Eating healthy is essential at all stages of life, but the definition of “healthy” can change over time. As we age, our bodies have different needs, so we must adjust our diets to ensure we get the necessary nutrients to support health. What does senior nutrition look like, and what are some of the best food choices for seniors? In this article, we’ll explore some of the healthiest food for the elderly to promote optimal physical and cognitive function in the golden years.
Note: While this guide is a great place to start your senior nutrition journey, we recommend talking to a physician and/or nutritionist to find the right meal plan for you.
What are the top senior nutrition food groups?
1. Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and veggies are nature’s vitamins and one of the most essential food groups for senior nutrition. Experts recommend about 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of veggies per day (although this can vary based on physical activity and personal health needs). Dark, leafy greens like kale and spinach are some of the healthiest food for the elderly because they’re rich in: calcium, which is good for the bones; vitamin C, which supports the immune system; and vitamin K, which boosts blood health.
You want to be mindful of your fruit intake because fruits are high in sugar. Still, a moderate amount of fruits are key to getting essential nutrients. Berries, in particular, are filled with vitamin C and antioxidants that help protect against cell damage. They’re also a good source of fiber, which promotes bowel regularity, making it one of the best food choices for seniors.
2. Lean proteins
Proteins are essential for building and repairing muscles, bones, and hormones. Research suggests that older adults require 50% more protein than younger adults. For those over 65, you should aim for 0.45 to 0.55 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily. This number might increase if you are strength training or particularly active.
Lean proteins like poultry, fish, beans, and tofu are higher in saturated fats, sodium, and calories, which help maintain a healthy weight. Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that can help reduce inflammation, lower the risk of heart disease, and support brain health.
3. Healthy fats
Not all fats are created equally. Saturated and trans fats can cause weight gain and health issues, while healthy fats can decrease inflammation, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, aid in hormone production, and more. Healthy fats are also a healthy source of concentrated calories, which is ideal if you’re trying to gain weight as part of your senior nutrition plan.
4. Whole grains
Whole grains will keep you full and satisfied between meals, and they’re also a great source of fiber. This fiber may help lower bad cholesterol, insulin levels, and blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Healthy whole grains for senior nutrition plans include brown rice, quinoa, whole-wheat bread, barley, oatmeal, farro, and whole-wheat pastas and crackers.
5. Dairy (or dairy alternatives)
Calcium and vitamin D are critical for strong bones – an essential aspect of senior nutrition. Bones can get brittle over time due to osteoporosis, arthritis, and chronic disease, so dairy is the healthiest food for the elderly to help combat this.
Low-fat dairy products are the best food choices for seniors. Opt for low-fat milks, cheeses, and yogurts to get more calcium and variety in your diet.
If you are lactose intolerant or have dairy allergies or sensitivities, try alternative dairies like soy, almond, or coconut milk. Just be mindful of hidden sugar content to ensure you’re not derailing your senior nutrition plan.
What are the best food choices for seniors?
Here are some of the healthiest food for the elderly:
- Blueberries are packed with antioxidants and fiber; studies show that the flavonoids in blueberries may also help with general cognitive function.
- Salmon and other fatty fish (like mackerel and sardines) are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin D, and B vitamins; salmon may even decrease blood pressure.
- Spinach, kale, and collard greens are rich in calcium and vitamin K, and these leafy greens have been linked to slower age-related cognitive decline.
- Nuts and seeds, especially walnuts and macadamia nuts, are a good source of fats, protein, and fiber for senior nutrition; they’re also an easy addition to simple meals like yogurt, oatmeal, or smoothies.
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, turnips, and Brussels sprouts are filled with vitamins and cancer-preventing phytochemicals.
- Eggs provide essential nutrients like vitamin B12, vitamin D, and selenium; the choline in eggs may help regulate mood and memory.
- Avocados are a nourishing, healthy fat loaded with antioxidants; studies show that avocado intake is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.
- Plain Greek yogurt is high in protein and probiotics, which aid in digestion and immune function.
Need some help figuring out what to make for breakfast and lunch? Check out these 6 easy breakfast ideas and these 5 go-to lunch recipes.
11 tips for choosing the healthiest food for seniors
1. Follow your appetite. Many older adults find their appetite is greater in the morning than in the evening. If so, try to eat a dinner-sized portion earlier in the day and then go light at dinner. Don’t eat when you “think” you should; eat when you’re hungry!
2. Adjust portion sizes. If you are trying to gain weight, increase your portion size of healthy foods rather than eating foods high in added sugar or saturated fats. Maintain your senior nutrition plan even when you have weight gain or weight loss goals.
3. Check out the Healthy Eating Plate as a guide to your senior nutrition plan. Generally, you’ll want to fill your plate half with vegetables, a quarter with whole grains, and a quarter with lean protein.
4. Plan your meals in advance. Pre-planning ensures you have healthy food options in the house, so you can avoid the temptation of quick and unhealthy snacks. GoGo Groceries will deliver your groceries to your door whenever you want – last minute or on a regular schedule – to ensure you always have fresh, whole foods in your fridge.
