Best Diets for Seniors - Essential Insights for Family Caregivers

Chad Birt

Written by Chad Birt on Thu Nov 02 2023.

Health food bowl.

Many family caregivers care for older adults. In fact, about 41.8 million Americans provide care for someone 50 or older. This makes a lot of sense. After all, seniors are more likely to suffer from chronic health problems and need mobility assistance. But if you’re just starting out, creating a meal plan for healthy eating can seem overwhelming.


Even though everyone has unique nutritional needs, several general guidelines can help ensure your loved one eats a healthy, balanced diet. To learn more, we connected with Dr. Alex Foxman, MD, a board-certified internal medicine physician, and Michelle Sari, MSc, RD, a registered dietitian and health and nutrition specialist at the National Coalition on Health Care

How Do Seniors’ Nutritional Needs Vary From the General Population?

Dr. Foxman says that seniors’ nutritional needs are distinct due to the metabolic and physiological changes that occur with aging. Getting older also affects the body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients, making a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals especially important. “Older adults can also experience decreased appetite and changes in taste and smell,” Dr. Foxman adds. “Both of which can affect food intake and nutritional status.” 

What Type of Nutrients Should Seniors Eat?

All people need certain nutrients to thrive, but seniors benefit from some more than others. 

“It’s important that older adults focus on getting enough calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12,” explains Sari. “All have been shown to be beneficial for the health of seniors. Calcium and vitamin D aid in bone health and vitamin B12 has been shown to be beneficial for cognitive health.”

Dr. Foxman agrees, adding that “fiber is essential for digestive health and omega-3 fatty acids for brain and heart health are essential. A balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can aid in meeting these nutritional needs.” 

Is There a Specific Diet That’s Best for Seniors?

Sari says there isn’t a specific diet she’d recommend for all seniors as “taste, dentition, and health needs vary by person.”

Instead, she encourages family caregivers to  “focus on foods with a good amount of protein, fiber, healthy fats, and carbohydrates that your loved one enjoys. It’s more important your senior meets their protein and calorie needs, as opposed to eating certain foods.” 

A focus on balanced nutrition:

  • Prevents weight loss

  • Reduces the risk of malnutrition

  • Encourages healthy skin

  • Keeps bones healthy and strong

Dr. Foxman agrees that everyone’s nutritional needs vary, but he does have a specific diet recommendation.

The Mediterranean Diet

“This diet is often recommended for seniors due to its emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats,” explains Dr. Foxman. “It promotes heart health, cognitive function, and overall longevity.”

Even better? “A study published in the Journal of Gerontology showed that older adults adhering to this diet have a lower risk of chronic diseases and improved quality of life.

Things Family Caregivers Should Consider During Meal Prep

Many family caregivers are responsible for grocery shopping as well as snack and meal prep. But if your background isn’t in nutrition, this process can be intimidating. Rather than trying to do everything perfectly, focus on nutritious foods that your loved one enjoys.

“I encourage all of my clients to prepare foods that their loved ones enjoy,” Sari says. “If someone is provided with foods they like, they’re more likely to eat them. There isn’t one specific way to do this, but generally speaking, try making meals that are rich in flavor, diverse in color, and featuring a variety of ingredients.”

“A Registered Dietitian can be a great resource if you need help,” she adds. “Registered Dietitians are experts in the nutritional needs of people and can tailor a personalized nutrition plan for your loved one.” 

The Best Diet for Seniors - The Bottom Line

There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for senior nutrition. To be successful, it’s essential you consider unique factors, like your loved one’s general health and nutritional needs. 

“Each senior’s needs are individual so it’s necessary to take a personalized approach,” Dr. Foxman says. “Integrating a variety of nutrient-rich foods and professional guidance is key to promoting their overall health and quality of life.”

Have Questions About Your Loved One’s Diet? We’re Happy to Help!

Providing your loved one with good nutrition is a key component of family caregiving, but it isn’t always easy. That’s especially true if your loved one has a medical diagnosis which means certain foods are off limits. 

Have questions? We’re here to make things easier. Our friendly Care Specialists regularly assist customers with all things feeding and nutrition. Call (800) 696-CARE or send an email to Get in touch; we’d love to hear from you! 

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.