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A healthy diet for older people

Nutrition and older people:

For older people, as with younger adults, the diet should follow the principles of a healthy balanced diet.

The principles of a healthy balanced diet.

Food group Examples Quantity
Bread, other cereals and potatoes Bread, pasta, rice, breakfast cereals and potatoes These should be the main part of every meal (one third of meal)
Fruit and vegetables (fresh, frozen and canned) Oranges, apples, bananas, carrots, peas and tomatoes These should be a main part of every meal and at least five servings should be consumed a day
Milk and dairy foods Milk, cheese, yogurt and fromage frais Three servings a day
Meat, fish and alternatives Beef, lamb, pork, chicken, beans, lentils, eggs and fish One or two servings a day
Foods containing fat and foods containing sugar Crisps, fizzy drinks, sweets, butter, margarine, cakes and biscuits Should be consumed only in moderation

An increase in starchy, fibre-providing foods and a reduction in fatty and sugary foods is likely to be beneficial, particularly if individuals are overweight.

However, a low-fat, high-fibre diet is not appropriate for all elderly people, especially those with repeated infections, generally poor health or a poor appetite. As discussed above, it is important that older people choose a nutrient rich diet, high in foods providing protein, vitamins and minerals such as milk and dairy products, meat, eggs, fish, bread, cereals, and fruit and vegetables.

A varied diet will also help to ensure adequate nutritional intake.

Snacks can be an important part of the diet in older age groups, particularly for those unable to cope with large meals at one sitting.

Dairy products such as milk provide an excellent way to provide a nutrient rich snack along with fluid in individuals who are struggling to meet their requirements.

The senses of taste and smell decline with age, which can make food seem less appetising. Using different colours and shapes in cooking can stimulate the senses and add to eating enjoyment. The addition of herbs and spices can also make food more interesting.

It is a good idea for older people to keep an emergency store of some basic foods items for times when it is difficult for them to get to the shops. Useful store cupboard items include:

  • Milk e.g. long-life, evaporated, dried milk and tinned milky puddings.
  • Canned meat and fish e.g. tins of corned beef, stewed meats, ham, sardines, salmon, tuna.
  • Tinned fruit and vegetables e.g. tinned peaches, baked beans, sweet corn, peas, tomatoes.
  • Dried fruit.
  • Breakfast cereals or porridge oats.
  • Crackers, biscuits, crisp bread and oatcakes (in an airtight tin).
  • Rice and pasta.
  • Soups (tinned and packet).
  • Drinks e.g. cocoa, malted milk, long-life fruit juice, tea and coffee and meal replacement drinks.
  • Other: stock cubes, gravy, honey, jam, peanut butter, pickles and sauces.

A freezer can also be used to supplement the store cupboard.

Home milk delivery is a convenient way for older people to get their milk, particularly those who find shopping difficult, and most milkmen deliver other groceries too, including eggs and fruit juice.

Nutrition and older people:
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