Healthy Eating and Nutrition

Choosing nutritious foods can help you keep fit and strong and may prevent some diseases. Here you will find information about healthy eating for older people.

The Food Pyramid
Enjoying food is important at any age and by making healthy food choices now your body will get the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy, even if you don’t eat as much food as you used to. 

The Food Pyramid is a nutrition guide that shows you the foods you should eat plenty of and those you should eat less frequently to maintain optimal health. It recommends daily amounts of each food type and suggests options you can try to keep your daily diet varied and interesting, so you can continue to enjoy your food.

Below is a list of the different food categories in the food pyramid, starting at the top and working down to the bottom. It is recommended that you eat more of the nutritious foods listed at the bottom of the pyramid than foods grouped at the top, as these are higher in fats and sugars and are less nutritious.

Fats, sugary snacks and alcohol
Choose very small amounts of the following:

  • Fats and oils – use a small amount daily
  • Sugars, confectionary, cakes, biscuits and high fat snack foods – an occasional treat
  • Alcohol – if you drink alcohol, drink sensibly and preferably with meals.

Meat, fish, eggs and alternatives
Choose any two of the following each day:

  • 2oz cooked lean meat or poultry
  • 3oz cooked fish
  • 2 eggs (not more than 7 per week)
  • 6 tablespoons cooked peas/beans
  • 2oz cheddar type cheese
  • 3oz nuts.

Milk, cheese and yoghurt
Choose any three of the following each day:

  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 carton of yoghurt
  • 1oz cheddar cheese or blarney/edam cheese.

*Choose low fat choices frequently if you are watching your weight.
*Tasty tips - milk on cereal or porridge, cheese on toast, custard, rice or milk pudding, milky hot chocolate or malted drinks.

Fruit & vegetables
Choose four or more of the following each day:

  • ½ glass of fruit juice
  • 2 tablespoons of cooked vegetables or salad
  • Small bowl of homemade vegetable soup
  • 1 medium-sized piece of fresh fruit
  • Small bowl of cooked or tinned fruit.

*Choose citrus fruits frequently.

Bread, cereals and potatoes
Choose six or more of the following each day:

  • 1 bowl of breakfast cereal
  • 1 slice of bread
  • 2 tablespoons of cooked pasta/rice
  • 1 medium potato – boiled or baked.

*Choose high fibre cereals and breads frequently.
*You need at least six servings each day.

What is a serving?

  • Each choice recommended in the above lists is the equivalent of one serving.
  • An average portion of meat, fish or poultry is about the size of a small pork chop.

Your daily diet

High fibre foods are important for good health. Eating more foods rich in fibre helps prevent constipation and to safeguard against other bowel problems.

Daily fibre guide:

  • Having a high fibre cereal for breakfast each morning
  • Try to use 100 per cent wholemeal bread
  • Choose at least two vegetables each day
  • Have one-two pieces of fruit each day
  • Try to eat peas and beans regularly.

High fibre snacks:

  • Baked beans on wholemeal toast
  • Vegetable or lentil soup and wholemeal bread
  • Mixed dried fruit and nuts
  • Wholemeal scone and jam
  • Stewed prunes and custard
  • Breakfast cereals such as Bran Flakes or Weetabix and milk.

*All stewed fruit is a good source of fibre.
*Nuts are not a good form of fibre.

Drink six to eight cups of fluid every day, including water, milk, tea and fruit juice.  A good fluid intake is important, especially if you are eating more fibre rich foods.

All parts of your body need oxygen and this is carried in the blood by iron.  Good dietary sources of iron include:

  • Meat, fish and offal (liver, heart, kidneys)
  • Green leafy vegetables, peas, beans and fortified cereals

Foods rich in vitamin C, such as orange juice, will help your body to absorb more iron when taken with iron-rich food.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium from foods. It is needed to maintain healthy bones and is made by the action of sunlight on the skin. 
But as people age, the skin is less able to produce it, so older people need to eat foods rich in vitamin D or take a vitamin D supplement.
Foods rich in vitamin D include oily fish, milk with added vitamin D, margarine, eggs and liver.

Food Tips

Aim to…

  • Enjoy a wide variety of foods
  • Eat at least six servings of bread, cereals and potatoes
  • Eat five or more servings of fruit and vegetables.


  • Make meal times social events
  • Join others for meals or start your own lunch club
  • If you get full quickly, eat little and often
  • Take as much exercise as you can, out of doors if possible – always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

Choose lean for better health…

  • Trim the fat from meat and the skin from poultry before you eat it
  • Once trimmed, cheaper cuts of meat are as nutritious as expensive ones
  • Chicken portions can be economical as there is no waste.

Choose fish more often…

  • Fish is quick to prepare, cook and is easy to digest
  • Try eating oily fish – rich in Vitamin D – twice a week
  • Oily fish is rich in Omega-three fatty acids, which are good for your heart
  • Try fresh, vacuum-packed or tinned tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines, salmon.


  • Try two eggs instead of one serving of meat, poultry or fish for a main meal
  • Eggs can be scrambled, boiled, poached or occasionally fried in a little oil.

Don’t forget your dairy foods…

  • Bones of all ages need calcium
  • Choose dairy products such as milk, yoghurt or cheese
  • Eat three servings of dairy food per day.

Spice it up…

  • Taste food before adding flavourings
  • Try herbs, spices and pepper instead of salt.

Note:If you have a medical condition such as diabetes, some of the information here will not be suitable for you. Contact your doctor or dietician for advice on your diet.