It is important for seniors to eat a mix of healthy foods that provide the nutrients, fiber, and calories the body needs on a daily basis. The amount you should eat depends on your age, whether you are a man or woman, and according to your height and weight. It also depends on your level of physical activity. The more physically active you are, the more calories you might be able to eat without gaining weight. However, most Americans eat more calories than they need.
Daily Caloric Intake for Women
A woman over age 50 should consume about:
- 1,600 calories a day if her level of physical activity is low (only performs activities associated with typical day-to-day life)
- 1,800 calories daily if she is moderately active (walks the equivalent of 1.5 to 3 miles a day at 3 to 4 miles per hour)
- 2,000 to 2,200 calories daily if she has an active lifestyle (walks the equivalent of more than 3 miles a day at 3 to 4 miles per hour).
Daily Caloric Intake for Men
For men over the age of 50, you should consume:
- 2,000 to 2,200 calories a day if his level of physical activity is low (only performs activities associated with typical day-to-day life)
- 2,200 to 2,400 calories daily if he is moderately active (walks the equivalent of 1.5 to 3 miles a day at 3 to 4 miles per hour)
- 2,400 to 2,800 calories daily if he has an active lifestyle (walks the equivalent of more than 3 miles a day at 3 to 4 miles per hour).
Calorie Consumption and Physical Activity
When planning your meals and snacks, make sure you include the right number of calories for your activity level. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend eating the following amounts of food if you are eating 2,000 calories per day. Remember to adjust the amounts depending on your daily calorie level.
- The Amount Vegetables Each Day. A person who eats 2,000 calories daily should have 2 ½ cups of vegetables a day. This might include a half-cup each of broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower, and a sweet potato. Aim for lots of color on your plate as a way to get a variety of vegetables each day.
- The Amount of Fruit Each Day. A person who consumes about 2,000 calories daily should plan to eat 2 cups of fruit a day. This might include one large banana, one-half cup of strawberries and a half-cup of orange juice. To help you get enough fiber, most of your daily fruit intake should be in the form of whole fruits rather than fruit juices.
- The Amount of Grain Foods Each Day. A person who eats 2,000 calories per day should eat 6 ounces of grain foods daily. At least half (3 ounces) of the grain foods eaten should be whole grains. Approximately one ounce of grain foods counts as a serving. This is about one slice of bread, one roll, or one small muffin. It is also about one cup of dry flaked cereal or a half-cup of cooked rice, pasta, or cereal.
- The Amount of Dairy Foods Each Day. Dairy products are another important part of eating well. A person who consumes 2,000 calories daily should have the equivalent of 3 cups of low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, or other dairy products daily. One cup of yogurt contains about the same amount of calcium as 1 cup of milk. Eating 1½ ounces of natural cheese or 2 ounces of processed cheese counts as drinking 1 cup of milk.
- The Amount of Protein Each Day. A person who consumes 2,000 calories daily should eat about 5½ ounces of protein each day. You can get protein from seafood, lean meat and poultry, as well as eggs, beans and peas, tofu, nuts, and seeds. One egg or one-fourth cup of cooked dry beans or tofu counts as 1 ounce of meat, poultry, or seafood. One tablespoon of peanut butter or a half-ounce of nuts or seeds also is the same as 1 ounce of meat, poultry, or seafood.
- The Amount of Oils Each Day. Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature, like the vegetable oils used in cooking. Use mainly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated oils like those that come from olive or canola oil. A person who eats 2,000 calories daily should not consume more than the equivalent of 6 teaspoons of oil daily.
Pay Attention to Portion Size
When eating out or buying packaged foods, pay attention to portion sizes. Portion sizes are not the same as the serving sizes listed on the Nutrition Facts label. A portion is the amount of food served in one eating occasion. A serving size is a standardized amount of food, such as a cup or an ounce, which is used to provide dietary guidance or to make comparisons among foods. The portions served at fast-food and other restaurants have grown a lot in recent years.
Whether you’re eating out or at home, one portion may be much more food — and many more calories — than the amounts recommended for a specific daily calorie level. For example, a bowl of pasta from a restaurant may have two cups of pasta or more, which is almost the recommended daily amount of grains.
Be Aware of Serving Sizes
Make sure you also read the Nutrition Facts label on packaged and canned foods. It tells you the serving size, how many servings per container, calories, calories per serving and key nutrients the food provides. You can use it to help you keep track of how much fat, saturated fat, trans-fat, sodium, cholesterol, sugars, and calories you get from different foods.
Pay attention to the serving size and the number of servings every food package. A package might contain two or more servings, so if you eat two servings, you would consume twice the calories, fat, sodium, carbohydrates, protein, etc., as you would for one serving.
Pay Attention to the Nutrient Content
The Percent Daily Value (written as “% daily value”) on the right of the label tells you what percentage of the recommended daily amount of a nutrient is in one serving of the food. It is based on the nutritional needs of a person who consumes 2,000 calories per day. For example, on this label for macaroni and cheese, the Percent Daily Value for total fat is 18%. This means that one serving of macaroni and cheese (1 cup) will give you 18 percent of the total amount of fat you should allow yourself each day, assuming you eat about 2,000 calories daily.