Do the elderly follow the same recommendation stated on the Food Guide Pyramid as other adults?
Mary Higgins, K-State Extension specialist in nutrition education, says a modified food guide pyramid for healthy, independent-living, active people 70 years and older has been developed at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston. In an effort to help improve common health problems of people in this age group, the center has modified the original 1992 food guide pyramid.
An individualized eating guide for this group of elderly Americans recognizes their special nutrient needs. As a result of common health problems and bodily changes that occur with aging, people older than 70 have:
- Decreased energy needs.
- A need for increased nutrient density in daily food selections.
- An increased need for fiber (20 grams a day).
- Increased needs for calcium (1200-1400 mg a day), vitamin D (600IU) and vitamin B-12. (Nutritional supplements sometimes are necessary to achieve these levels.)
- Special concerns for adequate hydration. Drinking eight cups of fluid a day is recommended, in addition to any alcohol or caffeine-containing beverages consumed and regardless of sensation of thirst.
Hallmarks of previous food selection guides that remain important for older healthy, active adults include:
- Choosing a variety of foods.
- Eating a diet high in grain products, fruits and vegetables.
- Eating a diet low in saturated fatty acids and cholesterol.
- Using low to moderate amounts of sugar, salt and alcohol.
- Balancing energy intake with physical activity.
Specialized recommendations for those 70 and older are:
- Choose the lower number of recommended servings from each food group.
- For grain products, choose whole grain, enriched/fortified products; brown rice rather than white; and a high-fiber breakfast cereal fortified with vitamin B-12 and folic acid.
- The vegetables and fruits choices should include deeply colored produce and the whole food rather than just the juice.
- Dairy choices should emphasize low-fat selections, with at least three calcium-rich product servings a day, or the equivalent in calcium-fortified orange juice or in nutritional supplements.
- From the meat/poultry/fish/dry beans/egg/nuts food group, choose a variety of lean cuts of meats and poultry. Eat fish at least once a week and legume dishes at least twice a week instead of a meat main dish.
- Most fat choices should be limited. Those chosen should consist primarily of a variety of liquid oils, or foods prepared with oils, rather than hydrogenated or saturated fats.
- Food selections with refined carbohydrates (sugar) should be kept to a minimum.
Many elderly Americans make poor food choices that have nothing to do with their financial resources. Helping them choose wisely from among the food groups can improve their health and zest for life. As a matter of fact, these recommendations wouldn't be bad for adults of any age to use daily!
The new guide is published in the March 1999 issue of The Journal of Nutrition.
-- Susan Krumm is an extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper. She can be reached at 843-7058.