Diet for Seniors: What to Eat and What to Avoid

Maintaining a healthy diet is more important than ever once you reach 60. Check out these healthy eating tips to help you stay strong and avoid health problems.

It’s an odd cycle. Every year, around the holidays, we are flooded with magazines, marketing, and social pressure to eat rich food. Online and in stores, we see images of smiling people, eating, and drinking with abandon. Then, come January—it’s time for diets, exercise, and resolutions.

In the summer, the magazines are filled with diets for seniors, swimsuits, and ways to get in shape. At the same time, ads show pictures of fat-laden BBQs and tasty beverages.

Perhaps it works to sell books, plans, food replacement powders, and most importantly, hope.

But as a wise person you know better. You’ve been watching this pattern for decades. There must be a more balanced approach to dieting for seniors. There must be a better way. And, in fact, there is.

An older black woman measures her stomach with a tape measure

If you’ve tried to eat more healthily before, you may have been successful, unsuccessful or had mixed results. In fact, past experiences and emotions may be clouding the way for moving forward. Negative feelings such as self-doubt, sadness, anger, or resentment can get in the way of your success.

Today, we’ll be helping you work towards successfully living a healthier life by giving you healthy eating tips for seniors that are easy to follow and incorporate into your life.

Guide Overview

How Do Our Bodies Change as We Age?
Healthy Food for Seniors Citizens
Tips for Healthy Eating for Seniors
Unhealthy Food Habits for Senior Citizens
Meal Planning for Seniors
Assistance Club Summary

How Do Our Bodies Change as We Age?

The aging process brings a lot of changes to our bodies and minds. As we age, our physical abilities often decline, and we may become more vulnerable to health problems. It’s important to be aware of these changes so that we can adapt our lifestyles accordingly and remain healthy and active for as long as possible.

Physical Changes

One of the most significant changes that occurs as we age is a decrease in muscle mass. This can lead to a loss of strength, balance, and flexibility, which can make everyday activities more difficult. It’s important to maintain an active lifestyle as you age in order to keep your muscles strong. Regular exercise will also help to reduce the risk of falls and other injuries.


As we age, our metabolism also slows down, which means that we need to be more conscious of our diets. We may not be able to eat the same way we did when we were younger and metabolically more active. Instead, we need to focus on eating healthy foods for older adults to give us the nutrients we need without adding unwanted calories.

Medical Conditions

Medical conditions you may be facing will also directly impact the kind of diet you should have. If you have a medical condition, it’s important to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian about how it may affect your diet. Certain conditions, such as diabetes, can require special dietary considerations. Others, such as heart disease, may worsen due to certain foods and beverages. By working with a healthcare professional, you can develop a diet plan for seniors that will help you stay healthy despite your medical condition.


As we age, our appetites change as well. In fact, loss of appetite in seniors is quite common. We may not feel as hungry as we once did, or we may find that certain foods don’t appeal to us as much as they used to. This is normal and there are a few things that can contribute to these changes.

One reason for changing appetites is that our bodies become less efficient at using energy from food. This means that we don’t need to eat as much to get the same amount of energy. Additionally, since our metabolism slows down as we age, this can also lead to a decrease in appetite.

Changes in hormones can also affect our appetites. For example, older adults are more likely to have a decreased production of stomach acid, which can make it more difficult to digest food. Additionally, many older adults take medications that can affect appetite, such as diuretics, beta blockers, and anticholinergics.

Asian senior woman with yellow shirt pushing food away

Healthy Food for Seniors Citizens

A healthy diet for seniors includes fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources such as chicken or fish, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. It’s also important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

It’s also important to limit processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive amounts of saturated and unhealthy fats. Seniors should also make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

In addition to changes in diet for seniors, there are also some specific vitamins and minerals that are important for seniors to focus on. These include calcium for strong bones, vitamin D for immunity and bone health, and omega-3 fatty acids for heart health.

Tips for Healthy Eating for Seniors

Making changes to your diet can be difficult, but it’s important to remember that small changes can make a big difference. You can start with one of these healthy eating tips for seniors below and gradually add more as you go.

  1. Focus on nutrient-dense foods

    Because your body digests food slower and you have less of an appetite, you need to focus on foods that are high in nutrients and low in calories, so you don’t need to eat much of it. Nutrient-dense foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

  2. Limit processed foods and added sugars

    These foods are often high in calories but low in nutrients. They can also contribute to health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.

  3. Stay hydrated

    Make sure to drink plenty of fluids, especially water, throughout the day. Seniors are at a higher risk of dehydration, so it’s important to stay on top of your fluid intake.

