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Eating Right After Fifty: Making the Right Choices

Eating Right After Fifty: Making the Right Choices

From early adulthood through middle age, it can be very difficult to resist the allure of junk food. Of course, avoiding fatty and sugary items is still a challenge for most past the age of fifty. Likewise, the importance of eating right doesn’t wane as we get older. Fortunately, it’s never too late to reap the benefits of healthy diet.

What to Avoid (and Why)

Throughout the day, many people consuming a sizable number of empty calories. In short, the term “empty calories” is used to describe foods and drinks that are high in calories, but offer comparitively little in terms of actual nutritional value. In lieu of nutrients, these items include such notorious ingredients as sodium, added sugars, saturated fats, bad (LDL) cholesterol and refined grains.

A list of some popular sources of empty calories is shown below:


  • Sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks
  • Sausages, hot dogs, bacon and ribs
  • Sweetened hot/cold cereal
  • Cakes, cookies and candy
  • Breads made with refined flour
  • Packaged frozen foods
  • French fries, onion rings and fried chicken
  • Chips and Crackers
  • Ice cream
  • Pizza


Needless to say, it’s not a good idea to consume large amounts of empty calories. Aside from adding unwanted pounds to your waistline, a junk food diet can also increase the likelihood of serious, long-term health problems. For example, people who are overweight or obese are more at risk of developing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even certain forms of cancer.

A Guide Through the Grocery Store

While it’s fairly easy to weed out the unhealthy foods in your diet, replacing them with healthier alternatives can be somewhat difficult. For one thing, the body needs a reasonable mix of fruits, vegetables, proteins and other types of food. Another problem is caloric intake; the amount of calories a person requires depends on multiple factors.

To help older adults improve their diet, US Department of Agriculture has developed an eating plan for those aged 50 and older. The USDA plan not only separates foods into ten distinct categories, but also provides guidelines for three separate per-day calorie intakes. The USDA’s suggestions are shown below:


1,600 Daily Calories 2,000 Daily Calories 2,600 Daily Calories
Grains 5 ounces or equivalent 6 ounces or equivalent 9 ounces or equivalent
Vegetables 2 cups 2-1/2 cups 3-1/2 cups
Fruits 1-1/2 cups 2 cups 2 cups
Protein foods 5 ounces or equivalent 5-1/2 ounces or equivalent 6-1/2 ounces or equivalent
Seafood 8 ounces/week 8 ounces/week 10 ounces/week
Meat, poultry, eggs 24 ounces/week 26 ounces/week 31 ounces/week
Nuts, seeds, soy products 4 ounces/week 4 ounces/week 5 ounces/week
Dairy products 3 cups 3 cups 3 cups
Oils 22 grams 27 grams 34 grams
Solid fats and added sugars (SoFAS) 121 calories 258 calories 362 calories


How Much is Enough?

The USDA’s recommendations are certainly helpful, but they raise an important question ‒ how much calories does a person need in a given day? The answer can vary widely from person to person. To make things easier for consumers, the USDA has also issued the following guidelines for daily calorie intake:


Inactive women aged 50+: Roughly 1,600 calories
Inactive men aged 50+: Roughly 2,000 calories
Somewhat active women aged 50+: Roughly 1,800 calories
Somewhat active men aged 50+: Roughly 2,200-2,400 calories
Active women aged 50+: Roughly 2,000–2,200 calories
Active men aged 50+: Roughly 2,400-2,800 calories
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