Simple Senior Tips for a Healthy Winter Diet

Key Points

  • Following winter-balanced diet tips for seniors provides adequate nutrition without excess calories.

  • Many seniors find it challenging to consume a healthy diet, but these winter-balanced diet tips for seniors make it a breeze.

  • Improve your nutrition during the winter months by following a few simple tips.

Don’t let winter put a stop to your healthy eating plan. From dehydration to getting balanced nutrition, staying healthy is an extra challenge for seniors during the cold months.

By following these winter-balanced diet tips for seniors, you can meet your nutritional needs, maintain a healthy weight, and reduce your risk of chronic disease.

What Is a Balanced Diet for Seniors?

Nutritional needs change with age, and many older adults struggle to get the nutrients they need. Many seniors don’t get the recommended amounts of crucial nutrients such as fiber, calcium, vitamin D, and potassium.


You need fewer calories as you age, but your nutrient needs are similar to that of younger adults. This is typically due to less physical activity, changes in your metabolism, or age-related bone and muscle loss. Chronic health conditions and some medications also affect your nutrient absorption. 

Like many seniors, you may experience weight loss and difficulty maintaining your optimal weight. The most common cause of weight loss in seniors is simply not eating enough. 

Weight loss is also caused by mouth, tooth, or swallowing problems. Reduced sense of smell and taste as well as medications that cause nausea and vomiting also play a role. 


Good bone health is dependent on consuming the proper amount of calcium. This mineral also helps with muscle and nerve function, blood clotting, and hormone secretion. 

Some quality sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy vegetables like broccoli and kale, or fish with soft edible bones such as sardines and canned salmon. Calcium-fortified foods like soy products, cereal and fruit juices, and milk substitutes are also excellent options for seniors.

Keep in mind, that more calcium isn’t always better; excess calcium may cause constipation, kidney stones, kidney failure, heart problems, confusion, and even cognitive issues.

Women over the age of 50 and men over 70 require 1,200 milligrams of calcium each day. 

older woman eating soup

Vitamin D

Low levels of vitamin D have a large impact on your physical and mental wellness. 

Vitamin D is widely known to be important for bone health, but experts have determined that there are vitamin D receptors throughout the body that play a role in other chronic diseases including cognitive decline, depression, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.

A primary source of vitamin D comes from the skin’s exposure to sunlight. In cold climates, vitamin D absorption is reduced during the winter months when there is less sunshine and most people spend less time outdoors. Few foods naturally contain vitamin D, so an easy source for seniors is using supplements.

The risk of vitamin D deficiency increases with age. Most older adults in the United States suffer from Vitamin D deficiency.

The recommended daily allowance for vitamin D increases to 800 milligrams after age 70.


Potassium is a mineral that helps with fluid balance and heart, muscle, and nervous system function. Age-related changes in kidney function, medications, and illness all affect potassium levels.

Many fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of potassium. Legumes and potatoes are also high in potassium as well as meats, poultry, and a variety of nuts. Whole wheat flour and brown rice are much higher in potassium than their refined counterparts.

The recommended daily intake of potassium for seniors is 4,700 milligrams per day.


People lose muscle mass with age. Beginning at age 30, most people experience a muscle mass decrease of up to eight percent per decade, and this rate tends to increase after the age of 60. 

Muscle loss is a major cause of disability in older people. It increases the risks of falls and injury.

Typically, losing muscle is accompanied by an increase in fat, increased insulin resistance, decreased bone density, joint stiffness, and even shrinking stature. All these changes contribute to chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and osteoporosis.

Consuming enough protein prevents the loss of muscle and strength as you age. Adults often eat too little protein — especially adults ages 71 and older. 

To supplement your meat, poultry, and egg consumption, try adding more seafood, dairy, and fortified soy alternatives to boost your protein intake. Beans, peas, and lentils are also packed with this muscle-growing nutrient. 

Elderly couple shopping for produce


Fiber comes from the parts of plant foods that aren’t easily digested. Fiber, also known as roughage or bulk, has many benefits for older adults. 

This nutrient normalizes bowel movements by retaining fluids in your digestive system. It maintains bowel health, lower cholesterol, controls blood sugar levels, and maintains a healthy weight. Increasing your intake of dietary fiber may even help you live longer.

Almost 95 percent of adults do not have enough fiber in their diets. The good news is that fiber is widely available in plant-based foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Supplements like psyllium or methylcellulose fill the gap for seniors struggling to consume enough fiber. 

