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Healthy Eating

Smart Food Choices for Healthy Aging

If you and your healthcare provider are worried about weight gain, you should choose nutrient-dense foods. These foods give you lots of nutrients without a lot of extra calories.

On the other hand, foods that are high in calories for the amount of food are called calorie dense. They may or may not have nutrients. High-calorie foods with little nutritional value, like potato chips, sugar-sweetened drinks, candy, baked goods, and alcoholic beverages, are sometimes called "empty calories."

Can choosing a nutrient-dense food instead of a calorie-dense food really make a difference? Here are some examples of nutrient-dense choices side by side with similar foods that are not nutrient-dense, have more calories, or both (from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food-A-Pedia).

How Many Calories Do You Need?

If you are over age 50 and you want to stay at the weight you are now—not lose and not gain, how many calories do you need to eat each day? The Dietary Guidelines suggest:

For a Woman
Not physically active 1,600 calories
Moderately active 1,800 calories
Active lifestyle 2,000-2,200 calories
For a Man
Not physically active 2,000-2,200 calories
Moderately active 2,200-2,400 calories
Active lifestyle 2,400-2800 calories

For examples, see Daily Calories Count Examples for the USDA Food Patterns

Physical activity refers to the voluntary movements you do that burn calories. Brisk walking, dancing, and swimming are examples of moderate activity. An active lifestyle might include jogging, singles tennis, or swimming laps. Learn how you can fit exercise and physical activity into your life with the NIA exercise and physical activity campaign, Go4life.

Read about this topic in Spanish. Lea sobre este tema en español.

For More Information on Healthy Eating

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
1-301-592-8573
nhlbiinfo@nhlbi.nih.gov
www.nhlbi.nih.gov

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
1-800-860-8747 (toll-free)
1-866-569-1162 (TTY/toll-free)
healthinfo@niddk.nih.gov
www.niddk.nih.gov

U.S. Food and Drug Administration
1-888-463-6332 (toll-free)
druginfo@fda.hhs.gov
www.fda.gov

USDA Food and Nutrition Information Center   
National Agricultural Library
1-301-504-5414
fnic@ars.usda.gov
www.nal.usda.gov/fnic