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Your Guide to the Senior Food Guide Pyramid: For In-Home Senior Care and Caregivers

Published: Sep 15, 2010

As we age, our bodies and nutritional requirements change. Seniors need to increase or reduce their intake of certain vitamins and minerals depending on gender, metabolism  and disease management. Caloric intake changes, so to stay healthy, older adults need to make changes to ensure they meet their dietary needs. Senior home care services like Comfort Keepers® can help you, your caregivers or your family learn about great senior nutrition and diet.

Aging is associated with distinct changes in a senior’s body composition; most notably, decreases in fluids and lean body mass and an increase in fat storage. Changes in the body predispose older adults to dehydration, reduced metabolism, falls and injury and central weight gain.

The senior food guide pyramid is geared toward those 70 and older and is a guide to help older adults make good nutrition choices. Seniors who do not eat the recommended portions of food each day may put themselves at risk for malnutrition.

Older people are at risk of malnutrition in all settings, including hospitals, care homes and in the general community. Using the Senior Food Guide Pyramid may help reduce that risk. As part of Comfort Keepers’ STOP Senior Hunger® initiative, we want to help teach about this important guide to senior nutrition.

How to Use the Senior Food Guide Pyramid

Assess the senior’s needs first. Some seniors have certain diseases, like diabetes, or conditions such as high blood pressure, that require them to follow a special diet. If a senior has diabetes, they must monitor their blood sugar closely, and some of the recommendations on the pyramid might not apply to them. It is very important to remember that the pyramid is merely a guide. Before making any changes to a diet, it must first be discussed with a health care provider.

• Understand the Senior Food Guide Pyramid is different than the traditional United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) foodguide. The Senior Food Guide Pyramid is arranged differently than the USDA food pyramid. The senior pyramid provides recommendations based on vertical sections and works fromthe bottom up. Seniors should primarily focus on the pyramids bottom portion and use the vertical sections as guides to the amount of food they should eat.

• Make the pyramid work for you – do not let it work you. The pyramid is a visual reminder of what you should be consuming each day. It will help you plan accordingly, but allows room for flexibility.

• Make eating easier. Learning to prepare and cook nutritious meals does not have to be a chore. The pyramid can serve as a reference tool in helping you plan your meals. If you plan on dining out one day, adjust the rest of your meals to ensure you get the right balance of food by using the food pyramid. Use the pyramid to help you develop your shopping list, too. Stop by the local farmer’s market and pick up fresh produce. Add variety to your diet by trying a new fruit or vegetable. The pyramid can help you determine the amount of food you should be consuming.

• Understand that different bodies require different amounts of food. The pyramid recommends eating a number of different servings of food each day, but your body might require a different amount. If you are trying to lose or gain weight, the amount you might need may be different from others. Pay attention to suggested serving sizes.

Note: Seniors, their family members and other caregivers should speak with their doctors about managing their nutrition.

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