Nutrition Articles

Healthy Eating and Fitness Tips for Older Adults

Eating well and being physically active may not be the fountain of youth, but if you're an older adult, they certainly play a vital role in helping you stay as healthy as possible.

Whether you're 50, 60, 70 or beyond, read on for some eating and exercise tips especially for you.

Fewer calories for many. As people get older, they often need fewer daily calories. That's because muscle mass usually decreases with age (the body uses more calories to maintain muscle than body fat) and older people tend to burn fewer calories because they're less physically active.

Choose a nutrient-rich diet. When calorie needs go down, it's more important than ever to get the most nutrition from the foods you eat. That means following a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free milk products and lean meats, poultry and fish, and not too much fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, or sodium.

Have a plan—follow MyPlate.* MyPlate gives you a personal eating plan to follow based on daily calorie recommendations for your age, gender, height, weight and physical activity level.

Take note of shifting nutrition needs. If you're over 50, recommendations increase for calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B6. Although recommendations for vitamin B12 don't increase with age, it becomes more difficult for the body to absorb it from food, so experts recommend meeting requirements with B12-fortified foods or supplements. The chart below shows recommended intakes and food sources for these nutrients.

NutrientDaily Recommendation
Age 51+
Selected Food Sources
Calcium1,000 mg (males 51-70)
1,200 mg (females 51-70 and
everyone 70+)
Low-fat and fat-free milk, yogurt, and cheese; fortified soymilk, juice and cereal; broccoli, kale, turnip, mustard and collard greens.
Vitamin D600 IU (51-70)
800 IU (70+)
Fortified milk; canned salmon with bones; D-fortified products such as juice, cereal, bread, yogurt and cheese.
Vitamin B61.7 mg (males)
1.5 mg (females)
Chicken, fish, pork and liver; whole grains, nuts and beans.
Vitamin B122.4 µgMeat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk products; fortified cereals.

Don't count on thirst. As you age, you are less likely to feel thirsty, but that doesn't mean your body needs fewer fluids. To help avoid dehydration, drink enough water, coffee, tea or other favorite beverages. Eating fruits and vegetables contributes to hydration, too, because they contain lots of water.

Stay active. Shoot for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity weekly—that's the same as doing 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Pick activities you enjoy such as walking with a friend, gardening, dancing, swimming, or doing water aerobics or yoga. If you haven't been active for a while, check with your doctor before starting a physical activity program.

* MyPlate is for healthy Americans age 2 and older. If you have any health conditions, ask your doctor or a registered dietitian about the best eating plan for you. You can find MyPlate at