The following excerpt was taken from an article on the web site of the National Institute on Aging U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health, April 2005. Web page last updated: December 29, 2005.  Good Nutrition: It’s a Way of Life. © National Institute on Aging, 2005.

“I have trouble chewing.”
“Food just doesn’t taste the same anymore.”
“I don’t have a car to go shopping.”
“It’s hard to cook for one person.”
“I’m just not that hungry anymore.”

Sound familiar? These are some of the common reasons older people stop eating right. And that’s a problem because food provides energy and nutrients everyone needs to stay healthy.


  • Choose many different healthy foods. Pick those that are lower in cholesterol and fat, especially saturated fat (mostly in foods that come from animals) and trans fatty acids (found in some processed foods, margarines, and shortenings).
  • Avoid “empty calories” as much as you can. These are foods and drinks with a lot of calories, but not many nutrients-for example, chips, cookies, sodas, and alcohol.
  • Calories are a way to measure the energy you get from food. If you eat more calories than your body needs, you could gain weight. Most packaged foods have the calorie counts listed on the labels.
  • The more physically active you are, the more you might be able to eat without gaining weight. Most people should have at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week. Regular physical activity will help all areas of your life as you grow older.


The Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) encourage people to eat a suggested amount from five major food groups every day. If you can’t do that, at least try to eat something from each group each day. Lower fat choices are best. Make sure you include vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain foods.

How many calories each day for people over age 50?

A woman:
  • 1,600 calories if her physical activity level is low
  • 1,800 calories if she is moderately active
  • 2,000 – 2,200 if she has an active lifestyle
A man:
  • 2,000 calories if his physical activity level is low
  • 2,200 – 2,400 if he is moderately active
  • 2,400 – 2,800 if he has an active lifestyle

Your doctor may recommend a specific diet to help manage a medical problem such as diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure. Specific food plans help to manage these diseases. Following your doctor’s guidelines, and if you do not understand the dietary guidelines, follow up with your doctor or the health care dietician.