Planning healthy meals: tips for seniors

Planning healthy meals: tips for seniors

Eating healthy food and leading an active lifestyle can support healthy aging. Use the resources below to learn about different healthy eating patterns and ways to create a nutritious meal plan.

The unique nutritional needs of older adults

Simple adjustments can go a long way toward building a healthy eating pattern. Follow these tips to get the most from foods and drinks while meeting your nutritional needs and lowering your risk of disease:

Read and share this infographic and spread the word about ways it may help promote healthy aging.
  • Enjoy a variety of foods from each food group to help reduce your risk of conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Choose foods that contain little or no Added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium.
  • To get enough protein throughout the day and maintain muscle, try adding seafood, dairy or fortified soy products along with beans, peas and lentils to your meals. Learn more about protein and other important nutrients.
  • Add chopped or chopped fruits and vegetables to meals and snacks. Look for pre-cut varieties if slicing and slicing is a challenge for you.
  • Try foods fortified with vitamin B12, such as some cereals, or talk to your doctor about taking a vitamin B12 supplement. Learn more about key vitamins and minerals.
  • Reduce your sodium intake by seasoning foods with herbs and citrus fruits, such as lemon juice.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day to help stay hydrated and aid in food digestion and nutrient absorption. Avoid sugary drinks.

It can be difficult for some people to pursue smart food choices. Read about common roadblocks and how to overcome them and check out USDA Advice for Seniors.

meal planning

Link image of 5 tips for choosing healthy foods as you age infographic

Read and share this infographic to learn how to make healthy food choices as you age.

The answer to the question “What should I eat?” No need to leave you feeling confused and frustrated. In fact, when you have the right information and motivation, you can feel good about making healthy choices. Use these tips to plan healthy and delicious meals:

  • advance plan. Meal planning takes the guesswork out of eating and can help ensure you eat a variety of nutritious foods throughout the day.
  • Find budget-friendly foods. Create a shopping list in advance to help stick to and keep track of the budget SNAP Friendly Recipes.
  • Keep in mind the preparation time. Some meals can be prepared in less than five minutes. If you love to cook, or if you are preparing a meal with or for friends or family, you may want to try something more challenging.
  • Keep in mind the calories. The number of calories people need each day varies depending on the individual. Always discuss your weight and fitness goals with your health care provider before making big changes. Read about calorie goals and healthy food swaps.

When creating your shopping list, don’t forget the nutritional basics like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole-grain bread. This sample shopping list (PDF, 108KB) includes a variety of healthy foods you might want to have in your kitchen.

Sample Lists

Here are some meal options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, including links to recipes as well as simpler options that can be put together without a recipe.

sample list

breakfast lunch
Dinner Snack

For more information about healthy eating

This content is provided by the NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA). NIA scholars and other experts review this content for accuracy and currentness.

Content revised: November 23, 2021

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