long as you avoid the heavily processed, sugar-packed mega-brands. As far as meat is concerned, it's better to spend a little more on good meat less frequently. Happily, a meat-free day or two a week is a healthy choice; weigh your meat intake towards the white (rather than red) end of the scale.
Fruit & Veg
For delicious, nutritious fruit and veg at reasonable prices, the key is to keep it seasonal and local. Eat a good mixture of different coloured produce, from vivid green broccoli to bright red and yellow peppers, and don't pay importers to bring you foods you couldn't grow in a New Zealand winter! Garlic has many health benefits, but try to stick to the real stuff rather than the pills and powders; it's far more nutritious, and, roasted slowly, completely delicious!