When you begin to increase the fiber in your diet, move slowly. Large, sudden increases can cause uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, gas, and cramping.

After age 50, your need for fiber surprisingly decreases. Elderly men should consume 30 grams of fiber per day while women should aim for 21 grams.

Vitamin B12

The ability to process and absorb vitamin B12 decreases with age, and some medications can also decrease absorption. Vitamin B12 is absorbed from food by stomach acid. As you age, your stomach acid declines. 

Protein and fortified grains and cereals help you meet your B12 needs. If you're still not getting the vitamin B12 you require, you may need to take supplements. The recommended daily intake is 2.4 micrograms. 

The symptoms of B12 deficiency can be subtle, so it is recommended to take blood tests to check when you are over age 60.


Adequate fluids are essential for proper health. As you age, the need to stay hydrated is crucial. One study found that up to 40 percent of elderly people are chronically dehydrated.

Seniors are more likely to become dehydrated for several reasons:

  • Your senses of appetite and thirst diminish with age.

  • You may not be aware that you are thirsty.

  • Your body composition and water requirements change.

  • Some medications increase the risk of dehydration.

Aim to drink a third of your body weight in ounces of fluid. That’s about one cup for every 25 pounds you weigh. If you weigh 150 pounds, you need six cups of water each day.

A quick way to tell if you are drinking enough is to look at the color of your urine. If it’s pale and clear, you are probably well-hydrated. If it’s a dark amber or brown color, you are dehydrated and need to increase your fluid consumption or consult your doctor.

Be sure to limit drinks with added sugars or salts.

Older gentleman with bag of produce

Why Do Seniors Lack Nutrition During the Winter?

Even in the best times, many seniors suffer from poor nutrition. During the winter, seniors face additional challenges in staying well-nourished.

Access to nutritious, locally-grown produce is lower in the winter. It’s easy to get plenty of fresh produce in the summer when ripe red tomatoes and juicy peaches are in season, but it’s just as important to eat fresh produce in the wintertime.

Long-distance transport drives up costs and drives down the flavor and nutritional content. For example, locally harvested seasonal broccoli has twice the vitamin C as those shipped long distances. 

The winter months tend to be worse for dehydration. You lose moisture more rapidly in the cold, dry air. This is problematic because you don’t feel thirsty like you would during hot days, prompting you to drink water.

Cold weather and poor driving conditions reduce access to shopping and social connections and increase isolation. When you can’t get to the store, it’s harder to prepare a nutritious and appealing meal. And research shows that isolation leads to a poorer diet among seniors.

Winter is cold and flu season. When you are sick, it’s even harder to eat well and stay hydrated; your appetite is poor, you don’t feel good, and you may have vomiting or diarrhea. 

Tips To Improve Your Diet

During the winter seniors need to make every bite count by choosing nutritious meals and snacks. Try these additional tips to improve your winter diet.

Include healthy protein-rich foods like seafood, dairy, beans, peas, and lentils. Protein maintains your muscle mass and sustains energy.

Drink liquids like water, tea or coffee, or 100 percent juice throughout the day. Try filling a large container of water in your refrigerator each morning, and fill your glass from it throughout the day. Both dairy and non-dairy kinds of milk and fruit juices help you stay hydrated. 

Water-dense fruits and vegetables like cucumbers, lettuce, celery, spinach, and oranges add water to your diet as do brothy soups and stews.

Try farm-fresh fruits and vegetables that are at their peak in winter. Colorful root vegetables are at their best in winter. Parsnips, yams, beets, and carrots are high in vitamins, iron, and fiber, and they keep you feeling satisfied.

Dark, leafy vegetables become their sweetest and most flavorful when the weather turns cold. Spinach, broccoli, chard, and kale are loaded with fiber and vitamins. Toss a handful into your roasting pan, soup, or omelet for a colorful, healthy dose of vegetables.

Citrus fruits are harvested during the winter; even though they travel to reach most regions, they are fresh from the tree and very delicious. Oranges, grapefruit, and pineapple are packed with vitamin C which gives you a needed immunity boost during the winter.

When it comes to produce, choose fresh over frozen and frozen before canned. Fruits and vegetables are at their peak nutrition when they are freshly picked. Choosing frozen produce is a good alternative because it is frozen soon after harvest. Canned fruits usually contain high added sugar content, and canned vegetables may have high levels of salt, so make sure to check the label before choosing canned foods.

