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Nutritional Needs of Older Individuals


By Holly Greuling RD, LD/N, Nutritionist, Administration on Aging, U.S. Administration for Community Living

Happy National Nutrition Month!  During this month, take stock of your nutritional habits.  

Eating a healthy balance of nutritious foods is more important than ever as you age.  Eating the right foods, eating the right amount of foods and regular physical activity will help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.  Almost 45 percent of people over age 65 have one or more chronic conditions or disease. Eating right helps prevent and manage many diseases that affect older people, such as diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Healthy eating tips for older adults include:

  • Eating many different colors and types of vegetables and fruits. Choose dark green vegetables or fruits such as spinach, kale, kiwi or avocado; consume bright orange-red colored vegetables or fruits such as tomatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, oranges, pomegranate, mangos or strawberries.

  • Making sure at least half of your grains are whole grains.  This will help provide nutrients that you need, but also will add fiber to your diet.  Choose brown rice, whole wheat bread or oatmeal to help increase your fiber and nutrient intake.

  • Eating only small amounts of solid fats and foods with added sugars.  These foods add calories to your diet but few or no nutrients.  Cut back on solid fats.  Butter, doughnuts, candy bars and sweetened soda/pop add calories but little else.

  • Limiting saturated or solid fat found mostly in foods that come from animals.  These foods provide nutrients, but also more fat than you need.  If you consume animal products, choose lean meats, fat free milk, and skinned chicken.  Choose baked, steamed or broiled rather than fried foods.

  • Drinking fluids.  Drink plenty of water, 100 percent juice, skim or low fat milk, and coffee or tea to stay hydrated.  Our ability to detect thirst declines as we age, so drink fluids routinely and do not wait until you are thirsty.

  • Eating a variety of foods.  This will help to insure that your diet includes the 40+ nutrients you need to keep your body healthy.  

Some older people have trouble consuming the nutritious foods they need to stay healthy and independent.  Some have trouble chewing, take medications that prevent them from eating certain foods, or simply do not like to eat alone. Others have physical problems that make it hard to shop for groceries or cook.

If you have trouble getting, preparing, or eating a healthy diet, you should know about the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program (OAANP), a program of the Administration on Aging (AoA), an agency within the U.S. Administration for Community Living.  The OAANP is a nationwide program for frail or vulnerable people aged 60 and older that provides food and nutrition services including:

  • Meals served at senior centers and other community gathering places.
  • Home-delivered meals for homebound persons.
  • Nutrition screening, education, and counseling.

The OAANP serves all 50 states, six territories and 256 tribes through a network of more than 5,000 local nutrition service providers.  If you suspect that an older loved one or neighbor isn’t able to get proper nutrition, then help them find a local aging service provider by visiting the Eldercare locator website.

If you or a loved one needs additional information on the nutritional needs of older adults, please visit the National Institute on Aging website or visit Administration on Aging

Healthy Aging Your Way

Every generation puts its own spin on the aging process, and how you approach your 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond is different than the way your parents did. This September during Healthy Aging Month, find the latest government information to help you improve your physical, mental and financial health:

Staying in the pink

Get a group of friends together, and the subject eventually turns to health, from managing medications to getting more physically active. Use the Go4Life website from the National Institute on Aging for helpful tips, encouraging success stories and modern, realistic fitness plans to build your strength, flexibility and endurance. And visit’s Healthy Aging section for suggestions on handling age-related health challenges, from treating osteoporosis and caring for aging skin to preventing falls and understanding drug labels.

More than just “the blues”

Depression can take away your enthusiasm for the things and people you care about. It can creep in if you live with constant physical pain, are grieving a loved one or are facing the loss of your independence. And it can be conquered. Learn how getting evaluated and treated by your doctor can help you get back to feeling like yourself again.

Chasing the pot of gold

Scammers never seem to run out of tricks. They offer fake health cures for arthritis or try to talk you into medical equipment you don’t need. You might get high pressure phone calls urging you to give to a questionable charity or to try to get you to agree to a reverse mortgage or investment scheme. But you don’t have to be anybody’s victim. With the FBI’s extensive list of scams that target seniors, you can empower yourself to recognize and steer clear of con artists.

For tips on managing your money, getting government benefits and services, volunteering in your community, grandparenting and more, visit our special Senior Citizens’ Resources section.

Take Control Of Your Health During Healthy Aging Month

September is Healthy Aging Month.

Become wiser about your health! Order this free packet of publications that provides practical health tips to:

  • Get blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control
  • Recognize the symptoms of diabetes
  • Avoid health scams by learning their tell-tale signs, and more.