Serving and Portion Sizes for Senior Citizens

Dietary guidelines change as you get older. It’s also more important that you stick to these guidelines at older ages, as poor food choices may have more of an impact on your cardiovascular and digestive health.

To make sure you eat the right foods and get all the nutrition you need, take a look at these serving and portion sizes for senior citizens. These recommendations are provided by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and concern specific amounts of certain food groups, such as the following:

Vegetables – 2 to 3 Cups

Vegetables are high in fiber and loaded with nutrients, making them essential for seniors looking to maintain optimal digestive health.

It’s estimated that as little as 5% of Americans consume an adequate amount of fiber. It’s perhaps no surprise that several of the biggest killers in the country, including colon cancer and heart attacks, are closely linked with low fiber consumption.

Increasing your intake can drastically improve your digestion and help with a long list of ailments, potentially increasing your life span in the process.

Some of the most fibrous vegetables include broccoli, swiss chard, artichokes, beets, and carrots. Beans are a great source of fiber as well, and they are also loaded with protein. So, load-up on kidney beans, lima beans, pinto beans, and anything else you can get your hands on. 

Beans can be enjoyed as part of a main meal, such as in a soup, chili, or as a side dish.

Fruits – 1.5 to 2 Cups

Fruit has been demonized in recent years, with many so-called fitness experts recommending against its consumption. These warnings often revolve around its sugar content, but the sugar you get from fruit is not like the sugar you pour into your coffee.

Fruit is loaded with fiber, essential enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. It’s a great source of vitamin C, which can keep your immune system strong, and it’s also loaded with antioxidants, which can eradicate cancer-causing free radicals.

To boost your fiber consumption, focus on fruits like pears, apples, bananas, and mangoes. Berries are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, as well as fiber, so make sure you consume plenty of blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, as well.

Consume fruit as a healthy snack or in place of a sugar-laden dessert, but it’s best to avoid fruit juices and smoothies. While they do make it easier to get your daily fix of fruit, they also destroy many of those healthy enzymes and give you an immediate and unhealthy sugar spike.

Grains – 5 to 8 Ounces

Just like fruits, grains have been somewhat ignored in recent years, and many diets, including paleo, recommend against their consumption. At the same time, there is no evidence to suggest that grains are anything but healthy. In fact, they form the backbone of some of the healthiest diets in the world, including the Mediterranean diet, which promotes heart health, gut health, and longevity.

The problem with grains in the American diet is that many of the grains we consume are heavily processed, whether we’re consuming them in the form of sugary cereals or processed baked goods.

Try to eat whole grains where possible. Stick with multi-grain bread and rye bread, and get your fair share of brown rice, quinoa, bulgur wheat, and barley.

Dairy – 3 Cups

Before you get excited, health professionals aren’t giving you the go-ahead to consume 3 cups of blue cheese, nacho cheese, and mozzarella. Generally, the recommendation is that you stick with low-fat or fat-free dairy.

Greek yogurt is one of the best options here. Not only is it naturally low in fat, but it tastes great and is packed with protein. You can also enjoy a little low-fat cheese every now and then, whether you’re eating a chunk of feta cheese with a Greek salad or a hearty spoonful of cottage cheese for supper.

Check the fat content, don’t go crazy, and remember that there’s nothing wrong with adding a little milk to your coffee or cereal, but it is better to stick with a very low-fat option.

Protein – 5 to 6.5 Ounces

Protein is satiating and can support muscle growth. The average American contains more protein than they need, but this often comes in high-fat and energy-dense forms, including fatty meats and cheeses.

Just like dairy, you should stick with protein that contains as little fat as possible. This includes the aforementioned Greek yogurt as well as lean meats, like chicken, pork, and fish.

Fatty fish should also be consumed at least twice a week. Not only is it a great source of protein, but it also contains essential fatty acids that can support joints, muscle function, and brain health. Types of fatty fish include salmon, mackerel, and sardines.

Oil – 5 to 7 Teaspoons

Fat is not the devil. In fact, when it is consumed in moderation, it can be very good for you by supporting heart, brain, and joint health. One of the healthiest oils is extra virgin olive oil. It tastes great, can be added to salads and dressings, and is abundantly available. Avocado oil, coconut oil, and even canola oil are also good for you.

The trick is to consume these oils raw whenever possible, as they lose most of their benefits when they are super-heated and used to fry foods.


There’s always room for a few snacks! Fruit is one of the best things to snack on, but you can also chomp on jerky, nuts, seeds, and yogurt. Don’t completely dismiss chocolate, chips, and candies, either. While these snacks are not good for you, they won’t do you any harm when consumed in moderation. 

Keep your consumption of unhealthy snacks to less than 200 calories per day and avoid buying too many unhealthy options at the supermarket. If they’re not in the fridge or the cupboard, you won’t be tempted to eat them.

Making the Right Choices

The portion sizes mentioned above are pretty specific, but you don’t need to worry about hitting these numbers every single time. There’s nothing wrong with having a few more vegetables or a little more fruit. As long as you’re not ignoring them completely and focusing too much on processed and unhealthy foods, you should be okay. 

Eat a balanced diet, try to incorporate as many colorful fruits and vegetables as you can, keep processed foods to a minimum, and drink lots of water. Add a little regular exercise to the mix and you have a winning combination. 

That’s all there is to it!