Diet and nutrition in older adults

  • Aim for quality, using the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Healthy Eating Plate as a guide. At most meals try to fill half of your plate with vegetables, a quarter of your plate with whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, or whole-wheat bread, and the final quarter of your plate with lean protein such as fish, poultry, beans, or eggs.
  • Pick healthy fats, which can serve as a source of concentrated, healthy calories. Healthy fats include olive oil, canola oil, peanuts and other nuts, peanut butter, avocado, and fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel. Limit unhealthy saturated fat including fatty red meat.
  • Work dietary fiber into your diet. Fiber helps to keep bowel function normal and can help decrease risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The Institute of Medicine recommends that total fiber intake for adults older than 50 should be at least 30 grams per day for men and 21 grams for women. Most fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are good sources of fiber. Nuts and seeds are also good sources, but whole-grain breads and beans may be easier to chew if you have dental problems or dentures. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids as you increase your fiber intake.
  • Adjust portion sizes. If you’re trying to maintain a healthy body weight, reduce portion sizes instead of sacrificing components of a balanced meal. If you need to gain a few pounds, try to increase your portions rather than eating foods that are high in added sugar and unhealthy saturated fat.
  • Some older adults find their appetite is greater in the morning and during the day, compared to evening. If so, try to have a healthy breakfast that includes protein, whole grains, and fruit along with a balanced afternoon meal. Then go light on dinner.