Nutrition bingo a winner for seniors

Half a cup of raisins. One large orange. One cup of broccoli. Five whole-wheat crackers.

A lady, Angie Gutierrez, stands beside a table full of information and posters as she calls to participants in nutrition bingo educational program.
Angie Gutierrez, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent for family and community health in Bexar County, calls out the name and serves size of food items on nutrition bingo cards. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

These aren’t ingredients for a recipe, but some of the call-outs seniors heard at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service programs featuring a “nutrition bingo” educational activity.

AgriLife Extension recently presented two of its Educational Nutrition Bingo programs – one at St. Timothy’s Senior Center and another at the Edgewood Independent School District’s Emma Frey Service Center – to more than 70 San Antonio seniors. Along with playing a nutrition-related version of bingo, seniors received nutrition instruction and tips for healthier eating.

The programs were presented by AgriLife Extension staff, nutrition educators and members of the agency’s Better Living for Texans program. Partnering organizations included Superior HealthPlan, Wellcare and the Alamo Area Council of Governments. Among the program attendees was Precinct 2 County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez.

What is nutrition bingo?

“Playing bingo is a favorite activity among seniors, and we use bingo cards with illustrations of various foods from the essential food groups,” said Angie Gutierrez, AgriLife Extension family and community health agent, for Bexar County. “We call out the food items and players cover the illustrations with different colored translucent plastic discs, then yell ‘bingo’ when they have filled their cards.”

tables full of senior citizens with masks at St.  Timothy's Senior Center in San Antonio playing nutrition bingo.
Seniors at one of the recent Educational Nutrition Bingo programs held in Bexar County. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

Gutierrez said the nutrition bingo game used by AgriLife Extension uses US Department of Agriculture MyPlate food categories and serving recommendations. The categories are fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy.

“These programs provide older adults with a fun, interactive experience while getting nutrition and health tips that promote healthy lifestyle choices,” Gutierrez said. “Participants who win receive nutrition-related prizes.”

Olga Herrera, an attendee at the St. Timothy senior nutrition program, said her experience was both fun and educational.

“I liked that the nutrition bingo cards had all the recommended food groups and showed the proper serving size for each item,” she said. “And making a game out of it made it more interesting and really got my attention.”

Herrera also said the information on the bingo card would be useful when she returned home from the program.

“I’ll know to look for more whole-grain foods and to eat more fruits and vegetables,” she said. “My friend and I both took pictures of the bingo cards on our phones so we can refer to the information on them once we get home.”

Gutierrez said nutrition bingo is just one of the interactive ways AgriLife Extension involves Texans in nutrition education.

“We also have hands-on programs like the Dinner Tonight! a program that shows people how to cook healthful meals as well as many other health and wellness programs that involve individuals, groups and the community. ”

She said nutrition and making healthy food choices are important, no matter what age.

“And having special events like these Educational Nutrition Bingo programs gives seniors the opportunity to learn more about nutrition while doing something fun and enjoying camaraderie with other seniors.”

Why senior nutrition education is important

Nelda Leyba Speller, AgriLife Extension director, Bexar County, said community nutrition programs are very important, especially for seniors.

“As people age, they become more susceptible to illness and may develop chronic health problems,” she explained. “And good nutrition is one way to help prevent those things from happening.”

She also noted food security and nutrition among older adults is just as important as for the young.

“The importance of eating nutrient-dense foods, maintaining a healthy weight, and remaining as physically active as possible as we age can strengthen our immune system, regulate blood sugar, regulate blood pressure, and keep our brains functioning at an optimal level,” she said.

Speller said AgriLife Extension provides nutrition education to people of all ages and strives to implement nutrition and wellness programming in underserved communities.

“We often hold free or low-cost nutrition programming in low-income or limited-resource areas of the county,” she said. “Often there is little in the way of nutritional education outreach in such areas, so we offer the program as part of our agency’s mission to improve the lives of all Texans.”

Speller said the agency will offer more Educational Nutrition Bingo programs in Bexar County throughout the year. For more information on these and other AgriLife Extension programs in Bexar County, go to https://bexar-tx.tamu.edu/.

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