As you make your way past 50 years of age, you might notice your jeans getting tighter, and the scale tipping in the wrong direction – even if you haven’t changed a thing about your diet or lifestyle.
You can thank nature for that. With age, particularly around age 50-60, your metabolism slows down, and you start to lose muscle mass as a result. This all starts a bad snowball effect of burning fewer calories, even though you haven’t changed anything about your exercise routine.
When you burn fewer calories, you have to eat less, and when you don’t account for that shift, you start to gain weight out of the blue.
We’ve spoken to a few nutritionists, and we have answers to your pressing questions about healthy eating after 60.
What foods should you eat?
It’s pretty obvious what types of foods you should avoid, because we’ve been hearing it for decades. Don’t eat processed food, and try to stay away from sugar.
But what foods should you be focusing your attention on, particularly as you start to age?
Miriam Amselem, a Holistic Nutritionist, recommends 6 foods for healthy eating over 60, all which provide a unique benefit, especially benefits that help with aging.
- Fish, such as salmon
- Oat bran oatmeal
- Low-fat dairy foods
Eggs are full of zinc, B-12, and protein, and they keep you feeling full for longer. Fish, especially salmon, is high in Omega 3, which helps concentration and protects the brain from dementia.
The oat bran oatmeal is loaded with fiber and wards off heart disease, and low-fat dairy foods are full of calcium that nourishes your bones and protects against osteoporosis.
Cinnamon can be added to that oatmeal, and it helps reduce blood sugar and blood pressure. Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants and may reduce the risk of dementia.
It’s also important to get plenty of calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium, so Miriam recommends taking daily supplements.
29 Healthy Foods and Snacks Under 100 Calories
Jill McKay, certified personal trainer and creator of Narrow Road Fitness has actually created a list of 29 healthy foods and snacks under 100 calories, so when you’re in need of a pick-me-up, consider one of the quick, easy items on this list.
One almond is about 8-9 calories. A small handful will be about 100 calories, and the healthy fats in the almond help you feel full and sustained.
2. Dark chocolate chips or cocoa nibs
Dark chocolate has been shown to help with brain and heart health. Jill notes that it can also help with mood and energy. Chocolate is also rich in antioxidants, but be careful to avoid chocolate with added sugar. One tablespoon will run you about 70 calories.
3. Banana and peanut butter
A small banana is about 90 calories. If you like peanut butter, Jill suggests having half of a banana with a half teaspoon of peanut butter. It’s delicious and nutritious!
4. Beef jerky
While beef jerky is an excellent source of protein, it does have a high amount of sodium. Jill says, “It’s a great snack in a pinch, especially if you’re exercising, sweating, or need to replenish your salt intake.”
One large piece is about 75-85 calories.
5. Roasted chickpeas
“These are my go-to snack when I want an alternative to popcorn,” Jill says.
Just drain a can of chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, and pat them dry. Sprinkle seasoning on them and roast in the oven or a toaster until they’re crispy, which takes about 20 minutes.
A fourth cup of this healthy snack is about 75 calories.
6. Frozen yogurt
Love sweets, but want to stay within your calorie goals? Go for frozen yogurt.
A 2-ounce scoop is just under 100 calories.
7. Vegetable soup
One can of vegetable soup is about 80 calories, but Jill advises that you keep an eye on the sodium content.
If you need a quick lunch, pick up a can from the grocery store, and look for a label that says “with water added.”
8. Sweet potato
A small sweet potato, baked or even microwaved, is about 100 calories. “Avoid the butter,” Jill says, “and season with your favorite spices.”
You’d be surprised – microwaving your sweet potato will have it ready to eat in no time.
Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, is filled with protein and fiber, which is exactly what we need when we start losing our muscle mass with age.
Spices are your friend, as quinoa can be a bit flavorless by itself. Cooking the quinoa in chicken or vegetable broth instead of water can also elevate the flavor. A third cup is about 90 calories.
A great on-the-go snack, if you like it, is sushi. One piece is about 45 calories, making it a healthy and quick snack for your midday munchies.
About 25 dry roasted, salted pistachios (in the shell) are about 100 calories. A perfect way to get your fats and feel full when you need it.
12. Energy balls
“These taste like cookie dough,” says Jill, who advises these as a snack if you’re able to only eat one!
They’re made of dates, oatmeal, chia seeds, flax meal, or some combination of them.
You can find recipes for these online, and one energy ball is roughly 100 calories. These – you guessed it – give you that spike of energy you need throughout the day.
13. Dill pickles
Though high in salt, pickles are extremely low in calories, making it a perfect snack when you just need something to chew on.
“Believe it or not, 30 dill pickles are roughly 90 calories. I don’t recommend eating 30 dill pickles though,” Jill laughs.
14. Kale chips
Though you can find kale chips in the grocery store, Jill suggests you make them at home to save money (and have fresh kale chips of course!).
Roast the kale leaves in your oven with your favorite seasoning. If you season them yourself, you can control the salt content, which can get a bit out of hand when you purchase the pre-made stuff.
