A Simple Guide to Senior Nutrition

Good nutrition is the keystone of maintaining good health. Eating a balanced diet rich in nutrients is an important part of good health for people of all ages. And the kind and amount of food a person eats can affect the way they feel and even impact the performance of certain bodily functions. For example, foods that are rich in fiber aid the digestion. Foods rich in iron are important for circulatory health and blood cell function.

For seniors, it is especially important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Eating a well-balanced diet is an extremely important part of staying healthy as you age. It can help you maintain a healthy weight, and get the essential nutrients you need to stay energized. It also lowers your risk of developing chronic health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.

In this article we have assembled a few guidelines to help you, or your aging loved one maintain a healthy balanced diet.

Importance of Good Nutrition

Older persons are at an increased risk of malnutrition, and the process of ageing can affect nutritional needs. For example, while requirements for some nutrients may be reduced, some data suggest that requirements for other essential nutrients may in fact rise in later life.

Many of the diseases suffered by older persons, such as diabetes, are the result of dietary factors, and even genetic predisposition. These factors are then compounded by changes that naturally occur as we age. According to the World Health Organization:

“Dietary fat seems to be associated with cancer of the colon, pancreas and prostate. Atherogenic risk factors such as increased blood pressure, blood lipids and glucose intolerance, all of which are significantly affected by dietary factors, play a significant role in the development of coronary heart disease.”

This just goes to show the impact that food can have on our overall health.

Ways to Maintain Healthy Diet

It is important for older adults to make healthy choices that reflect their preferences, culture, traditions, and budget. Choose fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein foods to get the most nutrition and meet your personal calorie needs. Aim for a variety of foods and beverages from each food group and limit saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.


This food group consists of starchy foods like grains, pasta, oats, potatoes and root vegetables, and foods like breads, breakfasts cereals.

Carbohydrates give our bodies fuel to burn in the form of energy, calcium and B vitamins. Whole grains are rich in fiber, and promote healthy digestion. Many breakfast cereals are also fortified with extra iron. A healthy diet would include 3-5 servings of carbohydrates a day.

These portions should be spread throughout the day and eaten with every meal, including snacks.

One portion of carbohydrate is:

  • One slice of bread, one roll or half a pizza
  • A half cup of breakfast cereal or oatmeal
  • Half cup of pasta, rice, couscous
  • Two small potatoes


The protein group consists of meats, poultry, fish, eggs as well as vegetable protein, nuts, beans, peas and other similar vegetables. Protein is important for maintaining a proper diet, and is essential for our body’s ability to heal. 2-3 servings of protein are recommended each day.

One portion of protein consists of:

  • 4 oz. cold ham, turkey and chicken
  • One medium chicken breast
  • 5 oz. pork sausage.
  • Three bacon slices.
  • 4 oz. beef patty
  • One fillet of fish or fish steak
  • One small can of tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines
  • One cup of cooked lentils or beans


The dairy group consists of milk, cheese, cream, yogurt and any other milk derived food. These foods are rich in protein and calcium, as well as some vitamins such as vitamin B12, vitamin A and vitamin D. Dairy products help maintain healthy bones and teeth. We should try and eat three servings of these a day.

One portion of milk and dairy products:

  • 8 oz. of milk
  • 6 oz. yogurt or cottage cheese
  • 2 oz. of cheese

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and veggies are full of vitamins and antioxidants which are essential for health. They are also high in fiber and low in calories, they will leave you feeling fuller longer, and promote a healthy weight.

One portion of fruit and vegetables:

  • One apple, orange, pear or banana
  • Two smaller fruits such as plums or kiwis.
  • 1/4 cup of dried fruit
  • Half cup of steamed or roasted vegetables


As we age, healthy diet can make a difference in our health, help to improve how we feel, and encourage a sense of well-being. If you are working with a senior placement service for yourself, or on behalf of an aging loved one, be sure to ask about nutritional services and meal options, as well as information on the dietary guidelines established by choosemyplate.gov.