PACE and Padua House Dietician, Heidi Gereighty


National Nutrition Month is Here!

Heidi Gereighty, LDN,RD is the dietician for both Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) and Padua House which provides comprehensive 24 hour care for those with disabilities.

“As we age, we may be eating less and losing weight because we simply forget to eat,” explains Gereighty. “There could also be dental issues that cause pain when eating. If so, we try to address this issue by suggesting dental appointments or adding softer foods to the diet.” An individual’s nutritional health can also be impacted by a decline in their cognitive health, particularly if they are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

High quality protein, not just a starch meal is essential for all of our participants. Also including high fiber in the diet is vitally important. It is important to read labels when grocery shopping and make sure to note the dietary fiber content along with the sodium content. Many canned and processed foods include a considerable amount of unexpected salt. Being aware of this and making adjustments such as cooking a bag of beans rather than using a can of beans can make a big difference in salt content.

For reference here is a list dietary choices that Heidi recommends to help maintain good nutritional health as you age.

                Adequate fiber-whole grains, oatmeal, brown rice

Zinc and vitamins B and D levels-eat green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, along with carrots, broccoli and peas.

Brightly colored fruits-blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, apples

Added supplements- people over 50 often need vitamin D supplements; check with your doctor

Reduced red meat consumption-less beef and more chicken, fish or seafood

Variety of proteins-eggs, lean meats, nuts, beans or soy products

Hydration-to maintain digestive and overall health, drink plenty of water; 2% milk, juice, tea or decaffeinated coffee can help with hydration but avoid soft drinks.

Heidi along with the PACE and Padua Services team carefully watch for signs of grief, depression and anxiety that affect nutrition habits. The loss of a spouse or being isolated friends and family can affect diets. “Eating is a very social habit, particularly here in New Orleans. That’s why we like to see our PACE  and Padua clients in the center dining and socializing with others,” she adds.

She encourages family members and friends to monitor their loved one’s dietary habits but without being obtrusive and judgmental. They can pack individual meal servings for their peers, offer to take them grocery shopping and include them in plans for dining out.