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 January 5, 2021

If you are over 70 years old, 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.

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

How Much Protein

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, 10-35% of the daily calories consumed should consist of protein coming from meat, chicken, fish, beans and dairy products.

For example:

  • A sedentary man should plan to eat 50-175 grams/day
  • A sedentary woman should plan to eat 40-140 grams/day

One serving of lean meat, poultry, pork or fish is the size of a whole deck of cards or the palm of your hand. This one serving is approximately 3 ounces or 21 grams of protein.

Other sources of protein:

  • 5 oz greek yogurt = 12-18 grams
  • 1/2 cup beans = 6-9 grams
  • 8 oz dairy milk = 8 grams
  • 8 oz soy milk = 7 grams
  • 1 oz (size of your thumb) hard cheese = 7 grams
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter = 7 grams
  • 3 oz tofu = 6 grams
  • 1/4 cup nuts = 4-6 grams

How Much Fiber

Eat a variety of fruit, vegetables, beans and whole grains to get the recommended 14 grams/1,000 calories of fiber daily. This means at least 28 grams of fiber/day for males and 22 grams of fiber/day for females.

Sources of fiber:

  • 1 cups lentils, boiled = 15.5 grams
  • 1 cups black beans, boiled = 15 grams
  • 1 cup green peas, boiled = 9 grams
  • 1 cup raspberries = 8 grams
  • 1 cup spaghetti, whole-wheat, cooked = 6 grams
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa or instant cooked oatmeal or 1 oat bran muffin = 5 grams
  • 1 cup broccoli, chopped, boiled = 5 grams
  • 1 medium apple with skin = 4.5 grams
  • 1 medium baked potato = 4 grams
  • 1 ounce (23 nuts) almonds = 3.5 grams
  • 1 medium orange, 1 medium banana or 1 cup of strawberries = 3 grams

How Many Carbohydrates

Both men and women in this age range should make sure 45-65% of their daily calories are coming from carbohydrates.

For example:

  • A sedentary man should plan to eat 225-325 grams/day
  • A sedentary woman should plan to eat 180-260 grams/day

Sources of carbohydrates:

  • 1 cup cooked pasta or rice = 45 grams
  • 1 medium baked potato = 40 grams
  • 6″ banana = 30 grams
  • 6″ pita = 30 grams
  • 1 medium sweet potato = 25  grams
  • 1/2 cup cooked beans = 18-22 grams
  • 6″ corn on the cob = 20 grams
  • 1 oz (10- 15) chips = 15-20 grams
  • 1/2 cup hummus = 15-20 grams
  • 1 slice of bread = 10-20 grams
  • 6″ flour tortilla = 15 grams
  • 1/2 cup mixed nuts = 14 grams
  • 1 medium apple, 12 cherries, 15 grapes, 1 small kiwi or 1 cup melon = 15 grams
  • 1 cup raspberries, 2 tbsp raisins or 1 medium orange = 15 grams
  • 1 tbsp fruit jam/jelly, honey, sugar, or syrup = 15 grams
  • 1/2 cup cream of wheat or oatmeal cooked with water = 12-15 grams
  • 6″ corn tortilla = 12 grams
  • 1 cup halved strawberries or diced watermelon = 12 grams
  • 1 cup dairy milk = 12 grams
  • 1 cup greek yogurt = 10 grams

How Much Fat

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 states that senior men and women should make only 20-35% of their daily calories come from fat.

For example:

  • A sedentary man should consume 44-78 grams of fat per day
  • A sedentary woman should consume 36-62 grams of fat per day

Sources of fat:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil = 14 grams
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter = 8 grams
  • 1/2 cup mixed nuts = 36 grams
  • 1 tablespoon butter = 12 grams
  • 1 cup whole milk = 8 grams
  • 1 avocado = 29 grams

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.


Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2021-2025

Iowa Department of Public Health

John Hopkins Medicine 

Mayo Clinic

Michigan Medicine

For more information, see related articles and resources here:

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Recent Nutrition


    1. 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

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

  4. 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.


    1. 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: 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

    1. 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

  5. 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.

    1. 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:

      Here is an online community for them, they may find some good info here:

      These links point to what healthy carbs are:

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

  6. 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

    1. 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!”

  7. 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.

    1. 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

  8. 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!

    1. 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: 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

  9. To Mary Elizabeth R. As someone who is 72 and i have spent last 7 years remembering all of the horrendous things
    My father did to me i found emotional relief in reiki on you tube for free. It is gods healing energies. For anyone who is depressed or has any emotional issues at all it is the best of any of it i have found. I’ve been experiencing
    Whatever reiki i found and all of it makes me feel better. To anyone wbo has a depressed person in their family just have them accept a free reiki treatment.
    It is fantastic for emktional issues.Im
    a retired psych nurse. Antidepressant pills are of little help in my opinion. Also a good aromatherapist can make you a blend that helps.

  10. Hi I am a 72 year old woman the only prescription I’m on is 12.5 mg of hypoc something. I’m 5ft and over weight also I take the regular vitamins fish oil multi d3 b complex I walk a mile a day and 2 days a week I do strength training. So how many calories a day should I be taking in.i have a problem with carbs and protein and anything else how much to if you can.

