Mickie Anderson – (352) 273-3566
Nan Jensen – firstname.lastname@example.org, (727) 582-2100 x28445
Karla Shelnutt – email@example.com, (352) 392-1778 x240
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Eating well as you age can be tricky. You generally need fewer calories, but the foods you do eat must pack a nutritious punch.
With that in mind, faculty at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences adapted the federal government’s MyPyramid poster for older Americans in February 2007.
Researchers then tested the poster’s effectiveness in increasing nutrition knowledge at six lower-income senior centers in North Central Florida.
Karla Shelnutt, coordinator of UF’s Elder Nutrition and Food Safety program, will present an overview of the research project at the Society for Nutrition Education’s annual conference in Atlanta today. Faculty members Linda Bobroff and David Diehl also worked on the study.
The participants were tested before and after a review of the poster. Those who correctly identified beverages low in added sugars increased from 56 to 77 percent. Those who could identify vitamins that should be obtained from fortified foods or supplements (vitamin D and vitamin B12) increased from 70 to 93 percent. And those who identified the two sources of fiber among four possible answers went from 79 to 83 percent.
In addition, 96 percent of the participants said they planned to make at least one behavior change, including drinking more water or other low-sugar beverages (79 percent); eating more fiber-rich foods (75 percent); eating foods from all five food groups each day (63 percent), and eating more fortified foods (61 percent).
The MyPyramid for Older Adults poster is aimed at those 60 and older, but is especially critical for persons over 70, Shelnutt said, because for this age group, getting good nutrition is trickier, especially for those on fixed incomes.
“As we get older, it gets harder to meet our nutritional needs. You don’t need as many calories, but the need for specific nutrients either stays the same or increases,” she said.
Two critical nutrients for older adults are vitamins D and B12, which should be obtained from fortified foods or supplements to ensure adequate absorption, Shelnutt said.
Despite those needs, older adults often do not take the trouble to cook meals, she said.
Instead, they’ll often buy convenience foods that aren’t as nutritious, or graze throughout the day – making snack choices especially important, she said.
Pinellas County Extension agent Nan Jensen, who has used the MyPyramid for Older Adults poster to help coach older adults about nutrition and exercise, said she likes that it shows people of different shapes and sizes engaged in activities such as gardening and tossing a ball with a child.
“It’s just very appropriate for that audience,” she said.
Versions of the MyPyramid for Older Adults poster can be downloaded at enafs.ifas.ufl.edu or glossy paper versions can be purchased in packs of 50 from the University of Florida IFAS Extension bookstore at 1-800-226-1764 or online at ifasbooks.ufl.edu (“Education – Posters” section).