Peg Fitkowski, RD, CDN

Winter can be really tough for people who are striving for proper nutrition and a healthy weight. Between the desire to hibernate when it’s cold and the food-centric and sometimes stressful holidays, many find an extra pound or two hanging around come the New Year.

The good news is that there are solutions to many common seasonal issues that can help you stick to your health goals.

Problem: You crave rich comfort foods

Solution: Try using whole grains, seasonal produce and protein-rich beans to add a savory taste and texture to meals.  For your favorite recipes, search the Internet or ask your friends for a lower calorie substitute.  If you do overindulge and are feeling sick or sluggish, commit to a healthy day of well-balanced meals.  Many people find that the higher energy and improved mood that come along with healthy eating can be highly motivating.

Problem: It is freezing and you have no motivation to work out.

Solution: You may not want to bundle up and go out to exercise or even travel through the snow to the gym.  A lot of people will turn to home workout systems or videos.  But many others still feel unmotivated.  One great solution is to find a winter activity you like – be that skiing, sledding, snowshoeing or even just playing with the kids.  Another way to introduce play into your day and push over the motivational hurdle is to do a TV or movie workout.  Make a list of items in advance – e.g., 10 jumping jacks every time a favorite character says a catch phrase – and complete them as you watch the program.  It’s good for your body to get up and moving and can be a lot of fun.

Problem: Too many delicious food and beverages at parties

Solution:  Eat and drink a normal, healthy diet up to the event.  Do not fast in advance as it will lead to overeating.  Make sure you stay really well hydrated, drinking water before, during and after the party.  If you choose to drink alcohol – first always drink responsibly – set a limit upfront and stick to lower-calorie options (such as beer or wine vs. most mixed drinks).  Look at all of the dining options before you eat.  Pick your two or three favorites.  Have samples of these dishes only and then load up on healthy options such as salad or a veggie tray with light dip.


west-herr-logoSubaru will once again be holding its popular “Share the Love” event this winter.

For every new Subaru that is purchased or leased at West Herr Subaru (3565 Southwestern Boulevard, Orchard Park) between now and January 2, 2014, the buyer will be able to designate which charity they would like Subaru to support.  As usual, the Subaru chain has designated a number of national charities.  However, this year, they also gave dealers the option to select a local organization – and West Herr has selected Meals on Wheels for WNY!

Subaru will be donating $250 for each purchase that is made.  That means that when you purchase or lease a new vehicle from West Herr Subaru and designate Meals on Wheels for WNY, your money will stay right here in the local community – helping to feed your homebound neighbors!

If you or someone you know is considering purchasing or leasing a new Subaru this year, please select Meals on Wheels when your dealer asks where you would like to “share the love!”


MOWforWNYcolor-ICON_2Beginning January 1, 2014, Meals on Wheels for WNY will be expanding its service area to include the geography currently covered by Southtowns Meals on Wheels – including Boston, Colden, Concord, Holland and Sardinia.

As a result of the RFP process managed earlier this year by the Erie County Department of Senior Services, Erie County has requested this increase in service area to ensure seniors’ needs are being met and that every senior in need continues to receive two healthy meals and a friendly visit each day.

Meals on Wheels for WNY staff are working in concert with community leaders and current coordinators in the Southern Tier to ensure a seamless transition in service.  It is important to note that:

•Participants do not need to re-register. The meals that participants get today will continue at the same frequency they are currently delivered as of January 2, 2014

•Meals on Wheels for WNY will continue to serve two meals per day (a hot lunch and cold supper, delivered together at mid-day)

•All townships that are currently served by Southtowns Meals on Wheels will be served by Meals on Wheels for WNY beginning in 2014

•Meals on Wheels for WNY offers five diets, including diabetic and renal.  Participants who receive a special diet today will receive the same diet after the transition

•Meals on Wheels for WNY asks clients for a voluntary contribution.  However, as with the current Southtowns MOW program, no qualifying individual is turned away due to an inability to contribute toward meals

•Meals on Wheels for WNY provides a daily well-being check with volunteers reporting concerns to the Social Word department, which then works with caregivers and emergency personnel as needed to help ensure safety

“The size of our program and the fact that we have a specific fundraising arm helps us absorb the extra program costs and guarantee two meal delivery to those in need,” Tara A. Ellis, President and CEO, Meals on Wheels for WNY, said.  “This will be beneficial to the clients because they will still receive adequate nutrition.  Caregivers will benefit even more than they do today because of our daily well-being check.  And, this also will be beneficial to the taxpayers as it costs us about $2,600 to feed a senior for a year (only part of which comes from government funding), whereas a skilled nursing facility averages more than $100,000 per year.”


