Healthy Eating as You Age

Why it’s Important to Look After Your Diet


Kim Tempest is a Functional Nutritional Therapist and practice from home in Kirstenbosch-Bishopscourt.  Her passion and belief lie in the art and science of healing from within to without. The paradox being that one must go within in order to heal the “with-out” i.e. the symptom.  

(Kim’s contact details are at the end of this article).

Whether you’re still fighting it or have accepted it, there is no question about it: our bodies change as we age.  As you get older, you have very different nutritional needs than that of teenagers, children, and even middle-aged adults.

Age-related changes can affect how your body processes food, which influences your dietary needs and affects your appetite. These are some of the changes:

Your Metabolism Slows Down. You’ll probably need fewer calories as you age to maintain a healthy weight. Eating more calories than you burn, leads to weight gain which is just one of the reasons for healthy eating as you age.  You may find you have less energy and more muscle or joint problems as you get older. As a result, you may become less mobile and burn fewer calories through physical activity. You may also lose muscle mass. This causes your metabolism to slow down, lowering your caloric needs. Because of this, it is important to focus on your diet choices. You may need to start eating more eggs, fish, meat and vegetables and exclude breads, pastries, cakes and biscuits. This too will contribute to healthy cells and fewer aging symptoms as your metabolism slows down.


As you age, your body changes too.


Your Digestive System Changes. Your body produces less of the fluids that it needs to process food in your digestive system when you get older. These changes can make it harder for your body to absorb important nutrients like folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12. Taking in an extra 150ml of water every hour of the day for 8 hours will assist with digestion. Avoid the temptation of drinking too much coffee or tea as this will lower digestive enzymes and use up all the necessary vitamins for digestion, including B vitamins which supports energy production.

Your Appetite May Change. Many people experience a loss of appetite with age. It’s also common for your sense of taste and smell to diminish. This can lead you to eat less.  If you’re burning fewer calories through physical activity, eating less may not be a problem. However, you need to get enough calories and nutrients to maintain healthy organs, muscles, and bones. Not getting enough can lead to malnutrition and resulting health problems. If you have a small appetite, it may be a good idea to include ginger and lemon tea into your daily program as this can encourage easy digestion and an increase in hunger stimulation.

Your Health Could Mean Significant Adjustments. As you age, you become more susceptible to chronic health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and osteoporosis. To help prevent or treat these conditions, your doctor or dietician or nutritionist may recommend changes to your diet.

For example, if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, you should eat foods that are rich in nutrients, but low in excess calories, processed sugars, and saturated and trans fats. Your doctor may also advise you to eat less sodium, to cut out refined sugar, biscuits, porridge, bread and cakes and replace with protein and vegetables.

Some older adults become sensitive to foods such as onions, peppers, dairy products, and spicy foods. You may need to cut some of these foods out of your diet. A nutritional expert may be able to guide you in the right direction when it comes to foods that you may not be tolerating.

Your Medication Could Affect Your Diet. You may need to take medications to manage chronic health conditions. Some medications can affect your appetite. Some can also interact with certain foods and nutritional supplements. Be sure to check with your nutritionist or dietician and ask your doctor.

If you’re taking medication, be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist to find out whether you need to make any changes to your diet.

Your Oral Health Could Interfere. Seniors have their own set of oral health concerns. Some of these can interfere with your ability to eat. For example, dentures that don’t fit properly may lead to poor eating habits and malnutrition. Infections in your mouth can also cause problems for example, stomach infections and urinary tract infections. 


Heatlhy eating as you age - your dental care remains top priority

Your dental care remains a top priority.


Your Immune System Weakens With Age.  This raises your risk of food-borne illness, or food poisoning.  Proper food safety techniques are important at every age. However, you may need to take extra precautions as your immune system weakens. For example, your doctor may recommend avoiding foods with raw eggs, such as homemade mayonnaise or Caesar salad dressing. 

In general, it is best to avoid raw foods and eat only well-cooked foods. Avoid cold meats as these too can have a quick expiry date and lead to consumption of harmful bacteria and serious stomach or intestinal infection, or even food poisoning.

