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Are You Eating Enough? How to Talk to Seniors about Nutrition

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  • Caring for seniors and their nutritional needs

    Caring for seniors and their nutritional needs

    When you were a child, the adults in your life likely made sure that you got enough to eat. Now that you’re an adult, caretaking roles may have switched.

    Do you know if your older loved ones are getting proper nutrition? Older adults may have trouble preparing their own meals or even forget to eat altogether. It’s important to recognize the signs that older family members may not be eating enough and know what you can do to help.

  • Nutritional needs change

    Nutritional needs change

    As you age, your nutritional needs change. Tufts University researchers designed modified nutritional guidelines to correspond with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommendations.

    MyPlate for Older Adults corresponds to MyPlate, the federal government’s new primary food group symbol. MyPlate for Older Adults provides information about the specific nutritional needs of seniors to ensure they’re eating enough of the right kinds of foods and staying hydrated.

  • MyPlate


    Half of the plate is made up of fruits and vegetables, in a variety of colors. This is to emphasize the importance of eating multiple servings of produce with dark-colored skin, such as tomatoes, peaches, or berries.

    The plate also shows images of low-sodium, low-sugar canned fruits and veggies. These forms are often easier for seniors to prepare.

  • Specific foods for older adults

    Specific foods for older adults

    Some of the foods on MyPlate for Older Adults include:

    • brightly colored vegetables, such as broccoli and carrots, and deeply colored fruit, such as melon and berries
    • whole grains, such as brown rice, cereals, and whole wheat bread
    • nonfat and low-fat dairy products, such as yogurt
    • lean meat
    • poultry
    • fish
    • eggs
    • tofu
    • nuts
    • beans
    • spices in place of salt
    • liquids, such as water, fat-free milk, and orange juice
    • liquid vegetable oils that are low in saturated fats
  • Exercise


    MyPlate for Older Adults also places a new focus on exercise, such as walking, resistance training, and light household chores. According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, obesity rates among older adults are rising in the United States. MyPlate for Older Adults encourages seniors to engage in regular physical activity and maintain a healthy weight.

  • Help with shopping and food preparation

    Help with shopping and food preparation

    Older adults may become less interested in food due to sensory changes that occur with age. These could include changes in smell, taste, or metabolism. If an older loved one in your life is losing interest in food, you can take steps to help.

    According to Colorado State University, a loss of visual acuity can lead to fear of cooking, particularly using the stove, as well as difficulty with grocery shopping. You can offer to help your loved one with shopping and food preparation. Be sure to keep in mind the guidelines from the modified MyPlate guidelines.

  • Experiment with flavors

    Experiment with flavors

    Changes in smell and taste can make food less appetizing. Encourage your older loved ones to experiment with healthy new food flavors. This doesn’t mean introducing extra salt into their diet.

    Low-sodium options include seasonings. These can include:

    • herbs, such as dill or basil
    • spices, such as curry or paprika
    • lemon juice
    • vinegars
  • Stay hydrated

    Stay hydrated

    Many older adults experience a decline in thirst as they age. This can be dangerous because it can lead to dehydration. Remind them to drink a mix of fluids every day to help ensure that stay properly hydrated.

    Although water is the most hydrating fluid, juice, milk and other beverages also provide hydration and add variety.

  • Consider food texture

    Consider food texture

    Food texture can also make a big difference to people with dentures. Assist loved ones with the preparation of foods such as vegetables to avoid overcooking them.

    Emphasize the importance of fresh, flavorful foods with a variety of interesting textures. This will prevent older family members and friends from becoming bored with their diet.

  • Provide guidance

    Provide guidance

    Eating right can become difficult as you get older. Seniors will benefit from some guidance occasionally. Follow the dietary recommendations for people over 50 from the National Institutes of Health:

    • Half of the grains they eat should be whole grains.
    • Aim to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.
    • Eat a limited amount of saturated fats.
    • Eat seafood two times per week.

    • Pay attention to the nutritional needs of your older loved ones to help ensure that they maintain a healthy diet.