5. Choose nutrient-dense foods. If your appetite tends to be low, every bite counts. Fill your plate with healthy, vitamin-packed food that will contribute to your overall health.
6. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. The perimeter of the grocery store usually contains the healthiest food for the elderly, like fresh fruits, veggies, proteins, and dairy products.
7. Read food labels. Make the best food choices for seniors by looking at the nutritional value on the food labels. Everyone will have their own health goals, and getting used to reading food labels is a great way to ensure you’re effectively eating towards those goals. Learn more about how to understand and use the nutrition label here.
8. Budget for groceries. Many seniors avoid healthy foods because organic, whole foods can be expensive. If you feel your senior nutrition plan is derailed by cost, consider looking into senior financial assistance and local programs to help pay for your food.
9. Consult a senior nutritionist or healthcare professional. A registered dietician –particularly one specializing in senior nutrition – can help you make the best food choices for seniors so your food is fueling your mind and body.
10. Drink water. Staying hydrated is essential for health. Water lubricates joints, protects your spinal cord, removes waste, regulates body temperature, and helps your body function properly. Although you get some water content from your food, you should also drink water regularly throughout the day as part of your senior nutrition plan. Choose water over sugary drinks whenever possible, and carry a water bottle to sip on all day.
11. Order meals for seniors through GoGo Gourmet. If you don’t feel like cooking but want healthy, easy meals, try GoGo’s takeout option. You can order prepared meals from hundreds of chains and local restaurants in your area. Behind the scenes, our GoGoGuardians confirm your dietary preferences and restrictions to ensure your takeout fits your senior nutrition plan. We also track your order to ensure it arrives hot and fresh at your door. Plus, you just have to call our operators, and we’ll handle the ordering for you. With our automated system, you can even save your favorite orders so you can order faster next time.
3 easy senior nutrition recipes
Our number one tip for senior nutrition is to “stack” your healthy food. So, we’ve compiled some easy, go-to recipes that incorporate the best food choices for seniors listed above, along with some other healthy meats, veggies, and oils.
Salmon and avocado salad
This senior nutrition recipe is easy to make and filled with healthy fats and omega-3s.
- 1 pound salmon fillet
- 2 ripe avocados, diced
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- Juice of 1 lime
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place a salmon fillet on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Drizzle olive oil, salt, and pepper over the salmon.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cooked through. The fish should flake easily.
- Let the salmon cool before flaking it into small pieces with a fork.
- Combine the diced avocado, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, and flaked salmon in a large bowl. Gently toss everything together. Season with salt and pepper for a delicious salad chock full of the healthiest food for the elderly.
This is an easy but hearty sandwich perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s one of our favorite go-to senior nutrition recipes because it’s filled with some of the healthiest food for elderly.
- 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
- 1/4 cup mayo
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 slices whole wheat bread
- Lettuce leaves (romaine, spinach, kale, etc.)
- Combine the chopped eggs, mayo, mustard, chives, paprika, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl.
- Toast the bread slices until lightly browned.
- Spread the egg salad mixture evenly over two slices of bread.
- Top with lettuce leaves and add the remaining slices of bread on top.
- Cut the sandwiches in half and serve.
Yogurt parfait with berries
This parfait is a super easy snack filled with some of the best food choices for seniors. The yogurt is rich in protein, while the berries offer antioxidants critical for senior nutrition and health. Try different variations of berries and granola to keep this recipe fresh and exciting.
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (no sugar)
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup mixed berries of your choice (like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
- 1/4 cup granola (check out this healthy granola recipe)
- In a small bowl, combine the Greek yogurt, honey, and vanilla extract.
- Layer half of that yogurt mixture into a glass or bowl.
- Layer half of the mixed berries on top.
- Sprinkle half of the granola over the berries.
- Add another layer of yogurt, berries, and granola, and enjoy!
Senior nutrition made easy
Meal prepping, cooking, and cleaning every day can get exhausting. Make it easier with GoGoGrandparent. GoGo makes senior nutrition easy, streamlined, and straightforward.
With GoGo Groceries, we’ll save your grocery list, so you can reorder your grocery list every week if you like. Shoppers do the grocery shopping for you and deliver the food right to your doorstep, so you don’t have to worry about navigating the aisles or sitting in traffic. That means you can spend less time shopping and more time prepping and cooking your senior nutrition plan.
If you want to browse the grocery aisles yourself to better understand the best food choices for seniors, catch a ride with GoGo Rides, and we’ll safely get you to and from the grocery store with professional, vetted drivers.
And if you don’t feel like cooking, GoGo Gourmet makes it easy to order healthy takeout meals that meet your dietary restrictions and senior nutrition plan.
With all our services, our GoGoGuardians are monitoring your delivery or ride every step of the way. Our members have peace of mind that they’re being cared for, so they can focus on other things that matter most – like eating their favorite meals and learning to make the best food choices for seniors. Register for GoGoGrandparent now to simplify your senior nutrition plan.