Older man cuts fruit

Up your fiber intake by choosing whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. It can be difficult to get enough fiber in winter because fresh foods like berries and vegetables have less availability or are more expensive. Frozen fruits and vegetables are a reliable substitute.

If slicing and chopping is a challenge, try canned and ready-to-eat options. That way you’ll keep those nutrient-rich vegetables coming in meals and snacks.

Share meals with others. Research shows that sharing a meal can provide greater pleasure from food and improve nutritional intake.

Add a bit of spice instead of reaching for the salt to satisfy your taste buds. Too much salt is linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. In addition, it may even cause calcium loss, which is damaging to the skeletal system. 

Control your portions and watch your calories. Check the serving amount on boxed or canned foods. It’s common for a food package to have more than one serving, so you could be overeating without realizing it.

A Healthy Eating Meal Plan

How can you fit these nutritious options into your daily diet? Here are some delicious options for quick and nutritious winter meals.


Apple Walnut Cinnamon Oatmeal

Whole oats are full of fiber and nutrients and help you feel full throughout the morning. Try it with fresh chopped or dried apples, walnut pieces, and a dash of cinnamon and brown sugar. Top this recipe with milk or your favorite milk substitute. Walnuts and milk add protein, and apples with cinnamon are a classically delicious combination.

Berry Banana Smoothie

Get a blast of summer goodness with a berry banana smoothie. Frozen berries retain their peak summer taste and nutrition and pack a dose of fiber and vitamins. Drop one cup of milk or milk substitute, one small ripe banana, and ¾ cup of frozen berries in your blender and blend until smooth. You’ll enjoy a quick tasty start to your day.


Tuna Garbanzo Salad

Here’s a quick meal whose ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. Top your favorite salad greens with flaked canned tuna and a handful of garbanzo beans. Add chopped veggies and a sprinkle of crumbled feta cheese or other grated cheese. Top it with a quick lemon juice and olive oil vinaigrette and you have a gourmet-style lunch. Tuna is a great source of healthy protein, and garbanzo beans are packed with fiber. 

Savory Pumpkin Soup

Who can resist a hot bowl of soup in the winter? In a small saucepan, cook chopped onion and a clove of garlic in two tablespoons of butter. Add a small can of pumpkin, a can of chicken broth, and a can of water. Bring it all to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you have an immersion blender give it a quick whirl. Ladle the golden soup into your bowl and drizzle with cream. Enjoy with a hearty piece of bread.


Sheet Pan Supper

Here’s a meal you’ll enjoy over and over because it’s so easy and delicious. Coat a sheet pan with oil or spray oil and heat your oven to 425 degrees. Choose a thin cut of meat like salmon, chicken tenderloin, or pork chop. Lightly oil the meat and place it on the pan. Place ½-inch slices of sweet or white potato around it as well as your favorite vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, carrot chunks, or sliced brussels sprouts. Toss the vegetables lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle it all with salt and pepper. Herbs such as parsley, thyme, and rosemary also work well. Bake for 20 minutes, but stir the vegetables halfway through. 

Dinner Frittata

Eggs aren’t just for breakfast. Melt a pat of butter in a non-stick skillet. Thinly slice a potato, add to the skillet over medium heat, and cover for four minutes or until the potato slices become soft. Pour scrambled eggs over the potatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and stir over medium heat until the eggs are softly cooked. Add any diced vegetables like peppers, mushrooms, or onions with the potatoes to make it a farmer’s frittata. Eggs give you a boost of protein and potatoes and vegetables are a rich source of fiber and vitamins.

Elderly woman eats salad


When every bite counts, choose tasty snacks that are part of a healthy diet. Try these options:

  • Satisfy the crunchy craving with a whole-grain crispbread cracker spread with soft cheese. You’ll get a dose of fiber, protein, and calcium.

  • Plain yogurt with fresh fruit and a handful of granola is full of refreshing goodness and healthy probiotics for your digestion.

  • A frozen banana and a spoonful of peanut butter whirled in the blender is a cold, creamy, and protein-packed alternative to ice cream.

  • Cottage cheese with dried fruit and nuts or seeds is delicious and loaded with protein, calcium, fiber, and vitamins.

A Healthier and Better You

Eating a healthy diet in the winter doesn’t have to be difficult for seniors. By following these tips, you’ll enjoy delicious foods that are nutritious and help keep diseases at bay and excess weight off your frame.

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