Healthy eating begins with you! Giving your body the right nutrients and maintaining a healthy weight can help you stay active and independent. You’ll also spend less time and money at the doctor. This is especially true if you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes or heart disease.
The definition of healthy eating does change a little as you age. For example, as you grow older, your metabolism slows down, so you need fewer calories than before. Your body also needs more of certain nutrients. That means it’s more important than ever to choose foods that give you the best nutritional value.
Explore the materials below to get tips on how to find the best foods for your body and your budget.
Tips for Picking Healthy Food as You Get Older
Here are 6 tips to help you find the best foods for your body and your budget.
1. Know what a healthy plate looks like
You might remember the food pyramid, but the USDA recently unveiled a simpler way to help people see what they should eat each day. It’s called MyPlate. The simple graphic shows exactly how the five food groups should stack up on your plate. These are the building blocks for a healthy diet.
2. Look for important nutrients
Make sure you eat a variety of foods to get all the nutrients you need. Your plate should look like a rainbow—bright, colored foods are always the best choice! A healthy meal should include:
- Lean protein (lean meats, seafood, eggs, beans)
- Fruits and vegetables (think orange, red, green, and purple)
- Whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat pasta)
- Low-fat dairy (milk and its alternatives)
Remember to choose foods that are high in fiber and low in sodium or salt. Also, look for Vitamin D, an important mineral as we age.
3. Read the Nutrition Facts label
The healthiest foods are whole foods. These are often found on the perimeter of the grocery store in the produce, meat, and dairy sections. When you do eat packaged foods, be a smart shopper! Read the labels to find items that are lower in fat, added sugars, and sodium.
4. Use recommended servings
To maintain your weight, you must eat the right amount of food for your age and body. The American Heart Association provides recommended daily servings for adults aged 60+.
5. Stay hydrated
Water is an important nutrient too! Don’t let yourself get dehydrated—drink small amounts of fluids consistently throughout the day. Tea, coffee, and water are your best choices. Keep fluids with sugar and salt at a minimum, unless your doctor has suggested otherwise.
6. Stretch your food budget
Want to get the biggest nutritional bang for your buck? The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can help you afford healthy food when you need it. Over 4 million older Americans use SNAP to buy food, and the average senior receives $113 each month. Visit BenefitsCheckUp.org/getSNAP to see if the program can help you.
Share our 6 tips infographic
Spread the word about how to make smarter choices at the grocery store.
Next Steps to Better Nutrition
The Next Steps to Better Nutrition pilot program was developed by the National Council on Aging and the American Heart Association to teach older adults how they can afford, purchase, and cook more nutritious foods.
In a series of 6 hour-long classes, participants learn about the relationship between nutrition and chronic disease, and discover how they can take concrete action steps to improve their diet and keep their heart healthy.
With generous support from the Walmart Foundation, NCOA was awarded funding to pilot test the program in community-based organizations in four cities—Clearwater, FL, Tampa, FL, San Antonio, TX, and Fort Worth, TX.
Haltom City Senior Center, Haltom City, TX
White Settlement Senior Center, White Settlement, TX
Handley Meadowbrook Senior Center, Fort Worth, TX
Northside Senior Center, Fort Worth, TX
Diamond Hill Senior Center, Fort Worth, TX
Alicia Trevino Lopez Senior Center, San Antonio, TX
Elvira Cisneros Senior Community Center, San Antonio, TX
Brandon Senior Center, Brandon, FL
Oaks at Riverview Senior Center, Tampa, FL
Progress Village, Tampa, FL
Ruskin Senior Center, Ruskin, FL
Town ‘N Country Senior Center, Tampa, FL
Wimauma Senior Center, Wimauma, FL
City of Clearwater, Clearwater, FL
Nutrition education modules
These PowerPoint presentations were developed as part of the Next Steps to Better Nutrition pilot, and can be used to deliver nutrition education in seniors centers and other community organizations.
- Making Healthy Food Choices
- Adapting Comfort Foods for Health
- Keeping Your Heart Healthy
- On Your Way to Better Nutrition
Our Healthy Eating Videos
Watch our Next Steps to Better Nutrition videos to get practical shopping and cooking tips. Feel free to share them with older adults in your community!