One cup of kale chips is about 60 calories, making it the perfect healthful alternative to potato chips.
15. Jicama with salsa
It’s as simple as it sounds. One cup of sliced jicama with some salsa for dipping is roughly 50 calories.
16. Cocktail shrimp in hot sauce
About a dozen shrimp is roughly 80-90 calories, making it a great way to get some protein without ruining your calorie goals.
17. Egg muffins
A quick, easy recipe for a breakfast snack that’s grab & go is 1 scrambled egg, spinach, and 1 Tbsp of cheese. Bake them ahead of time in muffin tins, and they’re ready to go.
One muffin is about 90 calories.
18. Stuffed mini bell peppers
Six to eight mini bell peppers stuffed with ½ cup of hummus makes for a colorful, healthy, and delicious snack. In total, this meal is about 75 calories.
19. Tuna lettuce wrap
Some dijon mustard, a pack of chunk light tuna in water, and some Bibb lettuce will give you a nice lunch snack for only 90 calories.
20. Ricotta-stuffed pita
Use half of a whole grain pita pocket and fill it with ½ oz of part skim ricotta cheese. It’s a great snack that gives you fiber and protein for only 100 calories.
21. Caprese salad
Tomato, fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, and an ounce of feta cheese makes a really healthy snack for about 100 calories. And it tastes delicious!
22. Cucumber with cream cheese
One cup of sliced cucumber and an ounce of cream cheese is quite possibly the easiest snack to make. (And it’s only 100 calories.)
23. Crackers with avocado
Two tablespoons of mashed avocado with 4 whole-grain saltine crackers is about 100 calories. Super simple, and very tasty.
24. Cheddar cheese
If you’re the type of person who can snack on cheese all day, consider ¾ cup of sharp cheddar cheese as a midday snack. It’s only about 90 calories.
25. Broccoli with ranch dip
One cup of fresh broccoli with 3 Tbsp of ranch dip is about 100 calories, and it also fits in some much-needed veggies to your diet.
26. Oatmeal raisin cookie
That sweet tooth still bothering you? One small, homemade oatmeal raisin cookie is about 100 calories. Go ahead. We won’t tell.
27. Dried cherries
Three tablespoons of dried, tart cherries is about 75 calories, and they’re as simple as grabbing and going.
28. Dried figs
Dried figs are also a yummy snack that require no preparation. Two medium dried figs are about 75 calories.
29. Sugar-free gum
When you know you’re not hungry, but you just need something to chew on, go for a stick of sugar-free gum. “It’s only 5 calories,” says Jill.
Eyeball Your Plate
If you don’t have time to plan out or really focus on what’s for dinner, Dr. Barry Sears, the creator of the Zone diet, suggests the following: “Try for 1/3 your plate consisting of low-fat protein about the size of the palm of your hand, the other 2/3 of the plate consisting of non-starchy vegetables. Have fruit for dessert.”
That way, you can mix and match what you have for dinner, but you’re keeping a consistently healthy ratio of nutrition on your plate.
Healthy Eating After 60 Dinner Ideas
For dinner, salmon is a fantastic choice for its protein content along with the Omega 3s. Grilled chicken is also a great meat option. For men, you want to aim for 6-7 ounces of meat, while women should aim for 4-5 ounces.
Pairing sweet potato, brown rice, or quinoa with your meat makes for a great side, which gives you your carbs.
And don’t forget about the veggies! Miriam says, “Get as many fresh greens as possible. For example, spinach, kale, romaine lettuces, spring mixes. You can put some lemon juice and olive oil on there, and it’s super nutritious.”
And don’t worry, if you need some kind of sauce with your meat, Miriam has some healthy alternatives to the prepackaged stuff. “You can cook salmon with some olive oil, garlic, lemon, and sundried tomato. It goes so beautifully with salmon, and it’s not as dry anymore.”
You can also make your own tomato sauce to add to the chicken. Sauteing mushrooms and adding that on top of the meat is also a delicious way to add flavor and moisture to your food.
If you’re rushed and don’t have much time, Miriam suggests low-sodium soy sauce.
What about butter?
And in case you were wondering, butter may not be all that bad for you when it’s eaten in moderation.
Miriam explains, “Butter is 100x better than margarine. I wouldn’t recommend using butter throughout the day, but up to a teaspoon of butter per day isn’t unhealthy. The key to everything is to know the portion.”
Is healthy eating different when you’re nearing age 60?
When you’re past the age of 60, the concepts of healthy eating don’t suddenly change, but the importance and focus does.
Eating healthily now can drastically change how the remainder of your years will progress – and how you’ll feel.
Miriam says that most people worry about getting cancer, but in reality, heart disease and diabetes should be more terrifying. “We have an obesity epidemic in our country. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer, and Type II diabetes is the second.”
It’s more important than ever to make sure that proper eating and nutrition is a top priority in your life.
