This article will give you the tools you need to weigh the pros and cons of diet plans you're considering. First we offer a series of questions whose answers will help you size up any diet's safety, efficacy, and practicality. And then we'll ask you to think about yourself, quizzing you about your likes and dislikes, your habits, and your lifestyle, so you can eliminate diets you just won't get along with.
A healthy diet is rich in fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). As the National Council on Aging notes, details about nutrition for seniors you might change as people age. Because your metabolism slows, you may need fewer calories than earlier in your life. However, your body may need more of certain nutrients. This may be especially true if you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Nutrition for seniors can be complex. Always talk with your doctor before changing your diet.
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.
When we reach our fifties, it’s common to notice a change in daily energy levels. This is normal to an extent, but a vitamin B12 deficiency may also be to blame. If a person tests as B12 deficient, daily supplementation is key. Feeling lethargic obviously isn’t ideal, but accepting a slump in energy can lead to decreased mobility and activity, which contribute to osteoporosis, heart weakening and alterations in bowel movements. Overall health is all one big, interconnected circle, so it’s important to do what’s needed to stay active and maintain a high quality of life. Dietary sources of B12 include beef liver, mackerel, sardines, red meat, yogurt and fortified cereals.
What makes seniors' nutrition such an important topic? Isn't food just…food? Well, you might be surprised. Your food choices can have big impacts on your well-being. For instance, healthy eating habits can improve your energy levels, boost your immune system, and make you feel great inside and out. For some older adults, they can even help restore feelings of youthfulness.
Simply put, good nutrition is essential for your physical health. Making good food choices may help you prevent or manage diseases and other physical conditions. Certain foods—such as those that contain omega-3 fatty acids—can also help your mind stay sharp. So adopting heathier eating habits is in your best interests if you intend to enjoy your senior years to the fullest.
It’s not uncommon for older adults to have special needs related to a healthy diet, according to the National Council on Aging.  As you age, you become more susceptible to chronic health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and osteoporosis. To help prevent or treat these conditions, your doctor may recommend that you eat foods that are rich in nutrients, but low in excess calories, processed sugars, sodium (salt), and saturated and trans fats.
This issue is especially relevant to seniors because difficulty cooking can cause a senior to adopt a diet where the main staple is a pre-packaged meal or an unhealthy indulgence of a particular food group. Even seniors who are attempting to gain weight should eat a balanced diet rather than fill themselves with foods that are high in fat, salt, and sugar or low in nutrients.

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.
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.
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.)
A common disease found in people 50 and older is type 2 diabetes. Dietary fiber is beneficial for slowing down the release of sugar into the bloodstream, which decreases and stabilizes blood glucose levels. Fiber is also important for digestion, lowering cholesterol and helping maintain a healthy weight. It will help promote regular bowel movements as well. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that males 51 and older consume 28 grams of dietary fiber each day and females 51 and older should consume 22.4 grams. Plant foods (beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains) are the best source of fiber and tend to be nutrient dense as well—a win-win!
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.
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