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Better Nutrition as You Age

By Elisabeth Moore, RD, LDN
Registered Dietitian at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Q. How important is maintaining a healthy diet as you age?

A. Very important. As we age, we need to follow a healthy diet for optimal nutrition. We need to consume a balanced diet containing carbohydrates (choose mainly whole grains), proteins (lean sources are ideal) and fats (low fat products and healthy, plant-based fats). We also want to consume plenty of fruits and vegetables and a good variety of all foods. Depending on any medical conditions, it may be important to follow a special diet outlined by your doctor and dietitian.

Q. Do your caloric requirements change as you get older? How?

A. Yes. Our metabolism slows down and we are often less active in older age. We may need fewer overall calories to maintain weight. There is no magic number, but being in tune with your weight and amount you eat can be helpful in adjusting your intake for weight maintenance, loss or gain.

Everyone has different calorie requirements so again, there is no exact number. However, if you were able to maintain your weight at age 30 consuming 1,800 calories per day, you may need to cut this down to 1,500 calories to maintain your weight at age 65.

Q. Are there any nutrients that become more essential as you get older?

A. Some people may have issues with adequately absorbing certain nutrients (blood tests can usually indicate if this is a problem), so supplementing with a multivitamin or adding certain foods to your diet may be necessary. As with any age, calcium and vitamin D are vital; if your intake of foods that contain these is low, consider a supplement. Also, taking in plenty of fluid to prevent dehydration and/or constipation is important. Adding more fiber (along with fluid) can also prevent constipation.

Q. Are there any foods that should be avoided?

A. There aren't any foods everyone should avoid, unless specified by their doctor or dietitian related to a medical condition or food allergy. As for the "unhealthy" foods out there, everything can fit in, in moderation.

Q. Should people over age 65 take a vitamin supplement?

A. It's usually a good idea to supplement with a multivitamin: nothing fancy, a one-a-day does the trick. Your doctor or dietitian may also suggest specific vitamins or minerals to supplement due to deficiency or medical conditions.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted July 2012

Contact Information

Division of Gerontology
Department of Medicine
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Lowry Medical Office Building #1B (West Campus)
110 Francis Street
Boston, MA 02215
617-632-8696