  1. Be aware of food safety

    As we age, our immune system may not be as strong as they once were. This means that we’re more susceptible to foodborne illnesses. Make sure to regularly wash your hands and properly cook food to reduce your risk of getting sick.

  2. Talk to a registered dietitian

    If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to healthy eating for seniors, a registered dietitian can help. They can assess your individual needs and create a plan that is tailored specifically for you.

  3. Plan ahead

    Make sure you have healthy snacks on hand, so you don’t get too hungry and end up consuming unhealthy meals.

  4. Eat with others

    Having meals with others can be a great time to socialize and connect. This can also be a form of accountability by encouraging each other and preparing healthy food for one another. If you live alone, invite friends or family members to eat together whenever possible.

  5. Be active

    Diet for seniors is not enough to keep you healthy. You need to combine it with regular exercise. Physical activity helps to boost metabolism and can also help reduce stress. Yoga for older adults of even just 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day can make a big difference.

Smiling black american seniors with golf clubs on a golf course

Unhealthy Food Habits for Senior Citizens

Just as there are healthy diet habits for that seniors should adopt, there are also some unhealthy ones that they should avoid. These include skipping meals, not eating enough fruits and vegetables, eating too much saturated and unhealthy fats, drinking sugary drinks, and consuming too much salt.

Food Seniors Should Avoid

There are certain kinds of food that seniors should avoid, either because they are high in calories and low in nutrients or because they can contribute to health problems.

  1. Processed meats

    These are meats that have been treated to extend their shelf life, such as bacon, sausage, and deli meats. They are high in saturated fat and sodium, which can increase your risk of heart disease.

  2. Sugary snacks and desserts

    Foods like cookies, cake, and candy are high in sugar and calories but low in nutrients. They can contribute to weight gain and health problems like diabetes.

  3. Refined carbs

    Examples of refined carbs include white bread, pasta, and pastries. These foods are made with refined flour, which has been stripped of its nutrients. They can cause spikes in blood sugar levels and should be limited if you’re trying to eat healthy.

  4. Artificial sweeteners

    These are often used as a sugar substitute in foods and beverages. But they can actually have negative health effects, such as disrupting the body’s blood sugar levels.

White male senior sitting on couch eating chocolate cake

Meal Planning for Seniors

When it comes to meal planning for seniors, there are a few unique considerations to take note of. For example, many seniors live with chronic conditions that may require special dietary restrictions. Additionally, some seniors may not be able to cook for themselves or may not have access to healthy food options. But despite these challenges, there are ways that seniors can eat healthy and enjoy their meals.

One option for seniors who have trouble cooking is to make meals in advance and freeze them. This way, they can have a healthy meal on hand whenever they need it. Additionally, many senior centers and community organizations offer meal delivery services. These services can be a great option for seniors who live alone or have difficulty getting to the grocery store.

Another thing to consider when meal planning for seniors is the type of food that they eat. For example, older adults generally need more calories and protein than younger adults. However, they also need less saturated fat and sodium. So, when making a diet plan for seniors, it’s important to focus on foods that are nutritious and lower in these unhealthy nutrients.

Healthy Eating for Seniors and Intrinsic Motivation

When it comes to healthy eating for seniors, we often think about following diets or eating certain foods for extrinsic reasons like losing weight or improving our health. But what about intrinsic motivation? Intrinsic motivation is driven by a personal interest or enjoyment in the activity itself. So, if you’re intrinsically motivated to eat healthy, you’re doing it because you enjoy it and it makes you feel good, rather than because you want to lose weight or lower your cholesterol levels.

Intrinsic motivation is about building goals based on your values. In other words, what matters most to you. Losing weight, maintaining your ideal weight, staying fit and active are powerful incentives. These can make a dramatic difference in the quality of life we experience at 60 and beyond.

To find your deepest motivation, define what matters most to you. Do you want to walk, bike and hike with your partner? Do you want to easily lift and play with grandkids? Do you want to move with balance, ease, and flexibility?

By examining your motivation and values, you’ll have an easier time making decisions in the moment. When faced with a drink or dessert you crave, you’ll know why you’re making a healthier choice.

Assistance Club Summary

The #1 Take Away: Having a healthy diet matters more than ever once you turn 60.

Load up on nutrition-dense foods like lean proteins, vegetables, and complex carbs to get the nutrients you need to maintain regular body functions.

If you’re having a tough time sticking to a healthy diet, try pairing it with mindfulness eating. With mindfulness-based methods, you can develop the skills you need. Escape fad dieting and make health-affirming choices that will work in your 60’s—and for your entire life.

If you need more tips on healthy eating for seniors, make sure to check out the rest of the Senior Assistance Club articles!