Young at Heart - Tips for older adults
Health eating

Healthy eating and regular physical activity are keys to good health at any age. They can lower your risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases. They can even help ward off depression and keep your mind sharp as you age. 

This brochure offers tips and tools to help people aged 65 and over eat well and get active. Talk to your health care provider for more specific advice if you have health problems or concerns. Remember, it is never too late to make healthy changes in your life.


What is healthy eating?

A healthy eating plan includes a wide variety of foods. Every day, you should try to eat:*

  • 6 to 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice, or pasta. One serving equals one slice of bread, 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal (about 1 cup of most cereals), or 1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice, or pasta.

  • 3 to 5 servings of vegetables. One serving equals 1 cup of raw, leafy vegetables or 1/2 cup of chopped vegetables, cooked or raw.

  • 2 to 4 servings of fruit. One serving equals one medium piece of fruit like an apple, banana, or orange; 1/2 cup of chopped fresh, cooked, or canned fruit; 1/4 cup of dried fruit; or 3/4 cup of 100 percent fruit juice.

  • 3 servings of milk, yogurt, or cheese. One serving equals 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese like cheddar or mozzarella, or 2 ounces of processed cheese like American.

  • 2 to 3 servings of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, or nuts. One serving of cooked meat, poultry, or fish is 2 to 3 ounces; you should eat no more than 5 to 7 ounces a day. One cup of beans, 2 eggs, 4 tablespoons of peanut butter, or 2/3 cup of nuts also equal one serving.

* Servings and serving sizes are from the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Department of Health and Human Services Food Guide Pyramid.

Tips for healthy eating

To help you stay on track with your healthy eating plan, follow these tips:

  • Eat breakfast every day.

  • Select high-fiber foods like whole grains breads and cereals, beans, vegetables and fruits. They can help keep you regular and lower your risk for chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

  • Choose lean beef, turkey breast, fish, or chicken with the skin removed to lower the amount of fat and calories in your meals. As you age, your body needs fewer calories, especially if you are not very active.

  • Have three servings of low-fat milk, yogurt, or cheese a day. Dairy products are high in calcium and vitamin D and help keep your bones strong as you age. If you have trouble digesting or do not like dairy products, try reduced-lactose milk products, or calcium-fortified orange juice, soy-based beverages, or tofu. You can also talk to your health care provider about taking a calcium and vitamin D supplement.

  • Keep nutrient-rich snacks like dried apricots, whole wheat crackers, peanut butter, low-fat cheese, and low-sodium soup on hand. Eat only small amounts of dried apricots, peanut butter, and other high-calorie foods. Limit how often you have high-fat and high-sugar snacks like cake, candy, chips, and soda.

  • Drink plenty of water. You may notice that you feel less thirsty as you get older, but your body still needs the same amount of water. Aim for eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of water, unless your health care provider tells you to drink less because you have heart or kidney problems. Water-based beverages like milk or juice count towards your daily amount of water.

Planning and preparing your meals

It is easier to eat well when you plan for your meals and make them enjoyable. Try these tips:

  • Grocery shop with a friend. It is pleasant and can help save you money if you share items that you can only use half of, such as a bag of potatoes or head of cabbage.

  • Cook ahead and freeze portions to have healthy and easy meals on hand for days when you do not feel like cooking.

  • Keep frozen or canned vegetables, beans, and fruits on hand for quick and healthy additions to meals. Rinse canned veggies and beans under cold running water to lower their salt content.

  • Look for fruit canned in juice or light syrup.

  • Try new recipes or different herbs and spices to spark your interest in food. Set the table with a nice cloth and even a flower in a vase to make mealtime special.

  • Eat regularly with someone whose company you enjoy.

If you are unable to cook for yourself, find out about a community program in your area that serves meals or delivers "Meals on Wheels." Call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 for information on the program nearest you.

Check with your health care provider

If you have a problem eating well, such as trouble chewing or not wanting to eat, talk to your health care provider or a registered dietitian. They can give you specific advice on following a healthy eating plan. Check with your dentist about caring for your teeth or dentures and your gums.

The death of a loved one or moving from your home of many years may affect your desire to eat. Talk to your health care provider if events in your life are keeping you from eating well.

Ask your health care provider if you should take a daily multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. No pills have been proven to "stop aging" or "improve your memory." Taking a "one-a-day" type, however, can help you meet the nutrient needs of your body every day.


Recommend books:

Related articles:
Healthy eating plan 
Food Guide Pyramid, whole grains, herbs, vegetables and fruits, calories

Credits: The Weight-control Information Network (WIN)

This article has informational purpose and  isn't a substitute for professional advice.

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