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Getting older.
Living healthier.
Feeling better.

Start today with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Feel better today. Stay healthy for tomorrow.

Here's how: As an older adult, the food and physical activity choices you make every day affect your health—how you feel today, tomorrow, and in the future. Any time of life is a good time to become a healthier you.

The science-based advice of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005 in this booklet highlights how to:

Eating right and being physically active are keys to good health at any time of life. For older adults, these healthful habits may help you:

So, why not find your way to a healthier you—for yourself, your family, and your future. You may increase the quality of your life, as well as your chances for a longer one. More specific information is available on the Internet, at

Get older, wiser, and healthier. Make smart choices from every food group.

The best way to give your body balanced nutrition is by eating a variety of nutrient-packed foods every day, while staying within your daily calorie needs as an older adult. A healthy eating plan is one that:

For older adults, every day it is important to:


It's important to make smart food choices and watch portion sizes wherever you are—even away from home. Some tips:

Mix up your choices within each food group.

Focus on fruits. Eat a variety of fruits—whether fresh, frozen, canned, or dried—rather than fruit juice for most of your fruit choices. For a 2,000-calorie diet, you will need about 2 cups of fruit each day, for example 1 large banana and 1 large orange. If you need 1,600 calories, you will need about 1 1/2 cups each day, for example 1 small apple and 1/2 cup strawberries.

Vary your vegetables. Eat more dark green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and other dark leafy greens; orange vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and winter squash; and beans and peas, such as pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, split peas, and lentils. For a 2,000-calorie diet, you will need about 2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day. If you need 1,600 calories, you will need about 2 cups each day, for example, 1 medium baked potato, 1/2 cup cooked spinach, and 1/2 cup acorn squash.

Get your calcium-rich foods. Get 3 cups of low-fat or fat-free milk—or an equivalent amount of low-fat or fat-free yogurt and/or low-fat cheese (1 1/2 ounces of cheese equals 1 cup of milk)—every day. If you are lactose intolerant, choose lactose-free milk products, yogurt and cheese. If you do not or cannot consume milk, select calcium-fortified foods and beverages.

Make half your grains whole. For a 2,000-calorie diet, you need about 6 to 7 ounces of grains each day, and at least half should be whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice, or pasta. One ounce is about 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, or 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta. If you need 1,600 calories, you will need about 5 ounces. Check that grains such as wheat, rice, oats, or corn are referred to as "whole" in the list of ingredients.

Go lean with protein. Choose lean meats and poultry to bake, broil, or grill. And vary your protein choices—with more fish, beans, peas, nuts, eggs, and seeds.

Know the limits on fats, salt, and sugars. Read the Nutrition Facts label on food packages. Look for foods low in saturated fats, cholesterol, and trans fats. Choose and prepare foods and beverages with little salt (sodium) and/or added sugars (caloric sweeteners).

Find your balance between food and physical activity. Living healthier and feeling better isn't just about eating healthy—it's also about physical activity. Your body was designed for activity. That means everything works better when you keep moving. Regular physical activity can help older adults bend, stretch, and go up and down stairs. It also helps control body weight by balancing the calories taken in as food with the calories burned while physically active.


Even as you get older, you should be able to do moderate physical activity such as brisk walking without seeing a doctor. But, if you're an older adult who plans a vigorous program or has a chronic disease or risk factors for chronic disease, consult a healthcare provider who can help you design a safe, effective program.

Get the most nutrition out of your calories.

There is a right number of calories for you to eat each day. This number depends on your age, gender, activity level, and whether you're trying to gain, maintain, or lose weight. For adults age 51 and older, here are the estimated calorie requirements.

For women who are
Sedentary (not active) Aim for 1,600 calories a day
Moderately active Aim for 1,800 calories a day
Active Aim for 2,000 to 2,200 calories a day
For men who are
Sedentary (not active) Aim for 2,000 calories a day
Moderately active Aim for 2,200 to 2,400 calories a day
Active Aim for 2,400 to 2,800 calories a day

You could use up your daily calories on a few high-calorie items, but chances are you won't get the full range of vitamins and nutrients your body needs to be healthy.

So, choose the most nutritionally rich foods you can from each food group each day—those packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients but lower in calories. Choose foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products more often.

Nutrition: To know the facts…use the label.

Most packaged foods have a Nutrition Facts label. Here are some tips for reading it:

Check servings and calories. Look at the serving size and how many servings you are actually eating.

Make your calories count. Look at the calories on the Nutrition Facts label and compare them with the nutrients they offer.

Eat less sugar. Foods high in added sugars may provide calories but few essential nutrients. So, look for foods and beverages low in added sugars. Read the ingredient list, and make sure added sugars are not one of the first few ingredients.

Know your fats. Most of the fats you eat should be polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, such as those in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. Fat should be in the range of no more than 20% to 35% of the calories you eat.

Reduce sodium (salt), increase potassium. Older adults tend to be salt-sensitive. So, aim to eat no more that 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day—the equivalent of about 3/4 teaspoon of salt. Also, look for foods high in potassium, such as sweet potatoes, beet greens, white potatoes, white beans, low-fat or fat-free yogurt, prune juice, and bananas. These counteract some of sodium's effects on blood pressure.

Use these tips to make smart food choices from the Nutrition Facts Label

Play it safe with food. Know how to prepare, handle, and store food safely to keep you and your family safe. It's important that older adults, people with weakened immune systems, and people with certain chronic illnesses pay extra attention and carefully follow food safety advice.

For older adults specifically, it's also important to:

Not eat:


Whole Poultry: 170 degrees Fahrenheit
Poultry Breasts: 180 degrees Fahrenheit
Stuffing, ground poultry, reheat leftovers: 165 degrees Fahrenheit
Meats (medium), egg dishes, pork, and ground meats: 160 degrees Fahrenheit
Beef steaks, roasts, veal, lamb (medium rare): 145 degrees Fahrenheit
Hold Hot Foods: 140 degrees Fahrenheit
Below 140 degrees Fahrenheit: Danger Zone
Refrigerator temperatures: 40 degrees Fahrenheit
Freezer temperatures: 0 degrees Fahrenheit

About alcohol.

If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Moderate drinking means up to 1 drink a day for women and up to 2 drinks for men. Twelve fluid ounces of beer, 5 fluid ounces of wine, or 1 1/2 fluid ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits count as a drink for purposes of explaining moderation. Remember that alcoholic beverages have calories but are low in nutritional value.

Generally, drinking more than moderately can be harmful to your health as well as others. And some people, or people in certain situations or on certain medications, shouldn't drink at all. If you have questions or concerns, talk to your healthcare provider.

These are the basic guidelines for eating a healthy diet and being physically active. For more information about the food groups and nutrition values, or to pick up some new ideas on physical activity, visit these Internet sites: and

This booklet, as well as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005, 6th Edition, may be viewed and downloaded from the Internet at

To purchase printed copies of this booklet (Stock Number 017-001-00557-6), or to purchase printed copies of the complete 80-page Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005 (Stock Number 001-000-04719-1) call the U.S. Government Printing Office at (866) 512-1800, or access the GPO Online Bookstore at