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.
It’s ideal for seniors, at least some of the time, to eat with others. Seniors living alone can visit senior centers where meals are available along with activities and company from people in their own generation. Senior communities are also a good solution for seniors unable to prepare meals. Common dining rooms and careful attention to nutrition is one of the primary benefits of living at a senior community, and many seniors experience dramatic health improvements when they move to a senior community for the simple reason that they are eating well again for the first time in years.
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.
As we age, our bones weaken due to decreased mobility and mineral loss. Increasing vitamin D and calcium intake to three times per day is appropriate to prevent osteoporosis or to keep the condition from worsening. Many foods, such as cereal, bread and juice, are fortified with both these important dietary components to promote bone health. The National Osteoporosis Foundation also recommends enhancing the calcium content of recipes by adding two to four tablespoons of nonfat powdered milk. Each tablespoon contains 50 mg of calcium, which can help you reach your total daily recommendation.
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.
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.

The food, caloric, vitamin, and mineral intakes noted below are taken from the average recommended guidelines provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its subsidiaries.1 They are general guidelines and do not replace the recommendations provided by your doctor. Additionally, any specific health or nutrition concerns that you have should be discussed directly with your doctor.
*Editor’s note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; it does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group, and it is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.

In addition to the food groups, think about your fluid intake so that you can avoid the potential complications of dehydration. In seniors, thirst sensations often become weaker, so make a conscious effort to consume the amount of fluids your doctor recommends. For some seniors, that means consuming a minimum of nine to 12 cups of fluids per day. Those fluids can include liquids like water, tea, pure fruit juice, and milk. To help yourself consume that amount, drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up, always have a glass or bottle of water with you, and include a glass of water or a cup of tea with your meals.
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.
When it comes to nutrition and seniors, this part of the topic is essential to understand. Certain vitamins and minerals are critical for good physical and mental health. And, as you age, some become more important than others. Check out the most vital ones below, and learn how much of them to consume, what the best food sources are, and what to watch for as potential signs of deficiency.
As you learn more about incorporating good nutrition into your life, keep in mind that it's different than dieting. Implementing a nutrition plan is simply about making healthy food choices on a regular basis and being aware of how much you eat from certain food groups. You still get to enjoy a variety of delicious foods, and you shouldn't be left feeling hungry after a meal. When you combine good nutrition with being active, you'll have an excellent wellness plan in place.
Certain medications can affect how food tastes, according to the National Institute on Aging. Ask your doctor to suggest other options if the medications you take affects your appetite. Some medications can also interact with certain foods and nutritional supplements. If you’re taking a medication, it’s wise to check with your doctor or pharmacist to find out whether you need to make any changes to your diet.

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.
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!
As we age, our bones weaken due to decreased mobility and mineral loss. Increasing vitamin D and calcium intake to three times per day is appropriate to prevent osteoporosis or to keep the condition from worsening. Many foods, such as cereal, bread and juice, are fortified with both these important dietary components to promote bone health. The National Osteoporosis Foundation also recommends enhancing the calcium content of recipes by adding two to four tablespoons of nonfat powdered milk. Each tablespoon contains 50 mg of calcium, which can help you reach your total daily recommendation.
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.

Instead, try salt-free seasonings. The grocery store spice section stocks myriad seasoning options, some of which are very good. Try a salt-free lemon-pepper seasoning for poultry, fish, and vegetables, or a Cajun or savory seasoning for eggs, red meats, and potatoes. Fresh lemon juice and herbs also add great flavor to meats, fish, and vegetables alike.
Sometimes good nutrition for seniors can be easier if someone else does the cooking. If you’re finding it difficult to prepare healthy meals for yourself, talk to a family member, friend, or your doctor.  There may be services available to help make sure you’re getting the nutritional food you need. For example, Meals on Wheels is available across the United States and in other countries. The service may be available where you live.

While one highly publicized study suggested that those who are moderately overweight have slightly longer lifespans, other studies, such as this one at Oxford University, associated being moderately overweight with a decreased lifespan. The overweight, or obese, are said to experience lifespans 10 years less than average according to the Oxford study.
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