Diet and nutrition

Balanced diet

Eating a balanced diet including proteins, carbohydrates, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable, grains and pulses and some fats is important to maintain a healthy weight. Protein is particularly important as it helps to maintain muscle mass and strength. Try to include a portion of protein in every meal. 

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Eating regular meals is important in maintaining your health. If you have a low appetite, try to eat little and often, including some extra snacks and nourishing drinks

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Losing weight

Weight loss is not a normal part of ageing. If you notice your clothing rapidly becoming too big, you have a poor appetite, you cannot eat reasonably sized meals, or you have issues with chewing or swallowing, you should consult a healthcare professional. There are many alternative ways to maintain adequate nutrition/weight.

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Older people can be at higher risk of being malnourished. If you or someone you know has a reduced appetite or is losing weight without trying, you should:

  • try to eat 3 small meals and 3 small snacks each day
  • consider having more calorific foods, for example, full-fat milk, hot chocolate made with full-fat milk, crackers with butter or cheese, full-fat yogurt, rice puddings and custards
  • monitor your weight weekly

Visit your GP if your weight loss continues.

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Vitamin D and calcium are particularly important in maintaining your general wellbeing and healthy bones. You can get Vitamin D from exposure to the sun, but you may need to take supplements to get enough. This may be particularly important for people who don’t get much sun exposure or older people.

To help your body get more vitamin D, eat plenty of vitamin D rich foods, including:

  • oily fish such as salmon, sardines, pilchards, trout, herring, kippers and eel
  • cod liver oil
  • egg yolk, meat, offal and milk
  • margarine, some breakfast cereals, and some yoghurts

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Stay hydrated

Maintaining an adequate fluid intake is essential for your kidney function and to help you to avoid illness. The recommended daily intake is 1.5 - 2 litres – that’s 6 - 8 medium glasses per day. You can obtain this from a variety of drinks, hot or cold, but alcoholic drinks don’t count. People with a heart condition should consult their doctor for specific advice, as fluid balance can vary and is particularly important.

Help with preparing meals: a common issue with maintaining nutrition is finding it difficult to prepare meals or go food shopping. There are services available in the community, including food delivery.

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Many of us enjoy a drink occasionally, perhaps with dinner or when watching TV, but drinking on most nights of the week can be harmful to your health. You should not drink more than 14 units a week. If you regularly drink as many units like this, it’s better to spread your drinking over 3 or more days.

14 units are equal to:

  • 6 pints of beer or cider (4% strength)
  • 6 medium (175ml) glasses of wine (13% strength)
  • 12 glasses (25ml) spirits such as gin or vodka (40% strength)

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Eatwell Guide

The Eatwell Guide shows how much of what we eat overall should come from each food group to achieve a healthy, balanced diet.

You do not need to achieve this balance with every meal, but try to get the balance right over a day or even a week.

Public Health England recommends we should:

  • eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables everyday
  • base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates; choosing wholegrain versions where possible
  • have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks), choosing lower fat and lower sugar options
  • eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week; one of which should be oily)
  • choose unsaturated oils and spreads and eat in small amounts
  • 6 - 8 glasses of water or other drinks a day (water, lower-fat milk, sugar-free drinks including tea and coffee. Limit fruit juice and/or smoothies to a total of 150ml a day
  • reduce fat, salt and sugar. If consuming foods and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar, have these less often and in small amounts
  • check the label on packaged foods. Choose foods lower in fat, salt and sugars

Graphic representation of eatwell guide - food divided into categories

Use the Eatwell Guide - NHS (external link) to help you get a balance of healthier and more sustainable food. It shows how much of what you eat overall should come from each food group.

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    Dental care

    It is important to look after your teeth and gums and visit the dentist regularly, so you can continue to eat healthily. For more information, see the NHS guide to taking care of your teeth and gums (external link)

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    Additional resources

    Healthy eating

    For information and advice:

    Alcohol support

    One You Haringey

    For local adult health advice and support on how to drink less alcohol.

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    Page last updated:

    January 12, 2023