3 Square Meals: Maintaining a Healthy Diet as You Age

Senior residents sharing a healthy meal

As people age, the foods they require to maintain a healthy diet also change. Portion sizes may shrink, and the types of food you need for nutritional balance change. As your height, weight, and general health fluctuate, your dietary needs will, too. 

Developing good eating habits starts with having access to the right nutritional knowledge and professional guidance. Continue reading to discover steps you can take to maintain a healthy diet as you age.

Healthy Foods for Seniors

People who are 65 years of age and older are more likely to have cardiovascular-related concerns such as high blood pressure, heart disease, heart failure, and heart attacks. For these reasons, healthcare professionals generally recommend avoiding foods high in saturated fats, artificial sugars, and salt. Along with staying physically active and not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and following a heart-healthy diet can prevent cardiovascular conditions. 

The good news is there are plenty of healthy and delicious foods you can incorporate into your diet with little change in your eating patterns. Let’s look at food groups that contribute to well-rounded meals for seniors.

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens such as romaine, kale, spinach, chard, and bok choy are low in calories but packed with essential vitamins and minerals. To get more leafy greens in your diet, try the following tips: 

  • Add a handful of greens to smoothies. 
  • Have a side salad with lunch or dinner. 
  • Include leafy greens in homemade soups.

Fruits and Vegetables

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, many older adults don’t consume enough fruit. Fruit has significant health benefits and contains high levels of carbohydrates and fiber. Eating fruit with the skin on can add even more fiber to your diet (but make sure to wash them thoroughly first). Berries provide additional benefits because they include flavonoids, a natural plant pigment that improves memory.

Vegetables are another important source of fiber, and they also contain high amounts of essential nutrients such as potassium and calcium. Nutrient-dense veggies like carrots and brussels sprouts are packed with vitamins A, C, D, and K.

To get more fruits and vegetables in your diet, try the following tips:

  • Have apple or cucumber slices with a sandwich at lunch.
  • Have a small fruit salad or a banana with breakfast.
  • Include berries, a banana, or an avocado in a smoothie.
  • Add strawberries and blueberries to a leafy green salad.
  • Add chopped vegetables and leafy greens to scrambled eggs.
  • Include chopped broccoli or mushrooms (or both!) in creamy dishes such as alfredo.

Not sure which lifestyle option is right for you? We've got a quiz for that. Answer a few questions
to get direction from our experts.

Take the Quiz


Whole Grains

Grains contain carbohydrates, the main source of energy for the body, but make sure you’re consuming mostly whole grains rather than refined grains. Whole grains provide fiber, iron, and many B vitamins, and you can find them in whole wheat, whole cornmeal, whole bulgur, and whole oats. 

Although refined grains have a longer shelf life and finer texture, they contain little to no fiber or nutrients. Most refined grains are also enriched, which means some nutrients are added back into the product after it’s been processed. Refined grains include white flour, white bread, white rice, and degermed cornmeal. 

When aiming to include more whole grains in your diet, try the following tips:

  • Have a sandwich on whole wheat bread instead of white bread.
  • Make food with whole wheat products, for example, use whole wheat breadcrumbs instead of white breadcrumbs.

Low-Fat or Fat-Free Dairy Products

Dairy helps build and maintain strong bones and provides essential nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Low-fat and fat-free dairy products give you the important vitamins and minerals you need with less fat. Just be sure to check the sugar content in your dairy’s nutrition facts, because a lack of fat is often substituted with a sweetener. 

To get more dairy in your diet, try the following tips:

  • Have Greek yogurt for breakfast with fruit and granola.
  • In recipes, switch out mayonnaise or heavy cream for Greek yogurt.


Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues as well as helping the immune system fight infections. It’s also essential for maintaining energy throughout the day. 

Good sources of protein include seafood, chicken, turkey, eggs, and soy products. If you’ve opted for a vegetarian lifestyle, don’t fret—nuts, seeds, beans, yogurt, and cottage cheese are excellent meat-free sources of protein that can be added to meals for seniors.

To get more protein in your diet, try the following tips:

  • Have eggs and cottage cheese or Greek yogurt for breakfast instead of sugary cereals.
  • Add grilled chicken or sliced almonds to a salad at lunch.
  • Add chia seeds to a smoothie or use yogurt to make a smoothie bowl.

How to Choose Healthier Foods

Eating the right foods is essential to keep up your energy and stamina throughout the day. Although seniors typically have lower calorie needs, they tend to have higher nutritional needs than the younger population. Aging adults are particularly vulnerable to nutritional deficits because this age group tends to engage in less physical activity, experience more frequent changes in metabolism, and suffer from a loss of muscle or bone mass.

To get the nutrients you need, we recommend these tips for maintaining a well-rounded and satisfying diet:

  • Eat a wide range of foods each day, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and dairy products.
  • Avoid foods that have a lot of sodium, saturated fats, sugar, and artificial sweeteners.
  • Keep a food diary to track what you’re eating and how much, so you know when you need to add more vegetables or cut back on bread.

3 Common Barriers to Healthy Eating

Unfortunately, healthy meals for seniors aren’t always accessible or affordable. Some of us have to get creative with our nutritional intake. If you or your loved one is trying to eat healthier, the following challenges might be in the way. 

1. Sticking to a Budget

In a lot of places, nutrient-rich foods carry a higher price tag than their mass-produced counterparts. Although you can’t control the market prices of fresh produce or poultry, you can develop a detailed budget to determine how much you can afford to spend on food

Look at grocery store advertisements online or in your local newspaper to see what items are on sale and plan meals around those items. For example, if canned or frozen goods are on sale, it may be a good idea to purchase extras. Keep in mind that store-brand items can be less expensive than name-brand items—and they often taste the same.

2. Cooking or Eating for One

It can take a lot of motivation to make a meal on your own, and eating by yourself every day can bring up unpleasant emotions. To avoid eating alone some nights, invite your children or grandchildren over for dinner, or try to schedule a regular weekly dinner with close friends.

3. Food Allergies or Dietary Restrictions

Although a bit more challenging, it’s possible to choose healthy foods that still take your specific dietary needs or allergies into consideration. If you’re avoiding dairy or are lactose intolerant, non-dairy options exist that are good sources of calcium and vitamin D. Milk substitutes are made with dairy-free sources of protein such as almonds, oats, soy, or coconut. Plus, non-dairy milks are often fortified with vitamin D. If you have a sensitivity to gluten, a multitude of gluten-free food products are available that can be substituted for bread or wraps.

How Senior Living Can Help Overcome Barriers to Nutrition

Did you know that senior living communities can help people overcome most of these common healthy eating obstacles? 

These communities conveniently include all costs under one monthly fee—that means three square meals for seniors each day, too!—so seniors enjoy a low-maintenance lifestyle without the hassle of budgeting for groceries. Plus, with common dining areas and plenty of shared spaces, residents always have the opportunity to meet new people during meals or grab a bite to eat with current friends.

At Cedarhurst, we believe you shouldn’t have to sacrifice taste to have a nutritious meal. To support the idea that the two can go hand-in-hand, we’ve created and implemented top-notch culinary programs like Crafted by Cedarhurst℠ in many of our communities. 

Explore additional information about senior nutrition, dining perks at Cedarhurst, and more with our guide, More Than a Menu: What’s Cooking at Cedarhurst.

Learn more about the dining experience at Cedarhurst communities.

Ready to see the community?

Schedule a Tour

LifeStyle_800x800-1 1