Senior Diets Should Include These Foods – More from the Dietitian

This is the fourth of a series of guest posts from our friends at  We think this is helpful information for both seniors and those who care for them.  Those under a physician’s care, especially seniors, should consult a physician before making significant changes in their diet.

Caregivers of seniors continue to seek ways to improve the well-being of their loved ones. To make the necessary lifestyle changes to improve our health, we will now discuss the “Foods and Nutrients We Need to Increase”.

Chapter four of the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations proposed by the USDA and HHS explores some foods that are readily available to America’s seniors but are seldom consumed in quantities that are needed for optimal nutritional health.  It is important for us to understand that certain vitamins and minerals are needed by our bodies every day to stay healthy.

Key Nutrition Recommendations

  • Increase fruit and vegetable intake
  • Eat a variety of vegetables including dark green, red, and orange vegetables; peas and beans
  • Eat half of your grains from whole grain sources by replacing refined grains with whole grains
  • Increase intake of low fat and fat free dairy products such as  milk, yogurt and cheese
  • Choose a variety of lean protein foods including seafood, lean protein, eggs, poultry, beans, soy products, nuts and seeds
  • Choose seafood in place of some servings of lean protein foods each week
  • Replace protein foods that are high in solid fats with foods lower in solid fats or that provide healthy oils
  • Use oils to replace solid fats and eliminate as much trans fat sources as possible
  • Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium and vitamin D.  Food sources include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy foods.
  • Consume foods fortified with vitamin B12 such as fortified cereals or supplements if needed

The goal is to include these important sources of nutrients while maintaining an appropriate calorie level that won’t result in weight gain but rather weight control.  We can do this by choosing the most nutritious foods each time we eat that are high in nutrients and lower in calories.

Eating More Nutritional Foods

  1. Eat fresh fruits with meals and as snacks and drink only 100% juice. The majority of fruit eaten should be in the whole fruit form for added fiber; juice contains little fiber and many calories if taken in large quantities.  Limit canned fruit in heavy syrup.
  2. Add more beans to your menu such as kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, split peas, lima beans and black eyed peas.  Beans are counted as both vegetables and protein due to their abundance of nutrients.
  3. Eat more whole grains such as popcorn, wild rice, and whole grain cereals, breads and crackers.  Ingredients such as bulgur, oats, buckwheat, barley and whole rye or wheat used in place of refined flour will add fiber and nutrients.  Many nutrients and fiber are removed from refined grains during processing.  If you do eat refined grains, be sure they are enriched.
  4. Eat three servings of low fat or fat free milk and milk products such as yogurt, cheese, milk, and fortified soy milk each day.  If you are lactose intolerant, choose low lactose or lactose free products or take a tablet prior to dairy intake.
  5. Fat in meat, eggs and poultry is referred to as solid fat but the fat in seafood, nuts and seeds is referred to as oils.  Choose lean protein sources and include seafood throughout the week-8 oz. of seafood per week is recommended.  Due to the calories in nuts, these should replace other protein sources instead of taken in addition to current amounts of protein.  Try unsalted nuts to reduce sodium.  Your daily protein goal should be 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men.
  6. Replace solid fats in your diet with oils that are beneficial such as soft margarine instead of stick and vegetable oils in cooking instead of butter.  Always choose foods without trans fat.
  7. Select foods that contain adequate amounts of potassium such as fruits (orange juice, prune juice, bananas), vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes) and white beans, soybeans, and clams.
  8. Aim for a dietary fiber intake of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men by adding whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grain cereals.  Read the label to be sure the foods you choose are good sources of fiber.
  9. Include sources of calcium and vitamin D every day; supplementation may be needed if you are unable to meet your needs through food sources alone but be sure to check with your doctor first.  Fortified foods can increase your intake of these nutrients without additional dairy foods.   Sunlight is also an excellent way to get vitamin D.
  10. Because it is often difficult for seniors to absorb the B12 they ingest, fortified foods such as cereals are good choices to get enough of this nutrient.  It may be necessary to take supplemental B12 to fully meet your needs.  Check with your doctor to before adding a supplement.

It is important that we eat a variety of foods each day to stay healthy as we age.  Make new choices each day and include foods you haven’t tried lately to help get all the necessary nutrients you may be missing.  Add fresh fruits, nuts and beans to energize your diet!

Be sure to check out the next installment in our series~~Building Healthy Eating Patterns.

We look forward to your questions and comments.

2 thoughts on “Senior Diets Should Include These Foods – More from the Dietitian”

  1. An interesting article on nutrition for the elderly. I have just finished writing a little book about our,my husband’s and my ‘Challenging Journey’ and in that write how important and beneficial I believe a wholesome diet to be, especially to a dementia patient. I am to give a radio interview tomorrow in regard to my writing and will stress the significance of the food we consume and its effect, not only for someone with a debilitating disease such as dementia is, but for ageing folk also. I am 91 and believe that choosing wholesome food for our daily ration contributes greatly to how we look and feel.
    Thank you, Yvonne

    • Thank you Yvonne for your comments. We also believe in healthy eating and lifestyle when dealing with dementia and other disease processes.

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