Nutrition Education

Good nutrition prolongs independence by maintaining physical strength, mobility, endurance, hearing, vision, and cognitive abilities. Eighty-seven percent of older Americans have one or more chronic diseases that can be improved by nutrition therapy, including cancer, chronic lung disease, heart disease, dementia, diabetes mellitus, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, obesity and overweight, and failure to thrive (Draft Nutrition Screening Initiative Policy Statement: Nutrition: Proven Effective in Managing Chronic Disease in Older Americans.)
Nutrition education can be defined as any set of learning experiences designed to facilitate the voluntary adoption of eating and other nutrition-related behaviors conducive to health and well-being. It is an integral part of providing nutrition services to older persons. 
Nutrition services providers must conduct nutrition education activities, consistent with the goals and content described below, at a minimum of two times per calendar year at each site. Providers are encouraged to use existing nutrition education resources from the Basic Food Nutrition Education Program, Washington State University Cooperative Extension, Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, or Department of Health’s 5-a-Day Program. 
Nutrition education should include information on physical activity in addition to nutrition. In recognition of the importance of physical activity on health and the prevention of disease, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend being physically active each day. Regular physical activity sustains the ability of older adults to live independently, and benefits individuals with arthritis and those with depression and anxiety. It may reduce the risk of cognitive decline in older adults, and is effective in helping to manage many chronic diseases.

  1. Nutrition Education Goals
    1. To create positive attitudes toward good nutrition and physical activity and provide motivation for improved nutrition and lifestyle practices conducive to promoting and maintaining the best attainable level of wellness for an individual.
    2. To provide adequate knowledge and skills necessary for critical thinking regarding diet and health so the individual can make healthy food choices from an increasingly complex food supply.
    3. To assist the individual to identify resources for continuing access to sound food and nutrition information.
  2. Nutrition Education Content 
    The Dietary Guidelines, which include maintenance of a healthy weight, daily physical activity, food safety, and moderation of alcohol intake should serve as the framework for all nutrition education activities. The Dietary Guidelines can be found here.
    A nutrition education program makes available information and guidance pertaining to:
    1. Food, including the kinds and amounts of food that are required to meet one's daily nutritional needs.
    2. Nutrition, including the combination of processes by which the body receives substances necessary for maintenance of its functions and for growth and renewal of its components, i.e., ingestion, digestion, absorption, metabolism, and elimination.
    3. Behavioral practices, including the factors which influence one's eating and food preparation habits.
    4. Consumer issues, including the management of food purchasing­ power to obtain maximum food value for the money spent.
    5. Information on physical activity.
    6. Information on the roles of nutrition and physical activity in maintaining health and independence, and preventing or managing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and arthritis.
  3. Nutrition Education Activities 
    Nutrition education consists of activities which provide visual and verbal information and instruction to participants or participants and caregivers in a group or individual setting. The presentations or activities may be led by an RD or ICE, or someone else overseen by an RD or individual with comparable expertise (ICE; see definition under Section VIIB Staffing). The minimum length of one nutrition education presentation is five minutes. 
    Examples of nutrition education activities include: presentations, cooking classes, food preparation demonstrations, field trips, plays, panel discussions, planning and/or evaluating menus, food tasting sessions, question and answer sessions, gardening, physical fitness programs, videos, etc. For home-delivered participants, activities can include the distribution of educational materials.

    When nutrition education is being provided by the nutrition program service provider, all costs associated with the delivery of nutrition education services must be budgeted and charged appropriately to that service.