Maintaining muscle mass is more difficult as you age, and most nutritionists will advise seniors over the age of 60 to focus on 3 things:
- Get more protein into your diet
- Eat more fiber
- Focus on a healthy gut
Jill advises 20 grams of protein per meal along with 4-5 grams of fiber per meal. “There is a lot of research pointing to the importance of a healthy gut biome. Probiotics are good, but many probiotics are killed off by stomach acids before they reach the intestines. Fiber makes it deep into the intestines and feeds the healthy bacteria that live there.”
If meat is an issue, there are other protein-dense options, such as protein powders that are plant-based. “Talk to your doctor for recommendations,” Jill says.
Dr. Barry Sears says, “Non-starchy vegetables and fruits help with improved gut health, and a slight increase in your protein intake can help maintain muscle mass.”
Focusing so closely on your nutrition sounds nice, but what if you’re so busy that you don’t have time to prepare and cook healthy meals?
How do you eat healthily if you don’t have time to cook?
Staying healthy after 60 is hard enough, but finding time to cook can be a huge challenge!
Miriam suggests quick snacks that hit all the major food groups, such as an apple with some almond butter, Greek yogurt with a banana, or trail mix that has your essential vitamins and minerals.
Jill also suggests easy, healthy options if you’re short on time. Foods such as tuna fish, hard boiled eggs, salsa, black beans, and pre-cut fruit and veggies with hummus are nutritious, and they’re easy to eat on the go.
You can also refer back to her list of 29 quick, healthy foods and snacks if you want to pack a lunch in the morning that requires little to no effort or time.
Dr. Barry Sears recommends something pretty simple: the crockpot. “A crockpot is an easy way to make several meals at one time,” he says. You save a lot of time, and sometimes, crockpot meals are the tastiest!
We personally love this shredded chicken taco recipe from Tasty.
What should you eat if you’re eating or dining out?
Eating out can feel like a huge mystery – what on the menu is “safe” to eat?
Jill suggests that you don’t get too worked up about it. “Eating out is wonderful. Keep in mind portions are usually too large. Ask for a to-go box with your meal and pack half of it away before you start to eat.”
Miriam also doesn’t see eating out as a scary thing – she explains, “Almost all restaurants have healthy food items to choose from like fish, sweet potatoes, fruit, and so on.”
More restaurants are also adding “healthier” menu options, which you can often find in a section near the back. These meals tend to be lower in calories and higher in healthful foods.
Dr. Barry Sears advises that you replace any bread or grains with extra vegetables – and for dessert, replace the chocolate cake with fresh fruit.
How do you know what your ideal macro or calorie intake should be?
Finally, the most confusing topic of all – we hear tons of different theories and suggestions from all over the place.
Some experts advise you to completely disregard calories and instead focus on your macros. Macros, or macronutrients, are what make up the actual calorie content of food. So, the three main categories of macros are carbs, fats, and proteins.
That brings in even more confusion – should I have more fat than carbs? Should I eat more protein than anything else? What’s a good balance?
While there is no one method that’s backed by all nutritionists, the concept of calories in versus calories out seems to be the one method that most experts can agree on.
“I personally am not a big fan of counting macronutrients,” says Jill. “There’s no real science that supports the benefits of more protein or more fat as being healthier than the other. The ketogenic fad is fading because it is not sustainable and most people do not truly get into ketosis. Aim for a well-balanced diet with plenty of vegetables is still key.”
For those who aren’t sure, ketosis is achieved when you eat more fat than protein, and you keep carbs to a very bare minimum.
In Miriam’s opinion, it’s all about keeping track of calories and making sure that the food you’re eating is generally healthy. “All calories are not created equal,” she says. “You can have a snickers bar or you can have a ton of broccoli. Those calories are not equal.”
It’s also important to note that the way you feel is extremely different if you’re eating mostly healthy foods instead of processed foods. Your energy levels will be higher, and you’ll avoid headaches and even disease if you’re focusing your calories on nutritious foods.
How many calories a day should a 60-year-old woman or man have?
One of the simplest ways a 60-year-old woman or man can find out how many calories they should have is to multiply their weight in kilograms by 29.
You can also use one of the many free apps available today to track your food and determine your ideal calorie intake. (We recommend MyFitnessPal, though there are a lot to choose from.) These online calculators factor in age, height, weight and activity level, which will give you the most accurate estimate.
As a general rule of thumb, Jill says, “Always talk to your doctor, but generally speaking, adult women should not consume below 1200 to 1500 calories per day. Men should not go below 1500 to 1800 calories per day.”
Is there truly an accurate way to know how many calories I should eat?
If you really want to know how many calories you burn per day, you can go to a specialist and have a test done. One woman who wishes to remain anonymous says that she had a lot of weight to lose. She went to Physician’s Choice located in Forsyth, IL for their weight loss program, which is medically monitored.
“They hooked me up to this breathing apparatus. I don’t really know how it worked, but after about 20 minutes, it gave me information on my calorie usage at rest.”
The test showed that she should eat about 1650 calories per day. She knew if she wanted to lose weight, she’d need to eat less than that, but if she ate more than 1650 calories per day, she’d gain weight.
If you’re interested in this, we recommend giving Physician’s Choice a call or contacting your doctor.