“Everyone Knows Someone Who Needs This Information!” (TM)
Earlier this year, under continued pressure from health professionals and scientist researchers, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) came out with new guidelines for eating, especially for Seniors aged 70 or beyond, but fully useful for those over 50 years old to lead into healthier decades ahead, in the scientists’ and dieticians’ opinion. Even if you are not at this age, you have loved ones who are, and who may not be computer-savvy, so please pass this information along! (Double-click on the graphics to enlarge them.)
In light of the new science behind targeted individualization of dietary needs, as expressed in my recent post and response at: http://diabetesdietdialogue.wordpress.com/2008/07/15/coming-home-to-a-real-inspirational-life-journey-from-the-heaviest-person-in-the-world/ it becomes problematical to give “General Guidelines” like any Food Pyramid does, without further tutelage, as I try to do on my Diabetes Diet Plan, but this new USDA Senior Food Pyramid attempt is much better than their previous information — and here’s why!
Seniors cannot use the general, all-purpose USDA Food Pyramid. It is inappropriate for them due to:
___ Seniors’ ability to digest their food often lessens and changes over time, with implications for their continued good Health due to malabsorption or too little appetite and thirst signals.
___ In these decades, many people live alone with increasing financial needs to stretch their money.
___ Often, people at this stage of life are dependent on others to help them drive and shop at the market and may need food supplies earlier than someone will help them. Also, the weather or other reasons, including personal strength and mobility, stops them from being able to do these jobs whenever they want or need to.
___ They may need simple foods that require little preparation if no-one can help them in the kitchen.
So, the Senior Food Pyramid attends to these needs by:
___ Giving options for multiple ways to store and use foods e.g. fresh vegetables or fruit and frozen vegetables or fruit; both count equally for these purposes. I still would not recommend canned!
___ Paying attention to getting nutrient dense foods into their diet so that people with small appetites will not be as likely to be undernourished.
___ Teaching Seniors that as their bodies change, they must relate to hunger and thirst differently. They are NOT getting the same signals, and so must critically understand how much of which kinds of foods will help them be nourished and must drink mechanically, by amount and by the clock, as most seniors become very dehydrated due to impaired signals.
___ Showing seniors some of the supplements they need to help digestion and to compensate somewhat for lack of exposure to sufficient sunshine all year. Finally acknowledging that Seniors DO need supplements is a big deal (but they must be in the forms seniors can digest — many pills are impossible for them to utilize; not enough detail on the Pyramid for that fact, unfortunately).
___ Encouraging Seniors that it is imperative to stay active, and giving physical activity and water the 2 most important parts of the Pyramid — the vital Foundation section. Another Pyramid for all ages was also suggested by Dr. Walter Willett, PhD of Harvard’s School of Public Health; in 2001, he shows a Pyramid that encapsulates many changes that USDA still needs to use! I think Dr. Willett would object to this USDA new Pyramid has such small emphasis and positioning for healthy fats, and still way too much emphasis on dairy and grains. See more of Willett’s Pyramid by clicking on the interactive graphic at: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2001-07-26-food-pyramid-usat.htm and in the original, easier-to-see, larger-scale graphic of the Tufts University’s version of the Senior Pyramid, (differently presented than the one I chose at the top of the page here). The Tufts graphic especially shows active pursuits that are enabling. See: http://nutrition.tufts.edu/1197972031385/Nutrition-Page-nl2w_1198058402614.html
___ Providing simple ways and food-stuffs to make meals.
BUT, I personally think that there’s still lots of room for improvement in making further adjustments to the Senior’s Food Pyramid, however, it has been worthwhile to alert the general public and to give them the computer program access to track progress.
For those of you who want to help the Elders in your circle of friends and family, many of whom may not be computer-savvy or have ready-access to a computer, then spend time with them to get their weight, height and personal activity level, so you can plug that information into USDA’s computer program to then print-out a Personalized Diet Plan based on the Senior USDA Food Pyramid. Notice, that there are also worksheet pages, so your Senior can start keeping a Food Journal, to help everyone understand how things are going.
Access all of this at:
There’s lots you and they can learn there, but DO realize that USDA is definitely prejudiced! For example, there is too much emphasis on dairy, period, and there is not one source for calcium mentioned that is not dairy related!
USDA and Big Agribusiness are definitely bed-fellows and this Pyramid reflects too traditional foods with few or no alternative views’ choices mentioned!
I also think this Pyramid allows far too many acidifying grains and not enough Healthy Oils (EssentialFatty Acids like Omega-3) or enough fresh food, especially vegetables. Additionally, except in winter, I would not encourage packaged or canned food at all, and even then they should only be for an emergency stash. These Big Business products are not healthy. Get cook books that encourage simple preparation of fresh foods, and help your Seniors make new recipes that are healthy and possible for them to fix themselves, as much as you can.
I was surprised to see my 85 year old Mum’s calorie requirements not any different than my own, (and she is not overweight by much — maybe 10 pounds), but due to tremendous hip pain, she is very sedentary. As she hardly has any appetite or thirst, I am shocked to see that, somehow, I have to intensify what I manage to get her to eat to the degree I must. I am going to continue to make sure that she has many smaller meals of nutrient-dense, interesting food, as much as I can.
She has a very tiny appetite, and up until now, I have aceded to her wishes for small portions most times, as I do not want her to gain weight that will worsen her hip situation and cause her to lose more mobility.
Frankly, I think we will be continuing to spend more money on very easily-assimilated supplements, (especially Vitamin B12, Calcium citrate or ascorbate, natural Vitamin D and some digestive enzymes or Bromelain, some Magnesium citrate and Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids from hemp oil [none of these last 4 are on the Pyramid] as the minimum) to provide a better safety-net for her.
I will also continue to buy Organic foods as much as our budget allows, as in Organic foods, nutrition is doubled, for less than double the price (this is important for a senior’s small appetite!). To know how to spend your Organic Food Dollar wisely, use the following website’s chart of most-pesticided residue foods. It includes a wallet card of the worst offenders, so you can understand what is necessary to buy Organic for best Health.
Meanwhile, please do watch out for your Elders. Their quality of Life depends on being Healthy. Anything you can do in this regard will be a good deed. One day, hopefully, others will do this for you, too.
You can read part 2 of this series at:
Best to all — Em
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(c)2008 Em http://diabetesdietdialogue.wordpress.com
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