Our body composition changes with age. Aging is associated with an increase in total body fat, as well as a shift of that fat distribution. An older individual has higher total body fat and visceral fat (fat surrounding the organs). While routine physical activity may help lessen this shift, some degree of change is inevitable. To some extent, a small increase in overall fat may be healthy. Think of it this way—if you slip and fall, you will likely fare much better with adequate fat tissue to pad and protect your bones.
Older adults can have trouble understanding and accepting the need for change, so it’s best to introduce new ideas gradually rather than all at once. Working towards a healthier diet in increments can make the overall change seem less overwhelming and painful. Try to share meals with your aging loved one as often as possible. You are not just making sure they eat their vegetables without dousing them in salt; you are also keeping them company. Meals are best enjoyed with other people, and seniors often eat better when they are not dining alone.
Nearly every senior asks me how much they should eat to maintain a healthy weight. Most are concerned that they may gain a few pounds while recovering from surgery or a health setback. The general Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is listed below for senior men and women of different activity levels. However, keep in mind that this is just an overview. Even caloric intake must be personalized for some individuals, depending on whether they need to maintain a healthy weight or lose/gain a few pounds.
Your metabolism slows down. This happens naturally, but it becomes more pronounced if you don’t get as much exercise as you should. When your metabolism slows, your body doesn't burn as many calories, which means you need to eat less to stay at a healthy weight. As a result, the foods you eat should be as nutrient-rich as possible. Most women with average activity levels need about 1,800 calories per day. Men with an average activity level need about 2,300 calories each day. You’ll need fewer calories if you’re sedentary, more if you are very active.
“Rough up” your diet. Include a variety of high-fiber foods every day, such as raw fruits and vegetables and whole grains. These foods help cut down on constipation; provide the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and nutrients that you need for healthy aging; help maintain your weight; and reduce your risk of heart problems. If you’re not sure you’re getting enough fiber, talk to your doctor about supplements.
If you experience a loss of appetite or unintentional weight loss, talk to your doctor immediately. It may be a normal sign of aging. On the other hand, it can also be caused by an underlying health condition that needs treatment. Your doctor and dietitian can also help you lose weight if excess body fat is raising your risk of chronic health conditions or straining your joints and muscles.
The USDA recommends adults at any age should get at least 250 minutes of exercise each week. This can include gentle activities, such as yoga, walking, or swimming, which are also beneficial because they minimize the impact to your joints. Some types of weight-bearing activity—like weight lifting, dancing, step aerobics, or basketball—may also help preserve lean muscle mass.
Do you want to make cooking and eating more enjoyable? Try new recipes on a regular basis and learn how to use a variety of herbs and spices. Eat with your family or friends whenever possible. And exercise prior to your meals in order to help stimulate your appetite. You can also speak to your doctor or pharmacist to find out whether any of your medications cause decreased appetite or loss of taste, which can negatively affect your enjoyment of food.
Our meals don’t just provide necessary nutrition to the seniors in our county. They provide a community. Meals That Connect serves free nutritious noontime meals every weekday to 1,800 seniors throughout San Luis Obispo. Seniors gather together at dining rooms throughout the county to eat together, share stories and build friendships. For those who are unable to leave their homes, volunteers personally deliver meals, using those visits as opportunities to check in on the seniors.
Older adults can have trouble understanding and accepting the need for change, so it’s best to introduce new ideas gradually rather than all at once. Working towards a healthier diet in increments can make the overall change seem less overwhelming and painful. Try to share meals with your aging loved one as often as possible. You are not just making sure they eat their vegetables without dousing them in salt; you are also keeping them company. Meals are best enjoyed with other people, and seniors often eat better when they are not dining alone.
Make a point of avoiding added sugars and saturated fats and increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acids and flavonoid-rich foods. Flavonoids are plant compounds that have shown anti-inflammatory, antithrombogenic, antidiabetic, anticancer and neuroprotective benefits. Dark berries, cocoa, tea, soy, citrus fruits, red wine and nightshade vegetables are just a few examples of ingredients that are high in these phytonutrients. A primarily plant-based diet will help promote immune function.

Concerned about coffee? A study in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics has concluded that daily coffee intake as part of a normal lifestyle is not associated with dehydration. Furthermore, current research suggests that regular coffee consumption may protect against cognitive impairment and decline later in life. This being said, it is good to keep in mind that water is the gold standard for hydration, and should make up a majority of fluid intake.


