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Diet & Nutrition

A New Nutrition Picture for Older Adults

Experts have drawn up a new nutrition icon for seniors, with an emphasis on meeting older adults’ nutritional needs in terms of federal government’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines.

Nutrition scientists at the Jean Mayer U. S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University, with support from AARP Foundation, introduced an updated MyPlate for Older Adults icon. The updated icon emphasizes the nutritional needs of older adults in a framework of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The icon and an accompanying website can be viewed at hnrca.tufts.edu/myplate.

“It is never too late to make smart changes in your diet. Shifting towards healthier food choices can improve symptoms or decrease risk for developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease – all of which are more common in older than younger adults,” said Alice H. Lichtenstein, D.Sc., senior scientist and director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA. Lichtenstein served as vice chair on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

The new MyPlate for Older Adults icon depicts a colorful plate with images to encourage older Americans to follow a healthy eating pattern bolstered by physical activity. The plate is composed of approximately:

50 percent fruits and vegetables;

25 percent grains, many of which are whole grains; and

25 percent protein-rich foods such as nuts, beans, fish, lean meat, poultry, and fat-free and low-fat dairy products such as milk, cheeses, and yogurts.

The new MyPlate for Older Adults icon also includes images of good sources of fluid, such as water, milk, tea, soup, and coffee; heart-healthy fats such as vegetable oils and soft margarines; and herbs and spices to be used in place of salt to lower sodium intake.

“We are so proud to collaborate with the USDA HNRCA at Tufts on the MyPlate for Older Adults icon to create practical nutritional guidance and awareness of the need for accessible meals,” said Jim Lutzweiler, vice president, hunger impact area, AARP Foundation. “We believe at AARP Foundation in the importance of encouraging vulnerable and low-income older adults to develop healthy eating and physical activity patterns to maintain quality of life as they age.”

The MyPlate for Older Adults icon also reminds older Americans to stay active by walking, riding a bicycle, swimming, or engaging in another activity. The Dietary Guidelines offers suggestions for older adults who are interested in improving their lifestyle and reducing their risk of disease and disability with regular exercise.

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