The Bristal Assisted Living Blog

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Healthy Eating for Older Adults: Nutrition and Shopping Tips

Healthy eating is important at any age, but did you know that older adults have different nutrition requirements than they do in mid-life? 

As we age, our nutrition needs change. For older adults, that means adapting dietary choices to meet these changes. Most seniors require more vitamin D, vitamin B12, calcium, and iron, but fewer overall calories. 

Experts agree that one of the keys to aging well is for older adults to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. To achieve that, planning – mixed with a little knowledge – can help you shop smart. To hone their shopping skills, seniors can start with these simple tips:

  • Plan meals ahead of time
  • Create a shopping list
  • Understand how to read food labels

Healthy Meal Planning for Older Adults

Planning a week’s worth of menus ahead of time allows you to make the most of your time and money. As older adults often require fewer calories, be sure to pay attention to portion sizes

Your goal should be to build your weekly meal plans around vegetables, fruits, whole-grain bread, lean meats, and low-fat dairy. Also try to avoid lunch meats and canned soups unless you choose the low-sodium or low-fat versions

If you are on a special diet, ask your physician for daily guidelines to follow. Check the store’s weekly specials before you begin mapping out your menus. You can save money if you plan your menus around what deals are available that week.

Maximize Your Weekly Shopping Trip

Once you have a full week of menus planned, use them to create your shopping list. Don’t forget to check your pantry for the staples you need for each recipe (flour, olive oil, seasonings, spices, etc.). 

As an added convenience, many grocery stores allow customers to order groceries online. You have the option to either pick them up at the store or have them delivered to your home. Shopping this way has several advantages – it limits impulse purchases by ensuring you stick to your shopping list. It is also great when you aren’t feeling well, or during inclement weather. 

Here are a few tips to help you maximize your weekly grocery shopping trip:

  • Buying in larger quantities is typically cheaper and will allow you to prepare extra meals to freeze.
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables are good to keep on hand for when you don’t have access to fresh. Canned fruits and vegetables are a good alternative as well. Look for brands that do not add sugar, salt, or preservatives. The store’s private-label foods may be just as good as name brands at a significantly lower cost.
  • Some grocery stores have a weekly “Senior Day” when they offer as much as a 10% discount.

Understanding the Nutrition Fact Labels

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been working to make the Nutrition Fact Labels found on foods more consistent and easier to read. For older adults, correctly reading the labels is vital. Knowing how large a serving size should be and how much sugar or sodium it contains is important when managing chronic health conditions like diabetes or congestive heart failure (CHF). The FDA has information on its website that can help you learn how to interpret these sometimes confusing labels.

Transportation to the Grocery Store

As noted earlier, your local grocery store may offer home delivery services or curbside pickup. Shoppers can often use a mobile app or order directly from the store’s website. This eliminates the need for transportation to and from the store. 

However, if you are determined to shop on your own, but don’t drive and have a difficult time finding transportation, check with your local Agency on Aging. They may have volunteers who can help. Many maintain a list of people who donate their time to assist older adults with a variety of tasks including grocery shopping. 

You can also utilize ride-hailing apps like Lyft and Uber. If you have a friend who also needs to shop you can split the cost of the ride with them. 

More to Explore

Discover more health and wellness resources! See how the Mediterranean diet can benefit your health or put these easy diet swaps into practice for healthier living. 


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