En español | In anticipation of succumbing to the sweet perils of Halloween, I am recommitting myself to fresh pledges of healthy eating. I have a new ally in this high-minded enterprise: MyPlate for Older Adults. Pictured here, this image has evolved from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s original food pyramid and is tailored to address the unique food needs of people age 50-plus.
Unlike counting invisible calories, MyPlate shows me at a colorful, compelling glance how much real estate on the dish should be devoted to which foods. Vegetables and fruits have the most acreage — half the plate, to be exact. Another quarter is for grains (especially whole grains), and the final quarter is for protein-rich foods (nuts, beans, low-fat dairy and the like).
Alas, no space left for peanut butter cups.
The new graphic and accompanying website were created by nutrition scientists at Tufts University with support from AARP Foundation.
In addition to helping people like you and me to improve our diets, MyPlate for Older Adults plays a serious, central role in AARP Foundation’s long-term strategy to overcome food insecurity among older adults. The rate of food insecurity among this population has more than doubled since 2001, putting more than 10 million older individuals at risk of going hungry every day, in every community. For them, hunger has become a serious health issue.
Misconceptions and lack of knowledge about healthy options and good nutrition play a critical role in food insecurity. The most effective approach to the problem is a combination of providing meals while also teaching older adults how to eat healthier on a limited budget. MyPlate offers a memorable, easy-to-understand nutrition guide.
The unique value of MyPlate for Older Adults is its acknowledgment that older adults’ dietary needs and challenges differ from everyone else’s.
For example, physiological mechanisms, such as the natural thirst mechanism that prompts us to drink enough fluids, may not function as well as we age. And too much salt, which is not great for anyone, is especially bad for older adults, who are more prone to high blood pressure and may crave more salt as their taste sensation diminishes with age. MyPlate accounts for these changes with recommendations for bolstering fluid intake and for flavoring with herbs and spices.
MyPlate deserves to be posted on every refrigerator, at every restaurant and in every grocery store aisle. With this simple guide, we have a chance to make strides toward improving the health and well-being of older women and men.