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Nutrition and healthy eating

Good nutrition and healthy eating are important throughout your life. A healthy diet can lower your risk of developing health problems. It can also help you feel more energetic and mentally well.

Learn more about the importance of good nutrition as you age, plus healthy eating tips.

Topics on this page

Importance of healthy eating

It’s important to eat a variety of nutritious foods throughout your life, but certain nutrients are more important as you get older.

It’s recommended you eat foods rich in calcium, vitamin D and protein to maintain bone and muscle strength. Fibre has many health benefits such as keeping your bowels healthy and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and bowel cancer. And unsaturated fats reduce the risk of heart disease and help lower cholesterol levels.

Healthy eating tips

As you get older, you may lose interest in cooking and have a reduced appetite.

If you only cook for one or two people, you may not be motivated to make healthy, nourishing meals all the time.

It’s a good idea to have staple ingredients in your pantry and fridge that can be used in different ways. For example:

  • eggs
  • plain yoghurt (add to soups, salads and fruit)
  • rice (try different varieties such as brown, red or black)
  • pasta
  • canned fish (e.g. sardines, tuna and salmon)
  • canned legumes (e.g. chickpeas and lentils)
  • canned vegetables (reduced salt)
  • canned fruit (in juice, not syrup)
  • low-salt sauces (e.g. soy sauce)
  • vegetable oil (e.g. olive or canola oil).

You can also find healthy, nutritious recipes at:

The Mediterranean diet

There are many health benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet. This diet includes lots of vegetables, fruit, beans, lentils and nuts. It also includes whole grains (e.g. whole-wheat bread and brown rice) plus extra virgin olive oil, fish and seafood.

Recent studies suggest the combination of foods in the Mediterranean diet help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases related to obesity (e.g. bowel cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes). Research also shows this diet promotes healthy ageing and increases life expectancy.

Learn more about the Mediterranean diet on the Dietitians Australia website.

Stay hydrated

It’s important to stay hydrated, especially on hot days. It is recommended that older people drink about 1.5 litres of water per day. The best choice of fluid is plain, fresh water, but you can also increase your fluid intake by drinking tea and reduced-fat milk. You can also eat fresh fruit.

If you have a health condition, such as kidney disease, you may need to drink less water. If you are unsure, talk to your doctor.

Shopping tips

Grocery shopping can be quick, easy and cheap if you know what to buy.

Eat for Health has some great food shopping tips.

If you need help with shopping, try:

  • online shopping – major supermarkets have online shopping and delivery services
  • My Aged Care – if you are eligible, you can get help with meals and food preparation
  • meal subscription services – order pre-prepared meals or recipes and food ingredients delivered to your door
  • Meals on Wheels Australia and other council food delivery services.

Reduced appetite

It’s common for your appetite to decrease as you get older. This can be a problem if you don’t get the nutrients and vitamins you need (malnutrition).

If you have a reduced appetite, you can:

  • eat smaller meals and snacks throughout the day
  • eat at regular times rather than waiting until you’re hungry
  • make nutritious smoothies or soups
  • freeze single or double meal portions for days when you don’t feel like cooking
  • make food interesting by cooking a new recipe once a week
  • use fresh or dried herbs and spices to add flavour to your meals.

Maintaining a healthy weight

As you get older, it can be hard to maintain a healthy weight. You are likely to be less active at this stage of life, so you don’t need as much food to fuel your body.

But we also know that people who are over 65 years may have better health if they carry a little extra weight and have a slightly higher body mass index.

Where to get help

If you need help to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, talk to your doctor or an accredited dietitian.

Online resources

Read more about nutrition for older adults on the following websites:

This con­tent has been reviewed by a group of med­ical sub­ject mat­ter experts, in accor­dance with Jean Hailes pol­i­cy.

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Agarwal P, Leurgans SE, Agrawal S, Aggarwal NT, Cherian LJ, James BD, Dhana K, Barnes LL, Bennett DA, Schneider JA. Association of Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay and Mediterranean Diets With Alzheimer Disease Pathology. Neurology. 2023 May 30;100(22):e2259-e2268. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000207176. Epub 2023 Mar 8. PMID: 36889921; PMCID: PMC10259273.
Temporelli PL. Cardiovascular prevention: Mediterranean or low-fat diet? Eur Heart J Suppl. 2023 Apr 21;25(Suppl B):B166-B170. doi: 10.1093/eurheartjsupp/suad097. PMID: 37091669; PMCID: PMC10120950.
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Last updated: 
12 March 2024
Last reviewed: 
02 February 2024

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