Medical professionals prescribe medications for a wide variety of ailments and conditions, carefully assessing correct dosages and ensuring that all of a single patient’s medications are compatible with one another. Patients are responsible for purchasing, storing, and using each type of medication correctly. For the elderly, this process can be confusing and result in taking a medication incorrectly, or skipping it all together.

As a caregiver, there are steps you can take to properly manage the use of medication.
Keep track of medications, dosages, and side effects
Know exactly how much of each medicine to take, and be aware of any side effects that come with each one. Consult a doctor or pharmacist to help create a medication schedule.

Use a single pharmacy
By using one pharmacy, the pharmacists can aid in recognizing any potentially harmful interactions.

Other helpful tips
• Encourage loved ones to take medications as prescribed
• Store all medications safely, away from children and animals
• Never combine the contents of two prescription bottles


MOWforWNYcolor-ICON_2The Meals on Wheels Foundation of Western New York will once again be encouraging WNY shoppers to “Step up to the Plate” at Dash’s Markets in support of Meals on Wheels’ mission.

Beginning Sunday November 3, 2013 and continuing through Saturday, December 7, shoppers will be able to make a $1, $3 or $5 donation at any of Dash’s four local stores to benefit the work of Meals on Wheels.

Meals on Wheels delivers approximately 900,000 meals per year to homebound seniors and disabled individuals out of 21 sites throughout Erie County.  No qualifying individual is turned away due to an inability to pay.

“Meals on Wheels does so much more than just deliver nutrition to the homebound.  Our volunteers provide a few minutes of warm conversation to the lonely and provide tremendous peach of mind to caregivers who know their loved ones are being checked on,” Tara A. Ellis, President and CEO, said. “With high demand, increased costs and flat or decreasing funding, community support becomes absolutely critical.  We’re very grateful to the tremendous team at Dash’s for their collaboration on this fundraiser and to Dash’s shoppers for their generous donations.”


Are you sitting down? If you are you are ready for some toning, stretching, and strengthening exercises you can do from the comfort of your favorite chair. Pay attention to your body during the movements — if anything hurts or causes pain, stop immediately. And check with your doctor first before beginning this, or any, exercise program.

1. Posture Check: Simply sitting up straight in a chair with good posture tones a variety of muscles in your torso. Turn straight posture into an exercise by pressing your knees together to engage your inner thighs, squeezing your buttocks, sitting tall, and pulling in your belly button (abdominals) toward your spine. It’s important to press your shoulders back and down and to keep your neck neutral, while doing this exercise. Try to maintain this posture as long as you can while sitting.

2. Sitting Jack: You can do modified sitting jumping jacks by sitting on the edge of your chair. Open and close your arms and legs as you would during a normal jumping jack, and move your limbs, as quickly as you can, in and out. Start slowly and work up to 3 sets of 20 reps.

3. Twisty Abs: Strong abdominal muscles help stabilize your torso, which reduces aches and pains in your lower back and hips. To strengthen yours begin by sitting tall on the edge of your chair and cross your arms over your chest. Inhale and squeeze (flex) your abdominal muscles lightly. Without relaxing your stomach muscles, exhale slowly, squeezing your abs in tighter and turning your upper body to the right. Inhale and twist back to center. Then repeat to the left. Work up to 3 sets of 20 alternating reps.

4. Leg Lifts: To strengthen the thigh and hip muscles, you need only extend your leg. Sit on the edge of your chair with your arms by your sides. Extend your right leg out straight and flex your foot so that just the right heel is on the floor. Lift your leg up as high as you can without rounding your back. Keeping your foot flexed engages the muscles in the shins and ankle. Hold for three counts and then lower. Work up to 3 sets of 10 reps on each leg.

