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What is healthy eating?
Healthy eating and
regular physical activity are keys to good health
at any age. They can lower your risk for obesity,
type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other
chronic diseases. They can even help ward off
depression and keep your mind sharp as you age.
Here are some tips to help people
aged 65 and over eat well and get active. Talk to
your health care provider for more specific advice
if you have health problems or concerns. Remember,
it is never too late to make healthy changes in
A healthy eating plan includes a
wide variety of foods. Every day, you should try
- 6 to 11 servings of bread,
cereal, rice, or pasta. One serving equals one
slice of bread, 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal
(about 1 cup of most cereals), or 1/2 cup cooked
cereal, rice, or pasta.
- 3 to 5 servings of
vegetables. One serving equals 1 cup of raw,
leafy vegetables or 1/2 cup of chopped
vegetables, cooked or raw.
- 2 to 4 servings of fruit.
One serving equals one medium piece of fruit like
an apple, banana, or orange; 1/2 cup of chopped
fresh, cooked, or canned fruit; 1/4 cup of dried
fruit; or 3/4 cup of 100 percent fruit
- 3 servings of milk, yogurt,
or cheese. One serving equals 1 cup of milk or
yogurt, 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese like
cheddar or mozzarella, or 2 ounces of processed
cheese like American.
- 2 to 3 servings of meat,
poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, or nuts. One
serving of cooked meat, poultry, or fish is 2 to
3 ounces; you should eat no more than 5 to 7
ounces a day. One cup of beans, 2 eggs, 4
tablespoons of peanut butter, or 2/3 cup of nuts
also equal one serving.
* Servings and serving
sizes are from the U.S. Department of
Agriculture/Department of Health and Human
Services Food Guide Pyramid.
Tips for healthy eating
To help you stay on track with your healthy eating plan, follow these
- Eat breakfast every
- Select high-fiber
foods like whole grain breads and cereals,
beans, vegetables, and fruits. They can
help keep you regular and lower your risk for
chronic diseases like heart disease and type
- Choose lean beef,
turkey breast, fish, or chicken with the skin
removed to lower the amount of fat and
calories in your meals. As you age, your body
needs fewer calories, especially if you are
not very active.
- Have three servings of
low-fat milk, yogurt, or cheese a day.
Dairy products are high in calcium and
vitamin D and help keep your bones strong as
you age. If you have trouble digesting or do
not like dairy products, try reduced-lactose
milk products, or calcium-fortified orange
juice, soy-based beverages, or tofu. You can
also talk to your health care provider about
taking a calcium and vitamin D
- Keep nutrient-rich
snacks like dried apricots, whole wheat
crackers, peanut butter, low-fat cheese, and
low-sodium soup on hand. Eat only small
amounts of dried apricots, peanut butter, and
other high-calorie foods. Limit how often you
have high-fat and high-sugar snacks like
cake, candy, chips, and soda.
- Drink plenty of
water. You may
notice that you feel less thirsty as you get
older, but your body still needs the same
amount of water. Aim for eight to ten 8-ounce
glasses of water, unless your health care
provider tells you to drink less because you
have heart or kidney problems. Water-based
beverages like milk or juice count towards
your daily amount of water. If you have diabetes remember
that milk and juice contains high amounts off sugars. So
you should be careful and watch your portions.
Planning and preparing your
It is easier to eat well when
you plan for your meals and make them enjoyable.
Try these tips:
- Grocery shop with a friend.
It is pleasant and can help save you money if you
share items that you can only use half of, such
as a bag of potatoes or head of
- Cook ahead and freeze
portions to have healthy and easy meals on hand
for days when you do not feel like
- Keep frozen or canned
vegetables, beans, and fruits on hand for quick
and healthy additions to meals. Rinse canned
veggies and beans under cold running water to
lower their salt content.
- Look for fruit canned in
juice or light syrup.
- Try new recipes or different
herbs and spices to spark your interest in food.
Set the table with a nice cloth and even a flower
in a vase to make mealtime special.
- Eat regularly with someone
whose company you enjoy.
If you are unable to cook for
yourself, find out about a community program in
your area that serves meals or delivers "Meals on
Wheels." Call the Eldercare Locator at
1-800-677-1116 for information on the program
Check with your
health care provider
you have a problem eating well, such as trouble
chewing or not wanting to eat, talk to your health
care provider or a registered dietitian. They can
give you specific advice on following a healthy
eating plan. You can also use the new Soft Foods
meal plans. They were designed by our registered dietitians
specifically to address those issues. Check with your dentist about caring
for your teeth or dentures and your
gums. can help you find the a registered dietitian to
follow you step-by step,
email our customer service if you would like more
The death of a
loved one or moving from your home of many years
may affect your desire to eat. Talk to your health
care provider if events in your life are keeping
you from eating well.
