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Healthy eating for older adults living at home

healthy eatingA healthy diet for an older adult is essential; eating well can improve our mental agility, affect our energy levels and even our emotional state. However, energy requirements decrease with advancing years. This is due to a reduction in muscle and an increase in fat as we age, meaning that our metabolism falls. What’s more, we generally become less active as we age. Therefore, our diets must alter as we grow older. But that doesn’t mean healthy eating needs to be about ‘dieting’. Rather, we need to concentrate on eating ‘well’.

Here are some tips to maintain healthy eating as we age:-

Portion Size: We need to try to balance our meal size with our level of activity. If you lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle, choose smaller portions, adding plenty of vegetables or salad to bulk-up your meal.

Vitamins: We should aim for five servings of fruit and veg a day. Choose dark, leafy greens for the antioxidants, as well as colourful veg. You can also include dried and tinned fruit and veg to help you reach your five-a-day goal.

Protein: To help make new cells and keep our muscles healthy, it is important we eat protein-rich food. This can include lean red meat, poultry, and fish. Eggs, milk, beans, and nuts also contain protein and can be included in a healthy diet.

Carbohydrates: This is the body’s main source of energy. Try to include carbohydrates in every meal (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, or cereal). Always opt for the healthier high-fibre or wholemeal options – choosing grains over processed white flour for better digestion.

Bone Health: Strong bones are essential for the elderly person. Try to eat three servings of dairy foods a day (milk, cheese and yogurt etc.).

Healthy Fats: These can protect your body against disease and support brain function. Good, monounsaturated fats are found in foods such as nuts, olives, avocados, and seeds. Healthy polyunsaturated fats can be found in fatty fish such as salmon and sardines. Try to avoid saturated or hydrogenated fat found in processed meat, cakes, biscuits, and chocolate.

Sugar: An excess of sugary foods can lead weight gain, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. Try to decrease the sugar in your diet slowly to reduce your cravings for sweet food.

These tips could be beneficially adopted by people of any age group, but it is vital that the older adult pay particular attention to what they eat. Healthy eating as we age doesn’t have to be boring, delicious and nutritious food can have a major impact on our wellbeing and quality of life. Healthy eating and remaining as active as possible can increase our chances of not only living a longer life, but more importantly, living a longer and stronger life.

Further reading

British Nutrition Foundation

Good nutrition for the older person