Nutrition for Active Older Adults

~ By Jerome Stiller ~

We all develop eating habits that usually don’t change much during our lives. Yet as we add candles to our birthday cakes, our bodies change and so do our food needs. It’s not too hard to make sure that you are getting all the nutrients you need to support an active and healthy lifestyle. Feeding yourself well isn’t magic, it doesn’t have to cost much, and you can still eat yummy food. Good nutrition will help you feel better, maintain optimal weight, and protect against or help manage many health conditions.

So, want some ice cream on that birthday cake? Of course you do. Wait – isn’t ice cream bad for you? No, not necessarily. With very few exceptions, foods are neither good nor bad by themselves, it’s how you prepare and eat them that counts. A healthful diet is not about what you eat on any one day, but it is something you create for yourself and follow over time. You can improve your diet and therefore your health by making small, easy changes.

The physical changes that occur as we grow older include reduced metabolism, reduced capacity of many major organs (heart, liver, kidneys, etc.), muscle and bone loss, and digestive tract problems. All of these affect your eating habits and health. While daily caloric requirements decline, the need for many nutrients stay the same or even increase. For example, adults over 50 need more vitamins B6 and B12 and more calcium than younger adults. (you should be getting about 1.5mg of B6 and 2.4mg of B12 and about 1200 mg of calcium a day.)

In 2014, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommended the estimated daily calorie requirements for people over 50 as:

Women Men
 Not Active 1600 2000-2200
 Moderately Active 1800 2200-2400
 Active  2000-2200  2400-2800

According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, you should get about 45-65% of your daily calories from healthy carbs such as whole grain breads, oatmeal, and brown rice; about 10-35% from lean protein such as fish, chicken, and low-fat dairy products (about ? gram of protein per day per pound of body weight); and 20-35% from fats, mostly unsaturated fats such as nuts, avocados, and vegetable oils. Remember that these numbers are for the average person, and since you’re not average these numbers are guidelines rather than absolutes.

You should be getting all or almost all the nutrients from your diet. WIth a few exceptions, you don’t need supplements – after all, they are meant to supplement rather than replace your food. When you get your nutrients through food rather than supplements, you get the benefits of the many naturally occurring substances in food, such as phytochemicals and fiber. It’s probably a good idea to take a daily multivitamin, especially one made for seniors. Always check with your doctor to make sure there are no medication interactions.

Jerome Stiller

Jerome Stiller

Jerome Stiller is a Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Senior Fitness Specialist, Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, and has a Masters Degree in Psychology. He specializes in adults age 40 and over. You can reach him at or 303-885-3531.