Keeping muscles strong through healthy eating and physical activity to stay well with MPN

By Nathalie Cook, APD

As we age, we lose skeletal muscle mass and physical strength in a process called sarcopenia. Unfortunately sarcopenia begins from our 30s and after age 50, we can lose up to 15% of our skeletal muscle each decade. Sarcopenia is one of the most important causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older people. MPNs like other chronic inflammatory diseases are risk factors for sarcopenia. Sarcopenia contributes to fatigue and low energy levels experienced by people living with MPN.

The good news is we can help to maintain strong muscles and combat sarcopenia by combining a well balanced diet that includes adequate amounts of high quality protein foods (such as dairy, eggs, meat, fish, chicken or legumes) spread across each meal over the day, with daily physical activity which include a combination of resistance and aerobic exercise. Remember the old saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it? This definitely applies to our muscles!

The Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend we accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2½ to 5 hrs) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1¼ to 2½ hrs) of vigorous intensity physical activity, (or an equivalent combination of both) each week. The Guidelines also recommend muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.

In my practice as an Accredited Practicing Dietitian, (APD) I recommend my patients view movement as an opportunity, rather than an inconvenience. No matter what our current fitness level or how busy we are, most of us can benefit from increasing our daily physical activity to help combat sarcopenia.

Maintaining strong muscles also helps us feel better and have more energy, and is crucial to feeling well and ageing well with MPN.  A good place to start is to plan to sit less and move more, and to gradually increase the amount of physical activity we do each day. Some people find using step trackers helpful for encouragement and to monitor progress.

To keep our muscles strong and well nourished we should aim to include 20-25gm of high quality protein at each meal. Here are some easy meal ideas with the grams of protein per serve indicated in brackets.

Breakfast ideas:

  • 1 cup yoghurt (10gm), 1/3 cup oats (3gm), fruit, milk coffee (8gm) = 21gm
  • 2 eggs (14gm), 1 sl wholegrain toast (3.5mg), milk coffee (8gm) = 25gm
  • 2 slices of wholegrain toast (7gm) 1.5tbsp peanut butter (6gm), milk coffee (8gm) = 21gm

Lunch ideas:

  • 2 slices of bread (7gm), 95g tin tuna (17gm), salad, fruit = 24gm
  • 2 slices of bread (7gm), cheese sl (5gm), 2 sl ham(8gm), salad, fruit = 20gm
  • 2 slices of bread (7gm), 2 eggs (14gm), lettuce and mayo, fruit = 20gm

Dinner ideas:

  • ¼ plate area (or palm size) of protein food (meat, chicken fish or legumes) (25gm), ¼ plate rice/potato/pasta(3gm), ½ plate area colourful vegetables = 28gm

Eggs are a nutritious and versatile source of protein

 Eggs are packed with high quality protein and essential nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. Recent evidence suggests eggs do not raise cholesterol or increase heart disease risk, as previously thought. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend eggs can be enjoyed daily, as part of a healthy eating plan. Eggs are also inexpensive, versatile and make quick, delicious and nutritious meals.

Here is my favourite easy omelette recipe. It makes a quick and well-balanced meal for one. Increase quantities depending on the number of serves required.

Quick & Easy Mushroom Tomato & Feta Omelette (22gm protein)

  • 2 tsps olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms,
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 chopped tomato
  • 1 tbsp crumbled feta
  • chopped parsley


  1. In a small frying pan, brown mushroom over medium heat. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. Pour in beaten egg. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until edges begin to set.
  3. Add mushrooms, tomato and feta.
  4. Using a spatula, flip omelette in half. Finish cooking for 1 minute. Serve on wholegrain toast with a green salad and top with cracked pepper. Enjoy!

For more healthy and tasty egg recipes and for nutrition information on eggs, go to .

Nathalie Cook, APD
MNutrDiet, BAppSc, CertPaedNutrDiet.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” Hippocrates

Nathalie Cook is an Accredited Practice Dietitian (APD) with over 20yrs of experience in the public and private health sectors.
She works as an Adult and Paediatric Dietitian at Banyule Community Health in Victoria, is a volunteer member of MPN Alliance Australia and has personal experience with MPN (PV).


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