What Are the Essential Nutritional Requirements of Elders?

Learn all the important nutritional requirements for the elderly in this blog. From providing a balanced nutritional diet to additional drinks and supplements.

With Nutrition and Hydration Week 2024 in full flow, it’s crucial to promote the importance of its cause, especially in those more vulnerable and within our care.

So, after looking at the importance of good nutrition and hydration in the elderly in our last blog [Link to ‘the importance of good nutrition and hydration in the elderly’ blog], it’s time to identify the nutritional requirements in more detail.

Let’s dive into it.

Why Nutrition for the Elderly is Essential?

As professionals in the adult social care sector, our responsibility of caring for vulnerable elderly people also depends on what they eat and drink. Therefore, knowing the nutritional requirements of the elderly is essential in maintaining the highest quality of care we’re expected to provide.

The physical changes ageing brings not only affect the way we look but also the way we function. One of these vital functions is how we eat and our bodies’ abilities to take in nutrients.

If we’re not aware of these physical changes and nutritional deficiencies, we may see a sharp decline in our quality of life and overall health.

Research demonstrates that diet quality has significant impacts on the following factors:

  • Physical condition
  • Cognitive condition
  • Bone health
  • Eye health
  • Vascular function
  • Immune system

Another potential issue for elderly people is how the body loses the ability to detect senses of hunger and thirst. This inability to recognise our most natural instincts can make the elderly prone to dehydration and malnutrition.

For the elderly to avoid these health issues, we must incorporate the right nutrient-rich foods and drinks into their diets alongside any additional supplements.

What Are the Nutritional Requirements for the Elderly?

While older people tend to need fewer calories due to a lack of activity, they still require the same levels of nutrition, if not more. This shift in lifestyle can prompt a change in food choices, where the elderly should opt for more nutrient-rich foods.

A Balanced Nutritional Diet for the Elderly

The nutritional requirements for the elderly include eating a healthy balance of foods across the five different food groups.

The five food groups include:

  • Dairy
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Grains
  • Protein

The basic dietary requirements for the elderly should always include protein, carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables. For protein, besides meats, fish and eggs, you can also include pulses, tofu, nuts, seeds, legumes and beans.

As the doctor says, include five portions of fruit and vegetables each day while opting for wholegrain carbohydrates as a base for meals with high-fibre varieties.


Alongside incorporating a balanced nutritional diet for the elderly, we should include calcium because it’s an integral mineral to maintain good bone health. Not enough calcium can cause the body to reabsorb the mineral, causing conditions such as osteoporosis.

To prevent this situation, include the following foods in your nutrition for the elderly:

  • Milk
  • Yoghurt
  • Cheese
  • Leafy green vegetables


Eating foods high in fibre helps slow bowel movements, supports healthy digestion, and prevents constipation. The benefits of fibre can also reduce inflammation, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.

Foods high in fibre include:

  • Wholegrain cereal
  • Porridge
  • Wholegrain bread
  • Brown pasta and rice
  • Fresh fruit, vegetables and pulses


As an integral component of haemoglobin, iron helps transport oxygen around the body and supports collagen synthesis and metabolism integral to bone health.

Foods with iron include:

  • Meat
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Dried fruit

Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps the body produce soft and hard tissues that aid in healing, alongside being an important antioxidant to prevent heart disease and cancer.

To incorporate vitamin C into an older person’s diet, supply plenty of fruits and vegetables like citrus, strawberries, peppers, broccoli and sprouts.

If you struggle to procure these fresh ingredients, you can use vitamin C supplements as a more convenient solution.

Vitamin D

Like iron and calcium, vitamin D helps strengthen bones while supporting anti-inflammation, the immune system, and muscle function. Plus, vitamin D is also known to help generate brain cells!

You can find vitamin D across the following foods:

  • Oily fish
  • Eggs
  • Fortified cereals
  • Mushrooms

Alongside these foods, regular exposure to sunlight helps keep our vitamin D levels topped up. However, due to the lack of sun in the UK over the winter months, we suggest taking vitamin D tablets as a supplement.

Some elderly people can also struggle in the sun on hot days while remaining bedbound or stuck inside for long periods in the winter, making vitamin D supplements a cost-effective and convenient solution.


Not enough zinc can threaten the immune system, making elderly people more vulnerable to various viruses and diseases, especially during winter.

Include the following foods to boost elderly people’s zinc intake:

  • Meat
  • Shellfish
  • Wholemeal bread
  • Pulses

Nutritional Drinks for the Elderly

Food isn’t the only thing you need to think about. It’s also essential to ensure the elderly incorporate the right nutrients via the drinks they consume.

Whether it’s trying to build up calories and strength or providing enough minerals, just use a blender to whip up milkshakes or smoothies containing the ideal ingredients for your elderly clients.

On the other hand, plenty of brands provide specific drinks to help support healthy hydration and nutrition for the elderly.

Contained inside these shakes and meal replacement drinks, elderly people can gain all the nutrition and hydration required, particularly when their oral health or chewing and swallowing have deteriorated.

Start a Life-Changing Career Today in Adult Social Care

Care work offers various benefits to workers across flexible working schedules and progressive opportunities, making it a rewarding career for you to develop your skills while helping others.

At Herefordshire Cares, we have various opportunities available across the county. From Scheduling Officers to Home Carers and Care Assistants, we have plenty of exciting career options up for grabs that can help you make a positive change in your life.

For more details, visit our Vacancies page and contact us if you have any questions.