Most of us know that good nutrition is a critical part of being healthy—"you are what you eat" is an old adage for a good reason. Not only does healthy food fuel our brains and bodies, but a diet high in unhealthy food can reduce immunity, and even impair physical and mental development. For these reasons, good nutrition is particularly important for older people and people with disabilities.
This March, the Administration for Community Living celebrates National Nutrition Month® by taking time to emphasize our nutrition-based programs created under the Older Americans Act and the effects of food on brain health. National Nutrition Month is sponsored each year by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This year’s theme is "savor the flavor of eating right." Our efforts in nutrition are important pieces of the larger puzzle of support that helps people thrive in their own communities.
Nutrition and Older Americans
The Nutrition Programs administered by ACL’s Administration on Aging and the nationwide aging network are trusted resources for providing home—delivered and congregate meals in communities across America. Not only are the prepared meals healthy and balanced, but they also provide an opportunity for socializing—which is itself another key ingredient of good health. When you think about what older adults need in order to live independently in the community, you often think about meal services first. And indeed these programs are a pillar of the Older Americans Act through which Congress funds this important service.
While nutrition services are vital, the current system is under a lot of stress. That’s why ACL proposed funding innovative new projects in the President’s FY 2017 budget to improve the quality and effectiveness of the nutrition program for older people. If approved, this proposal will help Area Agencies on Aging, Meals on Wheels programs and other organizations which do the buying, cooking and delivery of meals to look at approaches like web-based ordering, salad bars, ways to provide fresh fruits and vegetables without excessive food waste, and ways to involve more volunteers. Innovations in nutrition programs may include a daily smart phone enabled vitals check-in, or nutrition educational programs over the local cable channel, or nutritional counseling sessions over video chat.
Nutrition and Brain Health
For National Nutrition Month, ACL’s “What is Brain Heath?” released two stop-action videos featuring simple, brain healthy recipes. The campaign, which aims to educate Americans about the importance of a healthy brain, also released a short animated video urging viewers to make the connection between a healthy diet and reducing some risks to the brain. Both the animation and the recipe videos can be viewed on the campaign’s website BrainHealth.gov and on the Facebook page ACL What is Brain Health?
While the benefits of healthy eating are in the spotlight each March, we need to remember that good nutrition is important year-round. ACL helps provide nutrition services and information so we can all remember that it’s not just that you are what you eat, but your brain is too!