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Let’s Take A Food-First Approach To Healthy Aging

March 7, 2017

This blog is part of NRC’s Nutrition Month, a Dietitians of Canada initiative, blog series. This year’s Nutrition Month theme is “Take the fight out of food! Spot the problems. Get the facts. Seek support.” 

By Hilary Dunn, Program Manager, Agri-Food For Healthy Aging 

We all know how important nutrition is for our health, and this is especially true as we get older. With so many Ontario-grown foods to choose from, there is a great opportunity to take a ‘food-first’ approach to healthy aging. But this isn’t always easy for older adults.

As we get older, we can experience a number of challenges when it comes to healthy eating – our appetite and tastes change, and physical changes may limit our ability to prepare healthy foods. Some older adults are even learning to cook for the first time or adjusting to meal prep for a smaller household. Add the increasing risk of chronic disease with age, and the big role nutrition plays in mitigating this risk, and the need to improve nutritional health in our later years is even greater.

To help older adults navigate some of these challenges and enjoy nutritious, Ontario-grown foods more regularly, a research team led by Alison Duncan, PhD, RD (Professor, Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph) and Agri-food for Healthy Aging (A-HA) developed a Recipe Resource for Healthy Aging.

The resource features 50 recipes including beverages, breakfasts, snacks, soups and stews, salads, sides, mains, and desserts. The evidence-based age-related health benefits of the Ontario-grown foods are highlighted, and cooking tips are provided to offer ideas for ingredient substitutions and strategies to make preparation easier. Testimonials from older adults and Ontario farmers also appear throughout.

The content and design of the resource was informed by consultations with a variety of older adults living in the community. Their input helped select and tailor recipes to ensure they met their needs.  For example, keeping the ingredient list fairly short and familiar was a key objective. Stove top cooking was often preferred as lifting heavy pots out of the oven wasn’t always easy.

With so many nutritious and delicious foods right in our own backyard, the Recipe Resource helps older adults take advantage and promote good health as they age. It is available on the A-HA website here and can be downloaded in its entirety or as individual, printer-friendly recipes. Hard copies are available on a cost recovery basis. To learn more about this resource, please contact A-HA’s program manager Hilary Dunn at

This project was supported by Agri-Food and Rural Link, the hub for knowledge translation and transfer for the OMAFRA-University of Guelph Partnership.

About Hilary Dunn: Hilary has a Master’s degree in Human Health and Nutritional Sciences from the University of Guelph and is program manager of the nutrition research group Agri-Food for Healthy Aging (A-HA) (part of the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging).  A-HA explores the connections between agriculture, food and nutrition as it relates to healthy aging.  In her role as program manager, Hilary collaborates with the A-HA team to improve the health and well-being of older adults through the innovative use of food. 


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