    1. Hi Yvonne. Thank you for your question! We have updated the article with more information on sources of protein and carbohydrates including sources and serving sizes of each. For a woman in her 70s, calorie intake depends on activity. Generally one will need between 1,600 and 2,000 calories daily. This includes 46 grams of protein and 22 grams of fiber, and 130 grams of carbohydrates per day. However, it would be beneficial to talk to your Doctor or Registered Dietitian to determine exactly how many calories and servings of protein and carbohydrates you personally need. We hope this update helps you!

  11. Hi I’m Len 75 ,250 lbs ride a bike 20 miles a day 3 days a week (in good weather) skied 30 days last year. I consume 2-3 drinks a day, does this harm me? I eat reality healthy.

    1. Hi Len. Thank you for your question. It sounds like you live a great healthy/active lifestyle…way to go! The Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 suggest a safe limit of: “up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.” You can find more information here: Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 To be sure I suggest also checking in with your Doctor or Registered Dietitian about your diet. Keep up the good work!

  12. I have adult onset SMA I am no longer able to swallow solids and drink EnsurePlus but it is getting harder and harder to drink enough to sustain me. I am told my planfor a feeding tube have been put off due to the current crisis. I am loosing weight, but just can’t drink more without feeling as though I will vomit all I have taken in. I am getting scared, not by the convid-19, but because I see myself becoming thinner and weaker daily. What is the minimum calories I need to aim for? I just cannot do the 5 to 6 cans (350 cal. ea) I seem to be able to get 1050 cal most days, and 1400 about 2-3 times a week, but as little as 700 calories on days too. Please tell me the minimum calories I must get. Having a number so unreachably high just makes it all the harder for me to stay motivated.

    1. Hi Dottie. I am so sorry to hear that your feeding tube procedure has been delayed due to COVID-19. The recommendation is for those over 70 to consume at least 1,600 calories (women) or 2,000 calories (men) everyday. I know this seems like a lot of calories especially when having trouble swallowing. For this reason, it is very important that you to call your doctor’s office today to explain your weakness and weight loss, and to request an alternative that will help you maintain your weight until the procedure is scheduled again.

  13. Hi!
    Per your article, a sedentary male over the age of 70 requires around 2,000 calories. You also state that we should eat 56g of protein, 130g of carbohydrates and 28g of fiber. I did a little math and hope you can help me out.
    Protein: 56g x 4 = 224 calories
    Net Carbs: 130g carbs – 28g fiber = 102g x 4 = 408 calories
    2000 – 224 – 408 = 1368 of fat calories
    Fat: 1368 fat calories ÷ 9 = 152g of fat.
    Am I calculating something wrong? It seems to me if I ate that much fat every day, I’d be morbidly obese and possibly dead within a month. Please help me understand.

    1. Hi Joe.

      Thank you for your comment and for bringing to our attention that the math proves to be somewhat problematic. The values stated in the article are from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. Although new guidelines have been released (click here to view), the recommendations for a 70-year-old sedentary man remain the same as before:

      Protein RDA = 56 g
      Carbohydrate RDA = 130 g (please note this is total carbs and not net carbs)
      Fiber RDA = 28 g

      Your math is correct in that it these values seem to leave a considerable amount of fat to be consumed for the day. Because of this and to avoid confusion, we have omitted RDA values from the article and chose to include the recommended macronutrient percentages for men and women of this age instead. We hope that the percentages provided by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans prove to be more helpful when assessing one’s macronutrient needs.

      Thank you.

  14. Thank you for the information. I won’t try the “old fashioned” I am going to read the Keto diet. Brittany likes the “old fashioned” diet better. I found a piece of broccoli on the floor.

  15. THANKFUL for YOU serving the SEINIOR COMMUNITIES whom badly need this educational & healthy purpose in our lives

    It took me a year to lose 27 lbs. by healthy eating!! AND, mental determination to understand what happens the processing of the food I eat!

    Understanding nutrition & habits determine the outcome of my health!

  16. Confused: 74 y.o. male. 5’5″, 194 lbs. Bordering on Type II with typical A1C 6.3 to 6.5 and hypoactive thyroid. Halfway between sedentary and moderately active. That will change as the weather progresses and I can get back outside. We eat any kind of veg, very little beef, moderate pork and fish. However, I have never met a cookie that I did not like, and I like flour tortillas. How many calories, carbs, etc. per day, and what should I not be eating?

  17. At last I’ve been searching for some sensible information on older dietary needs. At 70 and over weight I need to lose around half my body weight! A Mediterranean type diet is what I’m following. I needed some sort of info on the amounts of fats, carbs, fibre and proteins I needed daily. Thank you for your informative lists and easy to understand quantities.

  18. Thank you for this, Amy. It is so hard to find good, researched advice for people over 70 that are concerned with treating themselves well and staying active. It is appreciated by all of us!

  19. 5’1″ 73-year, 103-lb female with MS and spinal disc issues. I cannot find healthy foods and vitamins informations. There is much sparse or contradictory info online. Do you have any comments that might help me and many MS patients?

  20. I am 83 years old male. Now my body weight is 57 kg I used to walk 4/5 kilometers daily..I want to increase my weight 4 to 5 kiloes. Please give me suggestions how can I add some body weight to look healthy and active

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