Anatomy of an Estuary Meal

Read more to find out what goes into a delicious, nutritious meal from the Estuary Council!

Anatomy of an Estuary Meal

Estuary Meals on Wheels: we deliver nutrients.

While the Estuary is still closed to the public for dining and other services (as I write this) many of our former congregate diners have commented to us that they miss coming to the Estuary to chat with friends and have lunch. Several have specifically mentioned that they miss our food, which makes me smile, because we work hard to make our meals enjoyable and nutritious, as well as budget friendly. We are very proud to have been able to have been able to seamlessly continue to provide meals to our home-bound participants throughout this pandemic, as well as offer a “Grab & Go” meal service to our more mobile clients.

We firmly believe that our meals at the Estuary are more than just a meal to those over the age of 60 years. A meal can bring a smile to a lonely person. A meal can help reduce hunger.  Or, a meal can decrease the anxiety that comes with food insecurity. This is especially relevant now for those seniors who struggle to provide for themselves during this pandemic. Studies show that healthy eating can increase mental alertness, improve energy levels, and boost immune system strength. Seniors that have access to adequate nutrition through programs like Meals on Wheels can improve or maintain their overall health and activities of daily living. So what is in an Estuary meal?

Each meal must meet one-third of the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) reported in the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as established by the Older Americans Act. This means it contains 3 ounces of protein, a half cup of starch, a half cup of vegetables, a half cup of fruit, 1 slice of whole wheat bread and one cup of milk. The meal also takes into consideration the preferences and dietary needs of elderly participants, while limiting added sugars and sodium, all the while meeting calorie requirements.

Protein – essential for growth and repair of the body, including heart, skin, hair and blood. Older adults need protein to prevent malnutrition, loss of muscle mass, and to keep their immune system healthy.

Starch – starchy foods such as pasta, potatoes and rice are an important source of energy, as well as providing fiber, calcium, iron and B vitamins.

Vegetables – vegetables are important for the wide variety of vitamins and minerals that they provide.It is recommended to eat 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day, a goal which most Americans do not reach. Each color of vegetable contributes to a different nutrient. For example, vitamin K is found in dark leafy greens, red and orange vegetables have vitamin A, legumes (peas, beans) have dietary fiber, and starchy vegetables contain potassium.  I like to say “Eat the rainbow!” for maximum nutrition.

Fruit - a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke,as well as lower the risk for some cancers. Fruit contains fiber and water,both of which contribute to regular bowel movements and/or prevent constipation.

Bread – 100%whole grain bread provides dietary fiber, iron and B vitamins. Bran and fiber slow the breakdown of starch into glucose—thus maintaining a steady blood sugar rather than causing sharp spikes. Fiber helps keep you feeling full, longer,and lower cholesterol as well as move waste through the digestive tract. Fiber may also help prevent the formation of small blood clots that can trigger heart attacks or strokes.

Milk – dairy products contain protein and calcium, vitamins A & D, as well as other essential nutrients. Some older adults are lactose intolerant. Fun fact: aged cheese, such as Cabot Cheddar, are naturally lactose free, so enjoy your cheese and crackers!

A healthy diet is one that you enjoy, and provides color and variety so that you reach your calorie and nutrient requirements. Stay safe, eat well and be healthy!