Anne-Marie Davee of Freeport is a pioneer when it comes to healthy food choices.
Long before most of us cared much about what we put into our stomachs, Davee, 57, concerned herself with nutrition. She hasn’t looked back.
“I was a competitive athlete in high school back when not many girls were doing that,” Davee said. “I ran with the boys on the track team. I just really wanted to know how food affected my body, and performance. Not many people were studying nutrition at the time.”
The Massachusetts native earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in nutrition at the University of Maine.
Davee, a registered dietician, takes a leading role in the health and well-being not only of herself, but also her community. She is chairwoman of Freeport’s Active Living Task Force, which has developed an ambitious plan to promote an active lifestyle there. And she is unwavering in her commitment to healthy food.
“I know that food directly affects how I feel each day and how well my body performs,” Davee said, “so I eat lots of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products and lean sources of protein,” including beans or lentils.
Boomers are typically facing health issues such as arthritis, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Physicians and nutritionists recommend that a diet of nutrient-rich foods can go a long way toward helping boomers control these problems.
Davee, who has lived in Freeport for 12 years, is nutrition program coordinator at the University of New England.
“I have to practice what I preach,” she said.
For her, that means a typical “breakfast parfait,” consisting of raspberries with vanilla yogurt, granola and nuts. Lunch is usually a sandwich, perhaps turkey breast with Swiss cheese or peanut butter and jelly. Cucumbers and fruit – not potato chips – provide the crunch. Davee often dines on grilled salmon, a baked potato and zucchini for dinner.
Chicken is another typical dinner choice for Davee. Red meat, not so much.
Davee has seen the low-carb craze come and go, and is wary of it.
“It’s like a pendulum,” she said. “It keeps swaying one way or the other. It’s good for quick weight loss, but it’s not something I’d recommend for the long term. You get critical nutrition from the whole grains and fruits. Over time, your body misses those nutrients.”
Davee said that baby boomers had the benefit of growing up prior to the “super-sizing” of meals.
“They have a better sense of portion sizes,” she said. “I remember a 4-ounce glass of juice.”
Kathy Savoie, a nutritionist with the Cumberland County branch of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, also says she has seen the “roller coaster” of nutrition and food fads. She recalls a “fear and phobia” of fats in the 1980s, and the more recent high-protein phase.
“Things come and go all the time,” Savoie said. “The reality is, there is no silver bullet. People need to look at total calories when it comes to weight. If there are too many calories, your body will convert that to fat.”
Savoie also cautions against processed foods.
“Pick an aisle in the center of the grocery store,” she said. “Canned peaches have added sugar and juices for shelf life, and the skin is removed, which contains fiber. The sodium is high. Choose fresh or frozen fruits or vegetables.”
At least half of one’s plate should contain fruits or vegetables, she said.
Eating at home is recommended.
“The percentage of meals away from home is increasing greatly,” she said. “Those meals tend to be more processed foods and larger portions.”
Even calorie control might have its limits.
“The body has a fat point,” Savoie said. “You can yo-yo back and forth, but there’s a place in your body where there’s more comfort. You need calorie control, but there’s a plateau effect where the body slows down its metabolism because of the survival instinct. You need to look at longer-term, slow approaches to weight loss.”
Weight loss aside, issues like cholesterol and blood pressure are critical for boomers. So, are eggs bad?
“There are recommendations for daily count of cholesterol,” Savoie said. “Eggs take a bad rap, but they are a great protein source.”
Larry Grard is a staff writer at Current Publishing.