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Nutrition Over 70: A Guide To Senior Dietary Needs

Amy Long Carrera, MS, RD, CNSC, CWCMS
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
07/10/12  9:50 PM PST
Senior Dietary Needs

*Updated April 5, 2019

If you are over 70 years old, your some of your dietary needs differ from other populations. Your calorie needs decrease as you get older, yet you may need more of some key nutrients.

How Many Calories

The amount of calories you need depends on how physically active you are. The USDA defines a sedentary lifestyle as one in which you are limited to the activities of daily living. If you walk briskly for more than 3 miles a day you are considered active. You may need more or fewer calories than what’s recommended if you are unable to maintain a healthy weight.

  • Men: A sedentary male over the age of 70 requires around 2,000 calories. Consume about 2,600 calories a day if you are active.
  • Women: Eat between 1,600 to 2,000 calories daily if you are a sedentary to active female older than 70 years.

How Much Protein

Healthy men over 70 should aim for 56 grams of protein a day from meat, chicken, fish, beans and dairy products. Shoot for 46 grams of protein if you are a female of the same age.

How Much Fiber

Eat a variety of fruit, vegetables and whole grains to get the recommended 28 grams of fiber daily for an adult male over 70. If you are female, strive for 22 grams of fiber a day.

Vitamins and Minerals

Some of your micronutrient needs increase as you age. Eating a variety of whole foods (fortified grains, quality protein, fruits and vegetables) each day will help you meet your vitamin and mineral needs.

Men and women should both strive for 600 international units of vitamin D from fish, egg yolks, fortified foods and supplements every day.

The amount of stomach acid you produce decreases with age or certain medications. This may put you at risk for vitamin B-12 deficiency and symptoms like depression and fatigue. Supplements and fortified foods, such as orange juice, milk and yogurt are usually well-absorbed by your body. Everyone should get 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B-12 daily.

The amount of vitamin B-6 you need increases as you get older. You need 1.7 milligrams daily if you are male and 1.5 milligrams if you are female. Eat chicken, fish, potatoes and fruit to meet your vitamin B-6 needs.

If you have any concerns about your nutrient intake consult your Doctor or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.

References:

Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020

For more information, see related articles and resources here:

Shield HealthCare | Medical Supplies For Care At Home Since 1957

Comments

23 Comments

  1. Claudine Walker
    Posted June 7, 2015 at 9:39 pm PDT

    Looking for a brand name . Vitamin for lady over 70.
    Thx

  2. Posted June 8, 2015 at 3:34 pm PDT

    Thank you for your question! With so many supplements out there it’s not easy to choose. One way to pick a vitamin supplement brand is to look for one that has the USP designation on the label. Supplements that are verified by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) have met standards of quality, purity, potency, performance, and consistency and are made with current FDA good manufacturing practices. Many major brands carry the USP seal, including Nature Made®, Schiff® and Kirkland Signature™.

    Beyond that it’s a good idea to pick a multivitamin for your specific age group. Multivitamins that are marketed to seniors or adults over 50 years old usually contain more calcium and vitamins D and B12 with less iron. Ask your doctor if you need to supplement specific vitamins or minerals in addition to what’s in your multivitamin. Seniors are commonly deficient in vitamin D, for example. And of course, try to get most of your nutrients from healthy foods, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and lean meat, poultry and fish.

  3. Posted October 27, 2017 at 12:11 am PDT

    Thanks for sharing the details. It’s crucial for seniors to eat a nutritious diet every day or consult a professional to make a diet plan for them. You are spot on. The number of calories needed may vary based on sex, weight, or age.

  4. Posted October 27, 2017 at 8:25 am PDT

    Thank you for your comment, Joe!

  5. Posted December 26, 2017 at 6:49 am PDT

    I think you need to be more specific. Considering many Type 11 Diabetics that may be on METFORMIN they need to increase Vitamin B12 which this drug destroys which my doctor administers.

  6. Posted December 27, 2017 at 9:17 am PDT

    Hi Susan, thank you for bringing this up! There are many drug-nutrient interactions that are not mentioned here. It’s a good practice to ask your doctor or pharmacist about any interactions with medications you are taking. There are also some good resources out there on the topic. Here is one: Food Medication Interactions 18th Edition.

