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Nutrition for Active Seniors

re you an older adult who exercises? Do you wonder if your diet is helping or hindering your workouts? Here are some senior nutrition tips from Jenna Bell-Wilson, MS, RD, LD, the media representative for the New Mexico Dietetic Association and a doctoral student in exercise physiology at the University of New Mexico.

  1. Senior Nutrition Tip #1: Understand Your Calorie Needs. People over the age of 50 tend to need fewer calories than younger people do. For adults 51 and older, the Recommended Energy Intakes (REIs) are 2,300 calories per day for men and 1,900 calories per day for women. By contrast, the REIs for adults aged 25 to 50 are 2,900 calories per day for men and 2,200 calories per day for women. However, if you exercise frequently and maintain your muscle mass, you can keep your calorie intake up at the 50-and-younger level. Exercising can also help you avoid age-related obesity. Make sure you get enough high-quality protein and complex carbohydrates; drink plenty of fluids; and keep your fat intake low. Less than 30 percent of calories should come from fat (less than 10 percent from saturated fat). See the chart for an example of a day’s worth of healthy meals.
  2. Senior Nutrition Tip #2: Stay Hydrated. Hydration can be a serious concern for older people. As you age, your ability to sense thirst declines, so you may drink less than you need. To prevent dehydration, it’s best to plan your fluid intake.

    Stay hydrated before, during and after your workouts. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking about 16 ounces (2 cups) of fluid 2 hours before exercise. During moderate exercise, your body can lose 2 to 6 cups of fluid per hour, so while you’re working out, drink 8 to 12 ounces every 10 or 15 minutes to combat these losses. To ensure you drink enough following exercise, weigh yourself before and after your workout. Then drink 20 ounces of fluid for each pound you’ve lost.

  3. Senior Nutrition Tip #3: Eat Around a Workout. Eating a pre-exercise snack can help you work out successfully without feeling unduly tired during or after the activity. To replenish your food stores afterward, eat a snack consisting of carbohydrate and a bit of protein. Easy choices include peanut butter on whole-grain bread, an egg white and potato burrito, string cheese and Melba toast, or a breakfast drink.

Sample Menu for Active Seniors


1 packet of instant oatmeal
1 large banana
1 cup 1% milk
1 cup orange juice
fortified with calcium


1/4 cup natural seedless raisins
1 piece multigrain bread, toasted
2 tablespoons jelly
1/2 cup cranberry juice cocktail


1 cup chunky vegetable soup, canned (low sodium if possible)
1/4 cup water-packed tuna
1 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise
2 pieces 100% whole-wheat bread
2 pieces romaine lettuce
1 slice fresh tomato
1 piece honeydew melon
1/2 cup tomato juice


1 cup chocolate instant pudding
2 gingersnap cookies
1 cup 2% milk


1/2 cup mashed sweet potatoes, canned
1/2 cup string beans, frozen
2 ounces beef chuck roast
1 whole-wheat dinner roll
2 teaspoons butter
1 cup 1% milk


1 piece angel food cake
1/4 cup sliced strawberries


Calories 2,300 Calories approx
Protein 89 grams, 15% of total calories
Carbohydrate 352 grams, 62% of total calories
Fat 53 grams, 23% of total calories

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