In an effort to help consumers better understand the nutritional value of foods, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently updated the Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods and beverages. This is especially important to seniors who may not even realize their nutritional needs are changing as they age. For example, seniors may need fewer calories but require higher levels of certain vitamins like B-6 and D, and minerals like calcium.
To make the most of the new labels take a look at what has changed and tips for choosing foods wisely.
An overview of changes to nutrition labels
It’s been 20 years since the FDA updated nutrition labels. During that time nutritional research has provided new information that the agency felt should be included. One of the most important is the change from representing “Added Sugars” in grams to a percent Daily Value. According to the FDA article, “Using the Nutrition Facts Label: For Older Adults,” this measurement makes it easier to calculate how much a serving of food contributes added sugar to the total diet, something that is very important to everyone, especially those watching their weight or who have diabetes.
Another helpful change is the addition of vitamin D and potassium to nutrition labels because they are among the nutrients that are often lacking in our diets, but that are essential to good health. As noted in the FDA article, “Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label,” “Vitamin D is important for its role in bone health, and potassium helps to lower blood pressure.”
Also reflecting how we really eat is the elimination of vitamins A and C from the nutrition labels simply because deficiencies of either are rare in the U.S. Although no longer required, both may still be voluntarily included on nutrition labels. Other nutrients have new Daily Values that are based on new scientific evidence.
Another notable change on nutrition labels is the serving sizes which are legally required to represent an amount typically consumed, rather than how much should be consumed. While some serving sizes increased, such as soda from eight to 12 ounces, others such as yogurt decreased from eight ounces to six ounces.
For those concerned with fat consumption, the “Calories from Fat” entry has been eliminated because research has shown the type of fats (saturated or trans) is more important to know than the amount. However, “Total Fat” is still included on nutrition labels.
Make a plan with MyPlate
To help make the most of the new nutrition labels and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, the FDA created My Plate, a website with an abundance of dietary information and the Start Simple with MyPlate app.
MyPlate provides a platform for anyone to create a MyPlate Plan according to their age, gender, height, weight and level of physical activity that provides the number of calories needed for good health, as well as a breakdown of daily food groups required and amounts of different foods to get those calories. There is even a printable MyPlate Plan to help keep track and reach targets.
The Start Simple with MyPlate app lets users establish goals, track progress, tackle challenges and earn badges. In addition, the Shop Simple with MyPlate tool is a handy way to find local savings on foods and get ideas for purchasing and preparing meals with budget-friendly foods.
Dietary tips for seniors
Tip #1 – The number of servings per container is the first item on nutrition labels and provides the number as well as the serving size and weight. Keep in mind that everything on the label is presented by serving, not by total package size.
Tip #2 – Keep your total daily caloric needs in mind when choosing the number of servings to eat. Although the general guide is 2,000 calories per day, seniors may need more or less. Use the MyPlate Plan calculator to determine specific needs and always check the nutrition labels to stay on track.
Tip #3 – In general, the FDA recommends seniors zero in on foods that have a higher percent Daily Value (or %DV) of dietary fiber, vitamin D, calcium, and potassium, and lower %DV of saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar.
Tip #4 – Pay attention to added sugar because too much can use up calories that are better spent on more nutritional foods. For those with a 2,000 calorie per day limit, the DV for added sugar is 50 grams per day.
Good nutrition is one of the many essential components of a healthy lifestyle and at Sonrisa Senior Living we go the extra mile to make each meal nutritious as well as elegant! Download our free Guide to Aging Well to learn more about the healthy eating habits of the “super agers” around the world. Contact us today to find out more about luxury senior living at Sonrisa and schedule a tour!