What does a balanced senior diet look like?

September 9th, 2020

When you read advice on aging, most articles recommend maintaining a healthy diet. This isn’t just because of society’s fixation on appearance. A balanced diet, combined with an active lifestyle, is one of the best ways to prevent things like heart disease and diabetes. 

So what is the recommended diet for seniors? Obviously a person’s dietary needs are unique. But the USDA does have some general recommendations for adults 50 and older. How many calories you should eat per day depends on your level of activity. If you aren’t sure how much you should be eating, consult your doctor for specific recommendations. The categories below are shown in ranges, because people of different ages and activity levels have different caloric intakes. That said, here’s what the USDA recommends eating each day: 

  • 1.5 to 2.5 cups of fruit (For reference: 1 cup = 1 small or half of a large apple)
  • 2 to 3.5 cups of vegetables, including dark green and red/orange vegetables, beans and peas, including starchy vegetables (For reference: 1 cup = 1 large bell pepper or 2 medium whole carrots)
  • 5 to 10 oz of grains (For reference: 1 slice of bread is about 1 oz.)
  • 5 to 7 oz of protein, including meats, poultry, eggs, seafood, nuts, seeds, and soy products (For reference: 3 oz. of meat is about the size of a standard deck of playing cards)
  • 2.5 to 3 cups of dairy
  • 22 to 36g of oils (For reference: 28g = about 2 tablespoons vegetable oil)

However, there are a number of challenges that can prevent older adults from getting the nutrition they need. 

First, taste simply changes with age. As we get older, our sense of smell tends to weaken, which makes it more difficult to taste things. Though older adults are stereotyped as having a sweet tooth or liking really salty foods, this is often a result of a weakened sense of smell. Another challenge many seniors face is poor dental health. Weakened or missing teeth and receding gums can make eating difficult. Lastly, there can be many challenges with even getting food. Making trips to the grocery store is difficult or impossible if you live with mobility challenges or don’t drive. 

Thanks to technology, though, it’s easier than ever to get groceries. Delivery services help bMeal kits are another option, because food comes in healthy, pre-portioned packages. 

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