  7. Nandlal Soni
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 4:48 am PDT

    No doubt that your suggestions are very good . But what is the dietary suggestions for an Indian who is pure vegetarian ? Please suggest .
    Thanks

  8. Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:30 am PDT

    That is a great question, thank you for bringing it up! ChooseMyPlate.gov has some good tips for Vegetarians. For nutrition guidelines specific to Indians, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has a dedicated webpage, as well as the downloadable Dietary Guidelines for Indians – A Manual. These should get you started!

  9. Larry Lorden
    Posted April 16, 2018 at 8:39 am PDT

    what B can I take. I take sotolol for a fib and simisitian….any interference
    ?

  10. Posted April 20, 2018 at 8:25 am PDT

    Hi Larry, are you inquiring about a B vitamin? Since you have multiple medical conditions and are on medications, I would run this by your doctor.

  11. Posted May 16, 2018 at 5:51 pm PDT

    […] time absorbing critical nutrients, such as vitamins B6 and B12, according to registered dietitian Amy Long Carrera, MS, of Shield Healthcare. These nutrients help keep your nervous system healthy, your metabolism […]

  12. Gary
    Posted June 12, 2018 at 9:43 pm PDT

    How much faith should I put in the new Fitbit watch I bought IE: calorie burn/day it’s showing me? I’m 69-yrs old walk 2.5 miles a day (45-min) I’m 6 foot tall and weigh 220-lbs. It gives me 3,000 calorie burn a day. (24-hrs) That seems a bit high. Your thoughts please.

    Gary.

  13. Aimee Sharp
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 8:30 am PDT

    Hi Gary. Thanks for your question. We would advise checking in with Fitbit to see what they think about your rate of calorie burning. Having said that, we discussed your question in the office and our ostomy product manager, who is a male about your height, although younger, said that 3,000 calories is what he burned when running a recent marathon (according to his digital program’s calculation). So, yes, that does seem high for a 2.5 mile walk. You can try looking at other sites like this to calculate your calorie burn: https://www.healthstatus.com/calculate/cbc. Regardless of how many calories you’re burning, a 2.5 mile walk every day (or most days of the week) is a great way to get your exercise in. Great job and keep it up! – Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  14. Posted December 2, 2018 at 7:25 pm PDT

    How can I get a 90 year old man to eat more

  15. Aimee Sharp
    Posted December 7, 2018 at 12:59 pm PDT

    Hi Peter. Thank you for your comment. We have an article that you might find helpful: Healthy Eating for Seniors with No Appetite. I know when my grandfather was about 90, he started to lose interest in eating as well. Part of the issue was his teeth – he didn’t have dentures and was against getting them for some reason, so he didn’t have a lot to work with. Our family definitely found that making meals more of a social event helped, going out to eat, and a little wine before dinner. Best of luck! -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  16. Gloria
    Posted December 3, 2018 at 3:35 pm PDT

    What do you recommend for a senior woman in her 80s as to the amount of carbs per day? She needs to lose weight but she has Parkinson’s and is prediabetic. She tries to walk several times a day but can’t walk long distances (she walks for about 3 to 4 minutes several times a day). So, in fact, she’s pretty sedentary. She sits the rest of the day.

  17. Aimee Sharp
    Posted December 10, 2018 at 10:00 am PDT

    Hi Gloria. Thank you for your comment. To get firm recommendations, they should talk to their doctor or an RD. They can teach them how to count carbs and figure out what is appropriate for this woman especially because she is sedentary.