Ask your health
care provider if you should take a daily
multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. No pills have
been proven to "prevent aging" or "improve your
memory." Taking a "one-a-day" type, however, can
help you meet the nutrient needs of your body every
What is a healthy
uses your biometric data to
show your weight analysis and provides tables to
compared it to a healthy ideal weight. Just sign in,
click on Meals and Meal Plans to see your analysis. If you start to gain or lose
weight and do not know why, your health care
provider can tell you if this change is healthy for
you. If you are underweight, overweight or obese,
you are more likely to have certain health
Health risks of
- Poor memory
- Osteoporosis (bone
- Decreased muscle
- Hypothermia (lowered body
If you are underweight, you may
not be getting enough nutrients. Talk to your
health care provider or a registered dietitian about the best way to gain
weight and meet your nutritional needs.
Health risks of
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood
- High blood
- Heart disease and
- Some types of
- Sleep apnea (when breathing
stops for short periods during sleep)
- Osteoarthritis (wearing away
of the joints)
If you already have one or more
of these diseases, a modest weight loss (5 to 10 percent of your body
weight) could help you feel better or need less
Do not try to lose weight
unless your health care provider tells you
Tips for safe physical
Physical activity is good for
your health at every age. If you have never been
active, starting regular physical activity now can
improve your strength, staying power, and
flexibility. Being active can help you live on your
own for a longer time and lower your chance of
getting type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and colon
cancer. Whatever activity you choose, follow the
safety tips below:
- Take time to warm up, cool
down, and stretch.
- Start slowly and build up to
more intense activity.
- Stop the activity if you
- Drink plenty of
- When you are active
outdoors, wear lightweight clothes in the summer
and layers of clothing in the winter.
- Wear sunscreen, sunglasses,
and a hat for sun protection.
- Wear shoes that fit well and
are right for your activity.
To get started, pick an
activity you enjoy. Begin with small, specific
goals such as "I will take a 10-minute walk three
times this week." Slowly increase the length of
time and the number of days you are
active. You can benefit most from a
combination of aerobic, strength, balance, and
flexibility activities. Build up to 30 minutes or
more of aerobic activity on most days of the week.
Try to do balance and flexibility activities daily
as well. Work toward doing strength exercises on 2
or 3 days a week.
activity can help you to:
- Lose or maintain your weight
by burning calories
- Lower your risk of heart
disease and stroke by strengthening your heart
and lowering your blood pressure and
- Keep your joints moving and
reduce your arthritis pain
- Lower your stress and boost
- Have more energy
- Meet new friends by joining
a class or walking group.
- Push-ups or
- Household or garden
tasks that make you lift or dig
strengthening activities regularly can help you
- Keep your muscles and bones
strong as you age
- Increase your strength and
- Reduce your need for a
- Reduce the risk of bone
fractures and other injuries, or recover faster
if you are injured
- Maintain or lose weight
because muscle burns more calories than body
- Walking heel to toe in
- Standing on one
- Standing up from a
chair and sitting down again without using your
Doing balance activities regularly
can help you to:
- Stay steady on your
- Avoid falls.
activities regularly can help you
- Maintain the movement of
your muscles and joints
- Prevent stiffness as you
- Prevent injuries
- Lower your
Many activities give you more
than just one benefit. For example, doing chair
aerobics using hand weights gives you aerobic and
strengthening benefits. Yoga combines balance,
flexibility, and strengthening benefits. You do not
have to do four separate types of activities each
week. Choose what you like to do and round out your
activities from there. Remember, any amount of
physical activity you do is better than
Work physical activity into
There are plenty of
ways to be active without setting aside a special
time for "exercise." The tips below can help you to
add more activity into your everyday
- Take short walks throughout
your day. Try a 10-minute walk before breakfast,
at lunchtime, and after dinner.
- Ride your bike to visit a
friend who lives nearby.
- Clean your house or garage,
or wash your car.
Be good to yourself
Due to loss of
loved ones, health problems, trouble paying bills,
or other reasons, many older people feel lonely,
sad, or stressed in their daily lives. Feelings
like these can cause you to lose energy, not feel
like doing anything, not eat enough, or overeat.
Being good to yourself can help you to cope with
your feelings and improve your energy level, eating
habits, and health. Here are some ideas for being
good to yourself:
- Get enough
- Stay connected with family
- Join a walking group, or
other social group.
- Surround yourself with
people whose company you enjoy.
- Volunteer or get active with
groups in your community.
- Try a part-time job at a
place you would enjoy working for a few hours a
- Watch a funny movie and
- Take up a hobby such as
playing cards, gardening, cooking, or
never too late to improve your eating plan, be more
physically active, and be good to yourself for a
Tips for older
- Eat breakfast every
- Select high-fiber foods like
whole grain breads and cereals, beans,
vegetables, and fruits.
- Have three servings of
low-fat milk, yogurt, or cheese a day. Dairy
products are high in calcium and vitamin D and
help keep your bones strong as you age. Or take a
calcium and vitamin D supplement.
- Drink plenty of water. You
may notice that you feel less thirsty as you get
older, but your body still needs the same amount
- Ask your health care
provider about ways you can safely increase the
amount of physical activity you do
- Fit physical activity into
your everyday life. For example, take short walks
throughout your day. You do not have to have a
formal physical activity program to improve your
health and stay active.
- Get enough
- Stay connected with family,
friends, and community.
Source: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES,
National Institutes of Health, NIH Publication
Adapted by Editorial Staff, May 2003
Last update, July 2008