(Jan. 15) A new food guide pyramid based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPyramid and its 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans highlights the importance of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables for Americans more than 70 years old.

The pyramid, developed by researchers from Tufts University, Medford, Mass., is called the Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults. Although Tufts University works with the USDA on some research projects, this pyramid is not a USDA MyPyramid and is not featured on www.mypyramid.gov.

The pyramid will be featured, however, in educational and resource materials for older Americans. It was published in the January issue of the Journal of Nutrition, and replaces Tufts’ 1999 Food Guide Pyramid for Older Adults.

The pyramid guide emphasizes the importance of fruits and vegetables because of their tendency to have a high level of nutrient content and low caloric content.

Alice Lichtenstein, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, said in a news release that “Older adults tend to need fewer calories as they age because they are not as physically active as they once were and their metabolic rates slow down. Nevertheless, their bodies still require the same or higher levels of nutrients.”

The pyramid looks different than the average food guide pyramid. Its base shows activities, such as swimming, walking and doing yard work, to show the importance of staying active. The next horizontal level is a row of drinking glasses to remind older adults of the importance of staying hydrated.

From there to the top there are six vertical segments:

  • Whole, enriched and fortified grains and cereals such as brown rice and 100% whole wheat bread;

  • Bright-colored vegetables such as carrots and broccoli;

  • Deep-colored fruit such as berries and melon;

  • Low- and non-fat dairy products such as yogurt and low-lactose milk;

  • Dry beans and nuts, fish, poultry, lean meat and eggs; and

  • Liquid vegetable oils and soft spreads low in saturated and trans fat.

Each segment is filled with icons depicting examples of the types of foods people should be eating. In the fruit and vegetable segments, the icons include fresh produce as well as packaged. For example, there are photos of fresh-cut vegetables and single-serve portions of fruit.

The research conducted for the Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults was supported by a grant from the Ross Initiative on Aging at Tufts University and the USDA, according to a news release. The USDA, however, has no intention of adding a pyramid for older adults to its Web site any time soon.

“If we did, it would be in the future,” John Webster, director of public affairs for the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, said.


The next thing on the USDA’s plate is a MyPyramid Menu Planner and a www.mypyramid.gov section for preschool children, he said.

The menu planner, which was originally expected to debut in January, but has been pushed back to the spring, will allow a user to submit what he or she has eaten or submit a meal plan, and it will keep track of the amounts the user has consumed from each food group.

“It helps consumers plan food choices that will meet their personal MyPyramid recommendations, relates MyPyramid food group recommendation to real-life choices and can motivate consumers to make healthier choices,” Webster said.

He said the section for preschool children is in very early stages now. The USDA released its MyPyramid for pregnant and breast-feeding mothers in early November.

Tufts’ variant of MyPyramid targets older people
The Tufts Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults emphasizes fruits and vegetables because of their generally high nutrition and low caloric content. The Tufts MyPyramid also emphasizes exercise.