Healthy Foods Seniors Need To Eat

70 and Beyond: What You Need to Eat                                                      Concerned About The Unique Dietary Needs Of Seniors?                                                   


Even the most healthful diet can't guarantee a long life. But active and healthy seniors can increase their odds of staying that way by being aware of how aging changes their nutritional needs.

With this in mind, three Tufts University researchers (Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, RD, Robert Russell, MD and Helen Rasmussen, MS, RD) have tweaked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Guide Pyramid to come up with one that they believe more accurately represents the dietary needs of older consumers, specifically healthy, mobile seniors over 70 years old.

The Food Guide Pyramid was developed by the USDA in 1992 as a visual representation of what health officials consider to be the components of a healthful diet for everyone over age two. But seniors have some specific nutrient needs not addressed in the one-size-fits-all Food Guide Pyramid, say the Tufts researchers, which prompted them to research, test and suggest some modifications.

The 70+ Food Pyramid

The base of their revised pyramid is narrowed, signifying the reduced energy intake common among seniors. Most people eat fewer calories as they get older. Since less food is being eaten, it is imperative that the foods that are eaten provide not just calories but other essential nutrients too. With a typical energy (calorie) intake of 1200 to 1600 calories per day, elderly consumers have to make every calorie count in order to get enough of those essential nutrients.

The 70+ pyramid outlines the "nutrient dense" choices in each food category, emphasizing whole grain or enriched breads and cereals; a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables; low-fat dairy foods; and lean meats, fish, poultry, and legumes.


        Icons throughout the pyramid highlight the importance of fiber in a healthful diet. This advice is important for all adults, but especially so for Seniors. Most Americans eat less than the recommended daily intake, which is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.

     Adequate dietary fiber works to keep bowel movements regular thereby preventing constipation, and a fiber-rich diet may help reduce the risk of heart disease and some types of cancer. High-fiber foods include whole grain breads and cereals, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.


      While grain foods anchor the USDA Food Guide Pyramid, the 70+ pyramid is built on a base of water. Adequate hydration is a chronic problem for many seniors. Decreased thirst sensation is common with aging, and some medications affect the body's ability to regulate fluid balance. Dehydration also worsens the symptoms of constipation.

      To combat these problems, the Tufts alternative pyramid advises seniors to drink at least eight glasses of fluids a day.

     Keep in mind, though, that coffee, tea, and alcoholic beverages don't count toward this total fluid intake because they all act as diuretics, causing you to lose water.

Dietary Supplements

      Another key difference in the 70+ pyramid is that it is topped with a flag icon representing the possible need for dietary supplements. Both calcium and vitamin D absorption decrease with age. This has adverse effects on bone health, and increases the risk of fractures. Therefore, a higher amount of these nutrients is needed.

        The ability to absorb the amount of vitamin B12 needed for normal nerve function also decreases with age, making this another key nutrient in your diet. Sometimes a B12 shot is required due to impaired absorption. (Check with your doctor or health provider.)


The Major Differences With The 70+ Pyramid                                     Involve Fiber, Water And Supplements.

Tufts Modified Food Pyramid For Adults Over 70

Foods to Choose

Grain Foods

Aim to make half of your grain servings derived from whole grain sources.

Examples of recommended grains include:

  1. Breads and cereals made with whole grain flour

  2.   Whole wheat pasta

  3.   Brown rice                                                                                                     

Many cereals are fortified with extra nutrients; check to make sure that your cereal contains folic acid (also called "folate").

Fruits and Vegetables

  1. Bright colored vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, broccoli and greens

  2.   Deep colored fruits like bananas, peaches, berries, oranges, kiwis, and papayas

  3.   Avoid juices

Fruits and vegetables can be cooked, chopped or grated to make them more palatable to someone with dental or digestion difficulties.

Dairy Foods

  1.   Low-fat milk, yogurt and cottage cheese

  2.   Lower-fat cheeses

Lactose-free milk and "active culture" yogurt may be tolerated by people who cannot eat regular dairy products.

Lean Protein Foods

  1.   Lean meats, poultry and fish

  2.   Eggs

  3.   Legumes such as beans, peas, seeds, and nuts

Fats, Oils, and Sweets

  1. Choose heart-healthy vegetable oils, such as olive oil and canola oil, which contain unsaturated fats.  These may lower blood cholesterol.

  2.   Avoid saturated fats, like butter and animal fat.

  3. Do not eat trans fat, which has a strong association with the development of cardiovascular disease.

The Main Message Of The 70+ Senior Food Pyramid

The Tufts researchers point out that these dietary recommendations are aimed at healthy, mobile seniors with the resources needed to prepare adequate meals.

  1.   The 70+ pyramid is not designed to consider the special dietary needs of those with significant health problems; nor does it address the socioeconomic factors - such as decreased income and mobility - that can make it harder for many seniors to meet nutrient needs.

  2.    All seniors, regardless of circumstances, should still hear the pyramid's main message: people over 70 have specific nutrient needs, and how well you meet those needs can influence how well you face the challenges of getting older.

  3.      Please be aware that the Tufts 70+ Pyramid is currently just a suggestion; it has not yet been adopted as an official USDA teaching tool.

  4.     The USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services are in the process of revising the U.S. Dietary Guidelines on which the Food Guide Pyramid is based, and the Tufts researchers hope that their 70+ Pyramid will generate morediscussion on how best to address the unique nutrient needs of seniors.

Find out more about the Modified Food Pyramid For 70+ Adults developed by the researchers at Tufts University.

Top 10 High Fiber Fruits

Drink 8 Glasses of water every day.

Find more high-fiber foods here.

Don’t like the taste of water?Try these easy flavoring tips.

The Modified 70+ Food Pyramid is designed for healthy, mobile seniors with the resources to prepare adequate, healthy meals.

The Modified Pyramid for 70+ Adults can help Seniors make small, easy changes to foods they already enjoy eating.

Promoting general health and wellness is the leading reason why people 50 and older take supplements. They also use supplements for better nutrition, to battle aging, to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, and to help prevent chronic conditions like osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease, memory loss absent-mindedness and other health concerns.

  1. Depending on your nutritional needs, physical condition(s) and dietary habits, you may not need dietary supplements.

  2. You also need to be aware that many claims by supplement manufacturers have not been scientifically substantiated or recommended by medical health experts.

  3. Adding any kind of supplement to your diet is definitely an activity that, before you begin, you should always discuss with your doctor or health provider for guidance.

Eat healthy, whole grains

Colored fruits & veggies

Eat good dairy foods

Eat healthy protein foods

Healthy fats, oils, sweets

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70 And Beyond: Healthy Foods Seniors Need To Eat

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