5. Seated Press-Ups: Engage your shoulder and triceps muscles with this joint-friendly move. Sit on the edge of your chair with your arms by your sides, palms over the edge of your seat. Press down with your arms as if you were going to try to lift yourself off the chair (you don’t have to lift up). Hold for three counts and then release. Work up to 3 sets of 10 reps.

6. Arm Circles: Increase flexibility and improve posture with gentle arm circles. Raise your arms straight out to your sides and press your shoulder blades together. Extend arms with palms down, thumbs facing forward, and do 20 forward circles with your arms. Then flip your palms up, thumbs facing behind you, and do 20 backward circles with your arms.

7. Ankle Rotators: While seated all the way back in your chair lift one leg off the floor a couple of inches and rotate you ankle clockwise for 20 seconds. You should be making a circle in the air with the movement of your ankle. Then rotate the same ankle counterclockwise for 20 seconds as well. Repeat the clockwise and counterclockwise movement with the other ankle.


When asked, a wide majority of seniors say they’d prefer to stay in their homes as they age.  In fact, studies have shown both physical and mental health benefits resulting from elderly independence.  Here is a list of things that can be done to keep your loved one safe at home.

  • Purchase easy-to-put-on clothes and shoes; look for shoes with straps (e.g., velcro) instead of laces, pull-on pants and clothes with few buttons
  • Intall bright no-skid strips on steps
  • Remove tripping hazards (such as area rugs)
  • Assess kitchen supplies and consider alternatives such as knives with safe guards or lighter cookware
  • Add no-skid strips to the bathroom tub and consider installing a hand rail to make it easier to get in and out of the tub
  • Make sure all handrails inside and outside of the house are securely fastened
  • When replacing furniture, ensure that new items are the right height and firmness for individuals to get up with minimal help

Small steps that you take can really add up when making a house comfortable and safe (fall-free) for your loved one.


By Peg Fitkowski, RD, CDN*

As a dietitian, I see how hard it can be for people to make healthy choices – whether because they don’t understand what is healthy or because so many other temptations get in the way. Whether you are looking to age gracefully, reduce the effects of a health condition or just get the best nutrients possible on a limited budget, one of the best decisions you can make is introducing “super foods” into your diet.

So called because they are packed full of critical nutrients without having a lot of filler calories or bad fats, the following super foods can help you enjoy super health.

  • Sweet potatoes – One of the best vegetables you can eat. Loaded with vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and fiber
  • Grape tomatoes – Perfect for salads, garnish, or as a healthy snack. These bite-size tomatoes are packed with vitamin A, vitamin C and fiber
  • Fat-free or 1% milk – An excellent source of calcium, vitamins and protein with very little fat and cholesterol
  • Broccoli – Incredibly versatile for meals or snacks, and loaded with vitamin A, vitamin C and folic acid
  • Salmon – The omega-3 fats in this healthy fish help reduce the risk of heart disease
  • Whole grain crackers – Loaded with fiber and generally fat free, whole grain crackers are perfect for snacking and are a much healthier selection with soup than most breads
  • Brown rice – Quick and easy to make and full of fiber, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin B-6, copper and zinc
  • Citrus fruits – Rich in vitamin C, folic acid and fiber. The sweet taste of fruit is great for snacks and easy to introduce to the whole family
  • Butternut squash – Loaded with vitamin A, vitamin C and fiber. And, many stores are selling peeled, diced squash that is ready to cook
  • Spinach and kale – These leafy greens are full of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, magnesium and iron

If super foods feel foreign to you, introduce them one at a time so that you aren’t changing your entire diet at once. Changes that you build in gradually have a better chance of sticking with you than changes you add all at once. Just remember that it’s not just about the calories or a weight loss goal. Super foods are really about helping you achieve super health!

*Peg Fitkowski, RD, CDN, is the Director of Nutrition Services for Meals on Wheels for WNY. Homebound seniors may be a fit for Meals on Wheels delivery; 716-822-2002.


