What Does Our Age Have To Do With The Food We Eat? Back »

Written collaboratively by Megan Jacobson and Megan Erickson.


Food is a cornerstone of our lives. Not only is food necessary for keeping us alive, sharing a meal with other people is one way we connect and build relationships. Understanding how our nutrition needs change over time is critical to staying healthy.

Aging impacts the food we eat.

As we age, we generally need fewer calories. As a result, we need to ensure the foods we consume are nutrient rich. Please see the chart below for details. Please note the table below should only be used as a guide. Height and weight also influence the number of calories we need. To find out how many calories you need each day, visit MyPlate’s Daily Food Plan Calculator.

 
Calories per day for:
Activity Level Women (aged 51+) Men (aged 51+)
Sedentary (not active) 1,600 2,000
Moderately Active 1,800 2,200 to 2,400
Active 2,000 to 2,200 2,400 to 2,800
 

Please note that activity level determines the calories we need to consume to remain healthy.

  • Sedentary refers to a lifestyle that includes only the physical activity of daily living.
  • Moderately Active refers to a lifestyle that includes physical activity equivalent to walking about 1.5 to 3 miles per day at 3-4 miles per hour, in addition to physical activity of daily living.
  • Active refers to a lifestyle that includes physical activity equivalent to walking more than 3 miles per day at 3-4 miles per hour, in addition to physical activity of daily living.

Aging increases our risk of developing chronic health conditions.

What are chronic health conditions? They are lifelong conditions that are generally progressive like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and respiratory problems like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Chronic health conditions cannot be cured, only controlled or managed. Successful controlling or managing a chronic health condition can often be done by creating a health care plan with your providers. The plan may include taking medication, healthy eating, physical or occupational therapy, exercise, or complementary treatments such as meditation.

Why self-management matters: If you are one of the 80% of older adults who have a chronic health condition, it is important to learn how to manage your condition for a better quality of life. Stanford University’s Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, known locally as Better Choices, Better Health® SD are community workshops held six-weeks, 1 day/week for 2 ½ hours. BCBH workshops have been proven to help adults better manage their chronic conditions, improve their quality of life, and lower their health care costs. For more information about BCBH workshops, visit Better Choices Better Health.  

Upcoming articles

  • Changes to the Body that Impact Nutrition
  • Basic Nutrition Over 50
  • Passing Down Family Recipes
  • Natural Doesn’t Mean Safe
  • Food and Drug Interactions
  • Salt Alternatives
  • Reflux
  • Older Adults and Food Poisoning

Additional Resources

Healthy Food Options

Chronic Disease and Nutrition

Resources and Tools

For further reading on older adult nutrition and wellness, you may refer to the National Institute of Health - Senior Health pages, which will provide a variety of information.

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