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Nutrition by Age: A Guide To Healthy Eating And Meeting Daily Nutritional Needs

Published : Jan 18, 2021 5 mins read Updated On : Sep 12, 2023

A good advice for a healthy diet is pretty much the same for all: include more fruits and vegetables; eat more whole grains, legumes, and nuts; limit salt, sugar, and saturated fat; make sure to walk 10,000 steps a day and the likes. No doubt, in recent times there’s been a significant rise in the awareness about health and nutrition across all the households.

Getting the right nutrients is crucial for maintaining immune function; prevent muscle and bone loss, good eyesight and protection from free-radical damage of cells. Our nutrient requirement changes as we grow older, majorly because of the changing hormones. Aging also affects our ability to absorb nutrients from foods versus supplements.

Below is a simple decade wise guide - to help you eat healthfully - no matter whether you’re male or female – to understand key nutritional requirements across the ages.

Nutrition by Age: A Guide To Healthy Eating And Meeting Daily Nutritional Needs

Nutrition at an early age - KIDS

Kids require more nutrition as compared to adults as they’re always growing. Toddlers between the age of 1-3 years expend more energy and require at least 6 servings of food each day to function optimally.

Kids between the ages of 4-6 can eat the same food as the rest of the family. This is the age where kids become fussy eater, which is okay because they’re trying to figure out if they’re hungry or not. Parents need to make sure they’re getting enough vitamins and minerals in their diet and limit processed food and sugary drinks.

School going children above the age of 6 have a steady rate of growth and needs to be served with nutritious snacks consisting of 4-5 meals a day. Children of this age are more willing to try variety of foods. This is the time parents need to make sure healthy food habits are formed.

Nutritional focus in your 20s – calcium, iron, folate

Men and women both continue to build bones into their mid-20s, though not as rapidly as when younger. Getting daily calcium needs fulfilled are important to help bones reach their peak strength and maintain stability. This will have a large impact later in life and protect against fractures and osteoporosis.

1000 mg of calcium is required by both men and women each day. One serving of milk can provide up to 300 milligrams of calcium. You can get your calcium from milk, cheese, and other dairy food items including soy and almond milks. If you think you’re not getting enough calcium from your diet then you can opt for supplements too.

Folate is another nutrient that is usually missing from people’s diets. It is also known as vitamin B-9 and is found abundantly in green leafy vegetables. It is vital in making and repairing DNA. Both sexes require 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) daily for optimal function. Pregnant ladies must be extra conscious about this nutrient as folate helps guard against neural-tube defects, birth defects that may affect the brain and spinal cord.

Folate can be found in foods like spinach, broccoli, lentils and black beans. Your daily dose of multivitamins usually contains folate in it.

Most of the women in India are anemic. This is mainly due to the loss of blood during menstruation and a poor diet or certain intestinal diseases that may affect how the body absorbs iron. Iron supports metabolism, helps transfer oxygen to muscles, improves mental concentration and is used to make hormones and connective tissues.

Men require 8 mg of iron each day while women need 18 mg of iron to make up for the loss during menstruation.

Good sources include soybeans, lentils, cooked spinach, fortified cereals, cooked spinach, prunes and raisins.

Nutritional focus in your 30s – calories and magnesium

From the onset of 30s, the body’s metabolism slows down and calorie requirement begins to decline. Continuing to eat the same amount of food as you did in your 20s will likely make you gain weight in your 30s and 40s. Strength training and eating enough proteins is advisable here.

For every year post 30, men require 10 fewer calories a day and women need 7 fewer. In other words, by the time one is 40, men should be eating 100 fewer calories each day than they did in 30s; women should cut down 70 calories from their daily diet when in 40s.

Reduce refined sugar from your diet like starchy foods, sweets and added sugar. Focus on foods rich in calcium, folate and iron.

Magnesium is another mineral that one should focus on in their 30s. It helps generate energy for the body, regulate blood pressure and blood sugar, maintain strong bones and helps you sleep better. Magnesium is highly effective in putting your neurotransmitters to rest, thereby inducing sleep.
By 31, men require 420 mg and women 320 mg daily for optimal function. Include more almonds, nuts, cooked spinach, cashews and yogurt in your diet. If you still feel you’re missing out, opt for a supplement.

Nutritional focus in your 40s – focus on antioxidants

While the need for vitamins and minerals remains the same in the 40s, both sexes should focus on making nutrient-dense food choices. This is not only to meet daily requirements but also to pave the way for the next few decades.

Antioxidants help in reversing the effect of harmful free radicals in the body. Include foods high in vitamins C and E. Free-radical damage is believed to contribute to aging and many chronic diseases.

Food sources of vitamin C include citrus fruit, kiwi, broccoli, tomato juice, Brussels sprouts, and strawberries. Vitamin E is plentiful in wheat-germ oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, sunflower oil, hazelnuts and peanut butter. If you think you’re pressed for time, vitamin C supplements are a good too.

Nutritional focus in your 50s and beyond - focus on calcium, vitamin D, B12

Women at the age of 51, need 1,200 mg of calcium daily to help counter the rapid bone loss that occurs at menopause. Calcium requirements in particular don't increase for men until the age of 71. After this, bone loss and fracture risk rise significantly.

With age, men and women’s capacity to produce vitamin D through sun exposure reduces. The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin D increases from 600 IU (international units) to 800 IU at the age of 70. However, experts recommend adults older than 50 to supplement with 1,000 to 2,000 IU each day to maintain optimal balance.

Vitamin B12 is needed to make more red blood cells, nerves and DNA. This should be supplemented after 50; a multivitamin supplement can do the trick. Many older adults face difficulty in producing enough hydrochloric acid in their stomach to absorb the vitamin from foods.


Following these basic nutritional guidelines can help you live a healthier and longer life, keep you away from diseases and contribute to your overall well being. 

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