While being overweight can be an issue for some, malnourishment is much more common and the causes of this are variable.

In general, older adults need fewer calories, but more nutrients. The body’s ability to efficiently absorb vitamins and minerals declines and therefore nutrient-rich meals become even more important.

Experts say there are positive steps you can take to make your “golden years” healthier and more enjoyable. According to Cath Day, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for Association for Dietetics in South Africa, ageing healthily requires a greater intake of calcium, magnesium and folate, as well as of vitamins B12, D, E and K.

“These needs can be met with a varied diet of healthy foods. However, good nutrition exists in the context of a healthy lifestyle. Interestingly, meals that promote social interactions for older adults in a variety of settings are associated with improved food and nutrient intake or nutritional status,” Day said.

There are no guidelines for the elderly to take nutritional supplements as a matter of course, but Day added: “If deficiencies are noted, supplementation becomes imperative as these need to be corrected through therapeutic supplementation and under the supervision of the medical team.”

Harvard Medical School on Harvard Health Publishing outlines a few steps you can take to keep you healthy in middle age and beyond.

Eating a balanced diet, which supplies all the necessary nutrients for health is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Here are the key factors that influence your nutritional health as you age.


As we get older, our resting metabolic rate declines. This can lead to unwanted weight gain, which can increase your risk for certain chronic diseases.

This decrease in metabolic rate is related to the loss of lean body mass as we age. To help lessen this effect, increase your physical activity so you burn more calories.

Improve the quality of your diet by including whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and non-fat or low-fat dairy.


Protein is necessary for tissue growth, repair and maintenance, despite the need for fewer calories as we age.

It’s important to eat an adequate amount of protein each day.

The average adult needs 45-60g.

Choose high-quality protein foods like 21g of chicken, 8g of non-fat or low-fat milk, 1 cup cooked lentils (18g).


The senses of taste and smell are sometimes dulled by the ageing process.

Smoking and some medications can also alter your sense of taste.

To preserve taste and smell, stay hydrated; adequate saliva is necessary to fully taste food.

Resist overusing the salt shaker.