By Peg Fitkowski, RD, CDN*

A healthy diet is a very important part of a healthy lifestyle. This is true at every age but can become even more crucial past mid-life when the risk for many diseases can rise. Many people consider it difficult and complicated to eat healthy foods and it certainly can be – especially when you are counting calories, points, carbohydrates and other figures.

But it can also be easy to eat healthy meals. Follow these guidelines to build healthy meals and a healthy body:


  • Fill half of your plate with fruits and non-starchy vegetables. Fresh, frozen and canned vegetables all count. Mix in dark-green, red and orange vegetables; if using canned vegetables, look for “reduced sodium” or “no salt added” on the label.
  • Make sure half of your grains are whole grain. Choose 100% whole-grain breads, cereals, crackers and pastas. Select high fiber cereals (4+ grams) to help aid digestion.
  • Choose fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese.
  • Vary your protein choices. Eat a variety of protein each week, including seafood, nuts, beans, poultry, lean beef and eggs.
  • Watch your portions. Make sure you integrate in your favorite foods periodically so that you can stick to a healthy lifestyle. Just make sure that if you are having a less healthy treat (e.g., sugary desserts, salty snacks) you avoid oversized portions.

Many of us gain a couple pounds each year as we age and our metabolism slows. That’s why it’s important to balance your food and beverage intake with your daily energy needs. Try to work out 3–5 times per week for at least 30 minutes. If you still find the weight creeping on, try to cut-off food after 7 p.m. or look for culprits in your diet (e.g., a daily 400 calorie latte) that you could change to a substitute without losing a lot of satisfaction.

Diet is a significant factor in many diseases in America, and our diet is something we all have the power to change!

*Peg Fitkowski, RD, CDN, is the Director of Nutrition Services for Meals on Wheels for WNY. Homebound seniors may be a fit for Meals on Wheels delivery; 716-822-2002.


By Peg Fitkowski, RD, CDN*

Food plays a critical role in keeping each of us healthy and performing at our best. However, because food is a constant part of our lives, some people can become heedless to food safety issues. The good news is that it can be easier than you might think to protect yourself and your family against food-borne illness. Food safety comes down to three major steps: transport, storage and handling.

Safe Transport

Have you ever run to the grocery store, shopped, and then remembered two other errands? If so, you may have put your food at risk. One of the first rules of safe shopping is to always go straight home from the grocery store. For maximum safety, you also should pick up your perishable items last before checking out. Once home, refrigerate perishable foods within two hours of purchase. If it exceeds 90 degrees outside, make sure your purchases are in the fridge within one hour. If you live far away from the grocery store, you may need to take a small cooler with ice packs to the store to ensure your food makes it home safely.

Safe Storage

Have you ever eyed-up or sniffed a container of leftovers? Do you have a sense of how long leftovers should last in the refrigerator? Many people overestimate the shelf life of leftovers.

  • Most cooked meats will last three to four days; deli meat will last up to five.
  • Cooked seafood also lasts three to four days, while raw seafood will last just one to two days.
  • Soups, chili, prepared potatoes and pasta- or potato- based salads will last three to four days.
  • A frequent favorite – pizza – will last three to four days as well.
  • Cream-based desserts, however, will only last one to two days before going bad. Fruit-based desserts may last as long as three days.

The bottom line is, leftovers do not remain safe to eat as long as many people may expect, which can cause illness. When in doubt, throw it out!

Safe Handling

You also can easily make your cooking safer. Begin by washing your hands; repeat as needed, minimally as you change ingredients. Make sure to separate your ingredients; use multiple cutting boards or wash the board between each food type. Once prepared, make sure you cook your ingredients to the proper internal temperature – most red and white meats need to be cooked to at least 165 degrees. Always use a food thermometer and look at your ingredient’s package for specific temperatures. Finally, make sure you refrigerate any leftovers within 30 minutes. Food-borne illnesses can be very serious and they can become more frequent in the summer as people prepare their favorite salads, line up a picnic table with snacks for a day-long party or run errands on a 90-degree day with a trunk full of fresh food. Follow these tips to have a safer, more delicious summer!

*Peg Fitkowski, RD, CDN, is the Director of Nutrition Services for Meals on Wheels for WNY. Homebound seniors may be a fit for Meals on Wheels delivery; 716-822-2002.