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Nutrition for Older Adults

Posted on August 27th 2021 by

Nutrition for Older Adults

Food is essential to life. The food we consume provides our bodies with the energy, vitamins and minerals we require to live healthily. Many of us know this already, but perhaps we don’t appreciate that our nutritional intake goes much deeper than just providing the raw materials to fuel our bodies keeping it working like an efficient machine.

Nutritional intake has strong influences on our mental health and psychological well-being as well as an even bigger impact on the environment we live in and those further afield. It helps us connect with friends, family and unites communities at social events and parties. Its influence is ever present throughout our lifespan. From affecting emotional, behavioural and physical development as we grow to preserving quality of life and preventing disease as we age.

In the UK ~10 million people are aged over 65 years, that's 16% of the population. In East Devon alone that percentage is much higher with 30.4% of the population aged over 65 years. In fact, 29% of LED members fall into the over 65s too!

LED Community Leisure is committed to supporting the heath and wellbeing of everyone in our local community. In this blog, Barnaby (MSc. Sports Nutrition) shares his top diet and lifestyle tips for any older LED members to help ensure you're feeding your body the right amount of nutrients to stay fit and healthy.

If you would like any further nutrition advice you can email me at or alternatively speak to a health and wellbeing coach at your local leisure centre.

Disclaimer: I want to make it clear that this blog will not take into consideration any individual medical conditions readers may have. Some medical conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, will greatly influence your nutritional requirements beyond general healthy eating guidelines. If you have any medical conditions then hopefully you've already spoken to a doctor or possibly a nutritionist/dietitian to discuss any changes in your nutritional requirements. If you have not, I strongly recommend you stop reading this blog and get in contact with them as soon as possible

1. Healthy Diet & Active Lifestyle

Let's start off with a simple reminder that general healthy eating and physical activity guidelines apply to all age ranges, including older LED members. Such healthy eating guidelines include:

  • 5 portions of Fruit & Vegetables a day: Consume 5 different colours of fruits and vegetables a day to provide your body with the variety of vitamins and minerals it requires to function properly and stay healthy. This could include a banana, blueberries, carrots, red pepper and broccoli. 
  • Plentiful Protein: Consume enough protein to support your muscles and stay strong. Research suggests that after age 30 we lose as much as 3-5% of our muscle mass per decade! A diet that provides plenty protein may help reduce this effect. 
  • Wholegrain Energy: Stick to wholegrain carbohydrate options to provide you with energy throughout the day. These include potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy foods.
  • Healthy Fats: Consume healthy fat sources rich in Omega-3 fatty acids to support your hormonal system and to reduce the risk of dyslipidemia.
  • Hydration: Aim to drink 6 - 8 glasses of water a day to stop you getting dehydrated. You may even need to consume a couple more glasses in the warm weather.


For more information, I recommend you read "The Eatwell Guide" on the NHS website by clicking the button below.

The Eatwell Guide

2. Energy Requirements

As healthy indviduals age the amount of energy, or calories, they require each day to function begins to decrease. This is due to a gradual decrease in muscle mass and increase in fat tissue deposited around the body. Many older adults become less active in retirement too, unless of course they make use of the amazing range of facilities across all LED Community Leisure Centres and Swimming Pools!

This means that, for a given bodyweight, older people tend to have less muscle and more fat, leading to a fall in basal metabolic rate (BMR). - British Nutrition Foundation 

The estimated average requirement (EAR) of energy for older adults is therefore lower compared to younger adults. This means you likely cannot eat as much as you used to without increasing body fat mass (althought you probably don't need me to tell you that!)

The British Nutrition Foundation suggests men over 65 may require between 2,300 - 2,500 calories a day, whilst women may only require 1,800 - 2,000 calories a day. This could be close to 500 calories less than you required in your 20s or 30s. An excess of 500 calories a day could lead to 1lb of fat gain a week and so it is really important to cut back just a little bit to prevent weight gain.

For more information, click the green button below!

EAR Guidelines

3. Vitamin D

Vitamin D, technically a hormone, is unique in that it can be produced within the body following exposure to Ultraviolet B rays in sunlight. Vitamin D can also be consumed in the diet via food sources such as oily fish and fortified breads or cereals. The main function of vitamin D is in regulation of blood calcium levels to help maintain healthy bones and teeth. 

Vitamin D may also be important in the immune system. Research suggests that Vitamin D may help the innate immune system by promoting the elimination of invading bacteria, fungi and viruses.

  • In a study of 6,789 British adults Berry et al. discovered the prevalence of respiratory infections were lowest in summer months when vitamin D levels were also highest.

  • The “US Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey” included 18,883 adults and found that at any time of year, those who had highest levels of vitamin D were less likely to have recently had an URTI compared with those who had lower levels of Vitamin D.

The above research suggests Vitamin D can reduce the risk of respiratory tract infections. For more information check out out my blog on Nutrition & Immunity for Older Adults by clicking the green button below!

Nutrition & Immunity for Older Adults

Our body's ability to manufacture vitamine D declines with age, while the risk of osteoporosis or osteoarthritis increases with age too! Given the importance of vitamin D for bone health, the potential benefits for immune function and how difficult it can be to get sufficient sun exposure in lockdown (especially during winter) I would strongly suggest readers consider supplementing vitamin D.

Aim to consume 1,000 – 4,000 IUs per day. Vitamin D supplements are widely accessible and relatively inexpensive. You may be able to find them in your local supermarket or health food shop, such as Holland and Barrett.

How LED can support you

Download this month's recipe pack for just £2.50 for some tasty and healthy recipes to try!

Download here 

We recommend that you take the next step and speak to our qualified nutritional advisors about your diet. These will provide a 3-day food diary and then sit down with you to go over 3 key areas to improve your diet.

They can answer your nutrition questions like:

  • “How many portions of fruit and veg should I eat?”
  • “How much protein do I need”

Book your 3-day Food Diary Consultation today by calling your local LED Community Leisure Centre or speak to a member of the gym team next time you visit.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. If you’d like to contact me for further information, please email me at

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