Poor nutrition can impede seniors’ ability to effectively recover from illnesses, limit intake of essential vitamins, reduce efficacy of prescription drugs and exacerbate problems from pre-existing health conditions.
In an effort to empower older adults to make healthy food choices, nutrition scientists at Tufts University unveiled a new nutrition guide on Monday. The Jean Mayer U. S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging led the project with support from the AARP foundation.
The guide, called MyPlate for Older Adults is based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate campaign which provides a wide variety of resources to help Americans eat healthy foods.
MyPlate for Older Adults recommends that seniors eat 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 website associated with the tool also provides resources to empower seniors who are striving for a healthier lifestyle such as shopping and exercise tips, recipes, and ideas for cutting down on sodium.
For many of Pennsylvania’s seniors, poor nutrition is also a result of food insecurity. In addition to educational resources like MyPlate for Older Adults, increasing access to food assistance is important for addressing senior nutrition. In Pennsylvania, an estimated 12.9% of seniors are food insecure.
Chester County Food Bank had a robust garden last summer.
Food banks are working hard to provide nutritious options to those they serve. Programs like the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS), which should be rolled out soon, could make it easier for food banks to provide produce, dairy, meat, and eggs. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) also provides crucial meal deliveries and nutrition services each month to older residents. Many food banks have also established gardens, cooking demonstrations, and other programs to educate their communities and increase access to healthy foods.