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Nutrient Needs Change with Age: Eat Right Throughout Life for Optimal Health, Says Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

2013-05-22

Media Contacts: Ryan O'Malley, Allison MacMunn
800/877-1600, ext. 4769, 4802 media@eatright.org

CHICAGO – During Older Americans Month, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds Americans that nutrient needs change as we age, so eating right and being physically active are keys to staying healthy throughout life. Ensure you and loved ones are getting the nutrients you need with expert advice from a registered dietitian nutritionist - the food and nutrition expert.

"Healthful eating plays a large role in aging well," says registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy spokesperson Ruth Frechman. "For seniors, it is particularly important to stay well-hydrated with water and choose a variety of foods from all five foods groups to help your body get the nutrients it needs, especially calcium and vitamin D, fiber, B12, potassium and better-for-you fats."

Wednesday, May 29, marks the 20th anniversary of National Senior Health and Fitness Day, rounding out Older Americans Month. It's the nation's largest health promotion event for older adults with the goal to educate seniors on the importance of physical activity - as well as taking care of their health by eating right and getting regular health screenings, too.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide a clear framework of what to aim for on your plate. Adopting some, if not all, of these recommendations can make all of the difference to your health.

  • Make half of your plate colorful fruits and vegetables at every meal. Go for the richly colored green, purple, orange, yellow and red produce. You can use fresh, frozen or canned - just be mindful of the sodium content in canned foods.
  • Vary proteins with lean meat, poultry, fish, as well as beans, peas and legumes.
  • Eat at least three 1-ounce servings of whole grains like whole-wheat bread, oatmeal and brown rice daily.
  • Switch from solid, saturated fats (butter, bacon and sour cream) to healthier, unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, canola oil, grape seed oil, avocados and nuts like pistachios, almonds and walnuts.
  • Aim for at least 3 servings of low-fat dairy (low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese), and be sure it's fortified with vitamin D for healthy bones and teeth.

"Older people have to think about their overall health and the foods they put on their plate can make a big difference," Frechman says. "Maintaining lean muscle mass by getting enough protein, as well as weight bearing activity is vital for bones and overall fitness level."

Physical activity does not have to take long. If you are currently inactive, set a goal to start small. Daily activity can be done in short, 10 minutes intervals. "Moving daily makes a big difference when balanced with healthy eating – it's the perfect equation for a healthy, long life," Frechman says.

If you or a loved one is struggling to meet your nutrition needs there are nutrition programs targeted towards older Americans, like Meals on Wheels or Congregate Dining, that ensure low-income older adults have the nutritional resources they need to prevent or manage chronic health conditions. These programs help older adults remain independent and in their own homes.

For more information on eating right for older adults and to locate a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at www.EatRight.org.

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All registered dietitians are nutritionists – but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. The Academy's Board of Directors and Commission on Dietetic Registration have determined that those who hold the credential registered dietitian (RD) may optionally use "registered dietitian nutritionist" (RDN) instead. The two credentials have identical meanings.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation's health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at www.eatright.org.