    While we can’t give recommendations specifically, we can point you in the right direction. Here are some links to quality information:

    According to this link a healthy female over 51 should have 45-65 g of carbs per day: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-7/

    Here is an online community for them, they may find some good info here: https://community.diabetes.org/discuss/viewcategory/13

    These links point to what healthy carbs are: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/
    https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/toolkit/healthfacts/carbohydrates.htm

    We hope that helps. Please let us know if you have any other questions. – Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  18. Mary Elizabeth R.
    Posted January 26, 2019 at 5:57 am PDT

    You look and sound like someone I can trust. I need a printed out daily menu. I am 78 and weigh 250 and have Left Hamstring tear x 3. in a lot of pain and fight constipation from the painkillers. I lost 40 lbs last year following a printed daily menu. I am like a 3 year old and have to be told daily what to eat. Could you direct me to a sight or send me a menu? Of course like most old people I suffer from arthritis. I have bursitis and carry a hernia from a failed lap band surgery. I do have a blog about it, maybe that can help you, Lap Band Failure Mary Ranc nearly fatal. I was rejected and laughed at when I went to the Mayo clinic for a pre-surgery visit ($511) and the surgeon said, and I quote “I wouldn’t touch that with a 10 foot pole and walked out of the room” Of course I sat there and cried as my daughter held me in her arms. I also suffer from PTSD, anxiety and depression. But I do have a sense of humor:) I do hope you can help me. Thanks Mary

  19. Aimee Sharp
    Posted February 4, 2019 at 9:47 am PDT

    Hi Mary. Thank you for your comment. We reached out to one of our registered dietitians, Annie, with your question, and here is the response we received: “The NIH website has some sample menus for older adults. You may benefit more from working 1:1 with an RD in your area due to your past medical history. I would recommend checking with your primary care doctor to see if they can recommend a local dietitian. Or you can find an RD near her via the “find an expert” link at the bottom of this page on the AND website. Hope this helps a bit!”

  20. Mary
    Posted January 28, 2019 at 12:15 pm PDT

    I will turn 85 this year. My question is, how much does it really matter, what you eat or don’t eat, at this advanced age? I don’t have diabetes, or any major illness. I take a diuretic for HBP, and that is my only medication. Is it okay for me to eat a lot of carbs and a dessert like ice cream, or cake for my evening meal? By carbs, I mean pasta, potatoes, white rice, or bread. I have chewing problems because of TMJ and teeth that are out of alignment, so I have a hard time with salads, or protein like any beef or poultry that is not fork tender. I try to get protein from cottage cheese, yogurt and eggs. I eat easy to chew veggies and fruit in season. I don’t drink milk. I love sweets, but am trying to cut back.

  21. Aimee Sharp
    Posted January 30, 2019 at 9:34 am PDT

    Hi Mary. Thank you for your question. We asked one of our registered dietitians, Annie, what she thinks, and here is her reply: “I would still recommend everything in moderation, with no need to hold back on your favorite foods. The important thing at that age is to be sure you’re getting protein and calories, since the elderly are more prone to loss of appetite and sudden, rapid weight loss due to a range of possible factors. I wouldn’t recommend binging on carbs or sweets, but no need to cut out these foods completely.” Another of our RDs, Cassandra, wrote: “I would also stress the importance of getting adequate amounts of vitamin B12, as it is a common deficiency in the elderly. Deficiencies in vitamin B12 can cause GI issues, nerve damage, and inadequate red blood cell formation. Protein sources such as meat, eggs, fish, and dairy are high in vitamin B12. If intake of these foods are low (possibly due to dentition – tooth issues), I would recommend contacting a physician to see if a vitamin B12 supplementation would be appropriate.” Hope that helps! -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  22. Louise V.
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 9:27 pm PDT

    I am a 71 year old female, sedentary in a wheelchair who is at least 130# overweight. How many calories should I eat daily and how often in order to lose weight? Help please!

  23. Aimee Sharp
    Posted March 1, 2019 at 3:56 pm PDT

    Hi Louise. Thank you for your question. We spoke with one of our registered dietitians (RD), Annie, and she wrote back that, ideally, you reach out to an RD in your area and speak with them specifically about your issue – we can’t give you an exact number of calories without knowing more information about you as a patient. The ADA website gives a link where people may find an RD in their area: https://www.eatright.org/find-an-expert. Many RDs offer either an in-person or phone consultation to provide assessments and information. We hope that helps and that you are able to connect with someone who can get you the information you need. Best of luck! -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

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