Your Emotional Condition or Changes in Your Family Structure Could Change the Way You Eat. Losing a spouse or other family members can impact your daily habits, including your eating patterns. You may feel depressed, which can lead to lower appetite. If your family member did most of the cooking, you might not know how to prepare food for yourself. Some people simply choose not to eat, rather than cook a meal for themselves.

If you’re finding it difficult to prepare food for yourself, talk to a family member, trusted friend, or your doctor. Depending on your area, there may be services available to help make sure you’re getting the food you need. It is often better during times of stress or loss or illness for that matter, to have the support of a meal delivery service, as this too will ensure you are eating regularly and the right kinds of nutrient rich foods.

Healthy Eating As You Age: How Can You Maintain a Healthy Diet?

Eating a well-balanced diet is an important part of healthy eating as you age. It can help you maintain a healthy weight, stay energised, and get the nutrients you need. It also lowers your risk of developing chronic health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.

To meet your nutritional needs, eat foods that are rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Limit foods that are high in processed sugars, saturated and trans fats, and salt. You may also have to adjust your diet to manage chronic health conditions.

Nutritional needs vary from one person to another. However, some strategies can help everyone maintain a habit of healthy eating as you age.

Focus on Nutrient-rich Foods. As you age, your caloric needs will probably decrease, while your nutrient needs increase. Eating nutrient-rich foods will help you get the vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, and fats you need. Specific nutrient needs increase, especially on chronic medication or medication to control high blood pressure, etc.

Healthy eating as you age - focus on nutrient rich foods

Focus on nutrient rich foods.


Limit Calories. There are many foods which are high in calories, but low in nutrients. For example, save deep-fried foods, desserts, and sweetened beverages for the occasional treat. Your doctor may recommend avoiding junk food altogether. What is junk food? Cakes pastries, rusks, biscuits, added sugar, concentrated fruit juices or sodas, packets of crisps and any food with a high deep-fried appearance and high sodium value. Read lables carefully or ask your dietician to guide you.

Eat Fibre Daily.  Fibre is essential for a healthy digestive system. To avoid constipation and other problems, include fibre-rich foods at every meal. Soluble fibre is especially important for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.  If you struggle to eat enough fibre, your doctor may recommend a fibre supplement.

Choose Healthier Convenience Foods. If you find yourself relying on convenience foods, choose the healthiest options. bagged salad or coleslaw mix.  Always check the labels on pre-packaged foods. Choose options that contain less added sugar, saturated fat, and salt and more fibre, vitamins, and minerals.

Consider Supplements. You may find it hard to get some nutrients in your diet, especially if you must avoid some foods. Ask your doctor if you should take a vitamin or mineral supplement, such as calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, or vitamin B-12. These specific vitamins are often poorly absorbed or not consumed enough sufficiently.  As some supplements can interfere with certain medications, ask your doctor or pharmacist about the potential side effects before starting a new supplement or medication.

Stay Hydrated.  Make sure you’re drinking fluids on a regular basis. Aim for eight 8 glasses or cups of fluid daily, with water being the best option. You can also get some water from tea, soup, or even water-rich fruits and vegetables. Please take note there is no available water content in juice – it is high fructose – this water, that is the carrier, merely supports a difficult process of metabolising all that sugar, it does not in any way support adequate water intake. I recommend 150-200ml water per sunlight hours. Seniors should not drink too much liquid after sundown. 

Stay social.  When you can, eat with friends and family members. Social interaction can turn mealtimes into an enjoyable affair, rather than a chore you’d rather skip. Movement is important. There is an important factor in daily walks, joining an aqua swim class or program in your area twice a week. Even though we age, the movement and use of joints, muscles and ligaments is essential to overall wellbeing and prevention of stiffness, arthritis and slow metabolism.


Healthy eating as you age - stay social and active.

Stay social and active.


Kim Tempest | Functional Nutritional Therapist | |

+2782 642 9518 

Consulting Rooms Kirstenbosch