If you experience a loss of appetite or unintentional weight loss, talk to your doctor immediately. It may be a normal sign of aging. On the other hand, it can also be caused by an underlying health condition that needs treatment. Your doctor and dietitian can also help you lose weight if excess body fat is raising your risk of chronic health conditions or straining your joints and muscles.
Weight loss is a common concern for many older seniors. It may become necessary to eat every two or three hours, eat larger portions at the time of day when your appetite is strongest, incorporate healthy fats into your diet, make healthy smoothies for snacks, and have a healthy bedtime snack. Additionally, if you smoke, then speak to a healthcare professional about resources that can help you quit. (Smoking can reduce your appetite and ability to taste.)
Make a point of avoiding added sugars and saturated fats and increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acids and flavonoid-rich foods. Flavonoids are plant compounds that have shown anti-inflammatory, antithrombogenic, antidiabetic, anticancer and neuroprotective benefits. Dark berries, cocoa, tea, soy, citrus fruits, red wine and nightshade vegetables are just a few examples of ingredients that are high in these phytonutrients. A primarily plant-based diet will help promote immune function.
Most gerontologists agree that the root cause of physiological losses associated with aging—i.e., loss of muscle, skin elasticity, or changes to organ function—result from normal wear and tear to cells that die and are not replaced. Therefore, the effects of cell loss accumulate over time. Though some degree of decline is normal and unavoidable, many individuals may exhibit excellent health well into the “older adult” phase. The Greeks referred to this appearance of vibrancy and youth with age as “agerasia.”
Turning 50 is a milestone for many people. The half-century mark comes with new rules for medical tests and often brings a couple of health-related signals indicating that it’s time for some dietary changes. Even if you have enjoyed a healthy 50 years or more, nutritional needs change over time. Gradual dietary tweaks may be wise to ensure your golden years are, well, golden.
Our body composition changes with age. Aging is associated with an increase in total body fat, as well as a shift of that fat distribution. An older individual has higher total body fat and visceral fat (fat surrounding the organs). While routine physical activity may help lessen this shift, some degree of change is inevitable. To some extent, a small increase in overall fat may be healthy. Think of it this way—if you slip and fall, you will likely fare much better with adequate fat tissue to pad and protect your bones.
Weight loss is a common concern for many older seniors. It may become necessary to eat every two or three hours, eat larger portions at the time of day when your appetite is strongest, incorporate healthy fats into your diet, make healthy smoothies for snacks, and have a healthy bedtime snack. Additionally, if you smoke, then speak to a healthcare professional about resources that can help you quit. (Smoking can reduce your appetite and ability to taste.)

High blood pressure may become an issue around age 50. Taking table salt away is one step towards a heart-healthy diet. Try seasonings such as garlic powder, onion powder, dill, paprika, pepper, citrus and fresh herbs instead. There are many low-sodium and sodium-free alternatives you can cook with that add a great deal of flavor and little or no salt to foods. Be aware of the sodium content of favorite sauces, condiments, and packaged and prepared foods as well. The easiest way to closely monitor sodium intake is to prepare home-cooked meals using fresh ingredients.


Older individuals may be at risk for low B12 due to less intake of foods containing this vitamin and decreased stomach acid secretion, which can inhibit conversion of B12 into a usable form. Vitamin B12 is found naturally only in animal source foods, such as meat, eggs, fish, and dairy products. It also can be added to fortified foods such as breakfast cereals in a crystalline form, which is better absorbed by those in the older population. This crystalline form is not dependent on stomach acid for absorption, making it more bioavailable.

Smoothies are a very useful vehicle for adding more fruit and vegetables into a person’s diet. They are very easy to make and digest and ingredients can be added to customize the nutrition content of each frozen drink. For example, spinach and kale are nutrient-dense ingredients that can be easily blended with fruits like oranges and apples. Although they may change the color of the beverage, leafy greens usually do not affect the taste of the final product. The possible combinations are limitless and can be customized to suit any palate and dietary requirements.


Our meals don’t just provide necessary nutrition to the seniors in our county. They provide a community. Meals That Connect serves free nutritious noontime meals every weekday to 1,800 seniors throughout San Luis Obispo. Seniors gather together at dining rooms throughout the county to eat together, share stories and build friendships. For those who are unable to leave their homes, volunteers personally deliver meals, using those visits as opportunities to check in on the seniors.
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