MyPlate for Older Adults: Eat Right for Your Age

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In March 2016, nutrition scientists at Tufts’ Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging introduced an updated MyPlatefor Older Adults, revisedto reflect the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

MyPlate for Older Adults calls attention to the unique nutritional and physical activity needsassociated with advancing years, emphasizing positive choices. Itshows how older adults might follow a healthy dietary pattern thatbuilds on the MyPlate graphic below.

elderly lady making food

iStock / Getty Images Plus/ annebaek

One important change as you get older is that your calorie needs typically decrease after age 50; men generally need 2,000 daily calories and women 1,600, depending on physical activity. But your vitamin and mineral requirements stay the same or may even increase—which can make it a challenge to get the nutrients you need from a smaller calorie intake.

So, MyPlate for Older Adults provides examples of foods that containhigh levels of vitamins and minerals per serving. These choices are alsoconsistent with the dietary guidelines, which recommend limiting foodshigh in trans and saturated fats, salt, and added sugars.

myplate for older adults

2016 Tufts University, all rights reserved. MyPlate for Older Adults graphic and accompanying website were developed with support from AARP Foundation. Tufts University and AARP Foundation are registered trademarks and may not be reproduced apart from their inclusion in the My Plate for Older Adults graphic without express permission from their respective owners.

The MyPlate for Older Adults illustrates:

• Bright-colored vegetables, such as carrots and broccoli
• Deep-colored fruit, such as berries and peaches
• Whole, enriched, and fortified grains and cereals, such as brown rice and 100-percent whole wheat bread
• Low- and non-fat dairy products, such as yogurt and low-lactose milk
• Canned beans and unsalted nuts, fish, poultry, lean meat, and tofu
• Liquid vegetable oils, soft spreads low in saturated and trans fat, and spices to replace salt
• Fluids such as water, soups, teas, and fat free milk
• Physical activity, such as walking, resistance training, and light cleaning

Nutrition for the Elderly

If you’re consuming fewer calories, it’s important to get as manynutrients from those calories as possible. MyPlate for Older Adultsspotlights vegetables and fruits as nutrient-dense food choices thatare convenient, affordable, and readily available. Half of MyPlate forOlder Adults is made up of fruit and vegetable icons, which reflectsthe importance of eating several servings of fruits and vegetables perday in a range of colors.

Consuming a variety of produce with deep-colored flesh introducesa larger amount of plant-based chemicals, nutrients, and fiber intoyour diet. MyPlate for Older Adults also includes icons representingfrozen, pre-peeled fresh, dried, and certain low-sodium, low-sugarcanned options. That’s because fruits and vegetables in those formscontain as many or more nutrients as fresh and they are easier toprepare, are more affordable, and have a longer shelf life—all importantconsiderations for older consumers.

MyPlate for Older Adults also features whole, enriched, and fortifiedgrains because they are high in fiber and other beneficial nutrients.

Experts advise making at least half your grain choices whole grains.

Suggested protein sources include fish and lean meat as well asplant-based options, such as beans and tofu. For cooking and serving,the Tufts experts recommend vegetable oils and soft spreads (free oftrans fats—check the label) as alternatives to foods high in animal fatsbecause animal-based products, such as butter and lard, are higher insaturated fat.

Other icons represent regular physical activity, emphasize adequatefluid intake, and focus on seasoning with herbs and spices instead of salt.

To learn more about ways to improve your brain health, purchase your copy of Brain Power and Nutrition from The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

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