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Healthy eating supports good health and wellbeing throughout life. But as we get older, our nutritional needs change. Changes to our lifestyles and appetites can also make it harder to get the nutrients our bodies need. This means that as we age, we may need to eat a little differently to support good health.*

The benefits of healthy eating for older adults

Eating healthily as you get older has many benefits. It can help to:

  • maintain your energy levels, focus and concentration
  • keep your bones and muscles strong and help prevent osteoporosis
  • lower your risk or manage chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes
  • support healthy digestion and bowel function and help prevent constipation
  • help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

It’s never too late to start eating healthily. Even small changes can make a big difference to your health and disease risk. If you’d like some support to do this, our free Healthy Ageing Online Learning or Get Healthy Service health coaching program can help.

Practicing some of the below simple habits can help you get enough of the right nutrients to help you thrive as you get older.*

Follow the healthy eating guidelines

Aim to follow the healthy eating guidelines.

1. Eat a variety of foods from the 5 food groups

The five food groups are:

    • vegetables and legumes/beans
    • fruits
    • grain (cereal) foods
    • milk yogurt, cheese and/or alternatives
    • lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, legumes/beans

These foods contain important nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fibre. Getting enough of these nutrients can become even more important as we get older.

Try our Food Calculator to learn how much from each food group you should aim for each day.

2. Only have ‘sometimes’ foods occasionally and in small quantities.

‘Sometimes’ foods are those that are low in nutrients and often high in saturated fat, added salt, sugars, and/or low in fibre. Limiting these foods can help keep you healthy.

3. Drink plenty of water

Water helps to support healthy body function, including digestion, circulation, kidney, immune and joint health. 

As you get older, you may not feel as thirsty, even when your body needs water. Try to drink at least six times a day. You may need to drink more often in hot weather or if you are physically active.

4. Limit alcohol

Because of the physical changes that occur with ageing, alcohol can have a greater impact on us. We may be less tolerant to the effects of alcohol and it may not be broken down by our body as efficiently. Alcohol doesn’t give you any essential nutrients. It also has a lot of kilojoules, which can lead to unwanted weight gain.

Visit Eat for Health to find out more about the Australian Dietary Guidelines for older adults.

Eat foods that support healthy ageing

Some foods contain nutrients that have important health benefits during older age.

  • Calcium helps to keep your bones strong and healthy. Foods high in calcium include dairy, plant-based dairy alternatives with added calcium, tofu, almonds, chia/sesame seeds, dried figs and dark green leafy vegetables.

  • Oily fish contains omega 3 fats that can help to support heart health. This includes tuna, salmon, mackerel and sardines.

  • Vegetables contain natural plant chemicals that can help lower inflammation and support cell health. Aim to eat a variety of vegetables from all the colours of the rainbow, such as tomatoes, carrots, squash, broccoli, spinach, eggplant, beetroot and potatoes.

  • Orange-coloured vegetables – such as carrots and pumpkin – can support eye health and good vision.  

  • Vitamin C can help to keep your skin, bones, teeth, and gums healthy. Berries, citrus fruits (like oranges) and spinach are rich in vitamin C. Try to eat some raw fruit and vegetables every day as vitamin C can be lost during cooking.

  • Foods rich in fibre such as vegetables, fruits, wholegrains and cereals, legumes/beans, nuts and seeds can help you have regular bowel function and prevent constipation or loose stools. Fibre is also needed for heart health.

Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your health, or your dental practitioner if you have problems with your teeth. If you have lost your appetite and feel unsteady on your feet, you should speak to your doctor immediately.

If you have specific dietary needs or questions about what foods are right for you, see an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Healthy eating to support bone health in older adults

As we get older, making small changes to the way we eat and staying active can help keep our bones healthy.

More than two-thirds of Australians aged 50 and over have osteoporosis or osteopenia. These are diseases that weaken bones and make them more likely to break.

To help lower your risk of these diseases and improve your quality of life, older adults need more of some nutrients.


Calcium is one of many essential nutrients for bone health. But as we get older, our bodies absorb less calcium from our food. When we don’t eat enough calcium, our body takes calcium from our bones to other parts of the body where it’s needed.

This means older people need to eat more foods that contain calcium. Calcium is found in:

  • dairy products – like milk, yoghurt and cheese
  • fish with soft, edible bones – like canned salmon or sardines
  • almonds, brazil nuts, dried figs, hulled tahini, tofu, and nut or cereal plant-based milk alternatives with added calcium (such as soymilk)
  • bread and cereals with added calcium, and fruit and green vegetables such as oranges, broccoli, kale and bok choy also contain some calcium

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend women over 51 years should aim to eat 4 serves of dairy every day. Men aged 51 to 70 should aim for 2 and a half, and men over 70 years should try for 3 and a half serves of dairy every day. Examples of a serve of dairy includes:

  • 250ml (1 cup) of milk or plant-based milk alternatives with added calcium
  • 40g (2 slices) of cheese
  • 200g (3/4 cup) yoghurt
  • 100g firm tofu
  • 100g of canned salmon with bones

If you feel you are not getting enough calcium, consider seeing an Accredited Practising Dietitian or your doctor. They can help you find other ways to get the calcium you need.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is another important nutrient for bone and muscle health. Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium. Together, vitamin D and calcium can help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

Getting some sunlight is the best way to get vitamin D. Sunlight acts on the skin and turns it into vitamin D. In summer, aim to expose your skin for a few minutes, most days of the week. In winter, aim to expose your skin for a few hours per week.

Vitamin D is also found in some foods. These are:

  • milk, butter, margarine, yoghurt and cheese with added vitamin D
  • oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel
  • mushrooms exposed to UV light
  • lamb’s fry and liver
  • egg yolks.

Talk to your doctor or Accredited Practising Dietitian if you have any concerns about getting enough vitamin D. Visit Health Direct for more information about vitamin D.

Learn more about healthy eating for older adults at the Australian Dietary Guidelines including the basics of healthy eating.

Get active to promote bone health

Along with getting enough of the right nutrients, staying active can also support bone health. Aim to do physical activity like walking or strength exercises to help keep your bones strong. Movement and exercise can also help with preventing falls.

Talk to your health professional before getting started if you have any health issues or questions about physical activity.

Learn more about the physical activity guidelines for older adults and how to start being more active.

If you’re concerned about having a fall, use our checklist to see if your health, or how you live, might be affecting your risk.

Get support for healthy ageing

If you’re over 50 years and living in NSW, you can get free support to help you eat healthily and get active. Find out more about Healthy Ageing Online Learning and the Get Healthy Service health coaching program. Or visit our Find an exercise program directory to find exercise classes in your area.

*The information on this page only provides general advice. Your needs may differ depending on your age, sex and health. To best understand your needs, talk to your doctor or an Accredited Practising Dietitian.


Department of Health and Aged Care (2021) Physical activity and exercise guidelines for older Australians (65 years and over), accessed 23 November 2023.

Department of Health and Aged Care/National Health and Medical Research Council (2015) Healthy eating when you’re older, Eat for Health website, accessed 7 October 2022.

Health Direct (2022) Vitamin D and your health, Healthdirect website, accessed 23 November 2023.