Individuals of 60 years and above constitute the elderly .The diet for elderly people should include
nutrient rich foods to enable them to be fit and active. Senior citizens need more of vitamins and
minerals to be healthy and active.
The body composition changes with the advancing age and all these changes affect nutritional
needs of the elderly. Elderly or aged people require reduce amount of calories as their lean muscle
mass and physical activity decreases with ageing. Elderly need more calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin A
and antioxidants to prevent age-related degenerative diseases and for healthy ageing. It is very
essential to maintain your health as ageing process starts and it increases the life expectancy. It is
very important for elderly people to exercise as it helps to regulate body weight and flexibility in the
joints. The risk of degenerative diseases also considerably decreases with regular exercise sessions.
Elders generally complain of loss of appetite or sometimes difficulty in chewing. A soft diet should be
given to elders, with inclusion of fruits and vegetables in their diet. Calcium rich foods like dairy
products (low fat), milk (toned) and green leafy vegetables should be included in the daily diet to
maintain bone health, so as to prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures. Consume pulses, toned
milk, egg-white etc. in good quantities as they are rich in proteins. Elderly people should cut down
on their saturated fats, sweets, oily food, salt and sugar level. Use of ghee, oil, butter should be
completely avoided. Also, avoid eating spicy food.
The diet for elderly people needs to be well cooked, soft and should be less salty and spicy. Ensure
to eat small quantities of food at more frequent intervals and drink water at frequent intervals to
avoid dehydration and constipation. Consult a doctor for an individualized diet depending upon the
medical condition in the case of persons suffering from chronic diseases and bed ridden patients.
Points to Remember:
• Eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods.
• Match food intake with physical activity.
• Avoid fried, salty and spicy foods.
• Consume adequate water to avoid dehydration.
• Exercise regularly or go for a walk.
• Avoid smoking, chewing of tobacco and tobacco products (Khaini, Zarda, Paan masala) and
consumption of alcohol.
• Go for regular checkups. Check regularly for blood sugar, lipids and blood pressure.
• Avoid self medication.
• Adopt stress management techniques (Yoga and Meditation).
Role of different kinds of food material on health
(a)Vegetables and fruits in diet-
Vegetables and fruits are rich source of micronutrients (iron, calcium, vitamin C, folic acid,
carotenoids and phytochemicals) and macronutrients (complex carbohydrates/ fibre).
Some vegetables and fruits provide very low calories, while some others provide good calories as
These are rich in starch (such as potato, sweet potato, fruits such as banana). Therefore, vegetables and
fruits can be used to increase or decrease calories in the diet.
At least 400grams (5 portions)of fruits and vegetables per day should be consumed in the diet.
Vegetables and fruits consumptions can be improved by-
Always include vegetables and fruits in the diet
Eat fresh, locally available, seasonal vegetables and fruits.
Eat a variety of choices of fruits and vegetables (“rainbow of coloured foods”) in a diet plan as
different coloured fruits and vegetables contain different nutrients (phytochemicals).
Eat fresh fruits and raw vegetables as snacks.
(b)Different kinds of Fats/oils-
Fats/oils are a concentrated source of energy. Dietary sources of fats are classified as-
Animal fat –Major sources of animal fats are ghee, butter, milk, cheese, eggs and fat of meat and
fish. They contain cholesterol and high amounts of saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids.
Vegetable fat- Seeds of some plants are sources of vegetable oils as groundnut, mustard, sesame,
coconut, canola, olive and soya bean.
Edible plant foods have a low content of fat and saturated fatty acids but they are good source of
mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).
Visible and invisible fats-
Visible fats are those that are separated from their natural sources such as ghee/butter from milk,
cooking oils from oil bearing seeds and nuts. It is easy to monitor their intake.
Invisible fats are those, which are present in almost every article of foods such as cereals, pulses,
nuts, milk, and eggs and are difficult to estimate.
It is recommended that between 15-30% of total calories in the diet should be provided in the form
of fats (visible + invisible). Diets of infant and children should include adequate amounts of fats to
fulfill their higher energy needs than adults.
Excessive fats in the diet increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke and cancer. The risk of
developing these diseases can be lowered by reducing saturated fats to less than 10% of total energy
intake, and trans fats to less than 1% of total energy intake, and replacing both with unsaturated fats
Vanaspati ghee – When vegetable oils are hydrogenated, it converts them in to semisolid or solid
form which is called as vanaspati or vegetable ghee. During process of hydrogenation unsaturated
fatty acids are converted into saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids. As saturated fats and trans
fats are risk factors for development of non-communicable diseases (coronary heart disease, stroke,
diabetes, cancer, obesity), use of vanaspati ghee should be limited in the adult population. Vanaspati
ghee is mostly used in bakery products, sweets, and snacks products.
Fat intake can be reduced by:
changing how the food is cooked such as use vegetable oil (not animal oil); remove the fatty part of
meat; and boil, steam or bake rather than fry;
avoiding processed foods containing trans fats (eg. preparation prepared from vanaspati ghee);