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Eat Right

For Life

Image by Inha Pauliuchenka
Build and maintain your healthiest body by adjusting your eating habits to address the specific needs of each decade.
Target your eating habits.

Each decade brings with it specific health concerns and different nutrition needs. Eat right for your age to help you sail through the decades feeling great.

Teens - 20's: Bone Building

Did you know that you are continuing to build up bone density into your 20's? This is the decade to continue to help strengthen that growth for healthy bones. Bone density lowers over the years, so the more you start off with, the better.


Focusing on calcium will not only help build strong bones but aids in healthy muscles, nerves, and heart as well. Enjoy low-fat or fat-free dairy products and check labels for calcium fortified foods and beverages such as soy milk, 100% fruit juices and cereals. Other calcium sources include beans, leafy greens, almonds, and salmon.

Recommendation: both men and women need 1,000 mg per day from the age of 19 until 50

20's - 30's: Prevention

This decade is a time for men and women to start thinking about how to prevent chronic diseases that may become more prevalent as we age. By eating a diet consisting of mostly whole plant foods including whole gains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and even certain types of cancer. Avoid weight cycling (when your weight goes up and down repeatedly) as it has been linked with increased risk of cardiovascular issues and osteoporosis.

Recommendation: eat a well balanced, nutrient dense, whole food diet majority of your meals.

30's - 40's: Keeping Score

Throughout your 30's and 40's be vigilant about eating plenty of fruits and vegetables for health-promoting vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Explore new tastes by trying out new fruits or vegetables and aim to keep your plate colorful. Snack on fruits and opt-in for vegetable-packed broth based soups and salads. Try roasting vegetables to bring out their natural sweetness.

This is also a time to note a very important nutrient, dietary fiber, which may help protect against heart disease and some types of cancer. Women and men ages 31 to 50 need about 25 and 31 grams per day, respectively. Most adults get only about half that amount. Luckily, the fruits and veggies you're eating for the vitamins and minerals are also rich in dietary fiber, and whole grains and beans are other good sources.


Fruit - eat at least 1½ to 2 cups of fruit and 2½ to 3 cups of vegetables a day for women and men, respectively.

Fiber - women and men ages 31 to 50 need about 25 and 31 grams per day, respectively.

40's - 50's: Mindful Eating

These two decades are a time of big changes for women and men. Rather than dieting to maintain your shape, work on accepting your changing body and focusing on mindful eating and regular physical activity.

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient to focus on throughout these years for bone health. Researchers believe it may reduce the risk of some cancers, heart disease and infectious diseases. Some great sources are fatty fish, like salmon and trout, fortified foods and beverages, including milk and 100% fruit juices and cereals, as well as eggs.

Recommendation: The recommended daily amount of vitamin D is 600 IU per day for both women and men ages 19 to 70. Consult your doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist about your need for a supplement.

60's and beyond: Protein Power

Unfortunately, muscle tends to dwindle as we age. Consuming enough protein, along with regular strength building activities is essential for maintaining muscle and is also linked to bone health. Good sources include lean cuts of beef, chicken, fish, pork and lamb. Not a meat eater? You'll also find protein in eggs, beans, tofu and nuts, as well as low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese.

Another vital nutrient, Vitamin B12, helps your body make red blood cells and keep the brain and nervous system healthy. As people get older they can develop a reduced ability to absorb vitamin B12. You can get B12 through any food that comes from an animal: meat, fish, dairy products and eggs, as well as fortified foods. 

Talk to your doctor to see if you need a supplement, especially if your eating plan is mostly plant-based.

Recommendation: Women and men in their sixties need 5 to 5 1/2 ounce-equivalents, respectively, of protein foods daily and preferably spread throughout the day.

Green Vegetables

Food Fortification

Another area that is often questioned is food fortification — when products include added vitamins and other nutrients. Fortified foods can have a place in a healthy eating plan. Some may help to provide nutrients that might be low or missing. For example, there are only a few foods that naturally contain vitamin D, so products that are fortified with it, such as milk, are a main source of vitamin D for many people. Other foods and beverages may be fortified with nutrients that are easier to obtain. Some fortified products may also contain high amounts of added sugars or sodium, so be sure to review the Nutrition Facts label.

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Ok, now what? How can I implement these tips into my daily life and not fall off track?

Arm yourself with a few good strategies to maintain healthy habits for life.

Ask for Accountability

Tell a few trusted friends or family members about your plans — they may even want to join you! It really helps to have someone to keep you on track. An accountability partner can help you check in on your goals, assess barriers and revise strategies as needed.

Tap into Technology


In the age of health-savvy gadgets and apps, look around and find the right fit for you. Some devices track steps, sleep habits, heart rate and more. Making a habit of tracking your goals with technology can be as simple as remembering to do a quick check-in after reading your emails.

Make the Most of Your Time


Thinking through your options and making a solid realistic plan can go a long way in making the best use of your time. Taking a bit of time up front to define your preferences and personal goals will help your healthy habit fit into your lifestyle rather than adjusting other aspects of your life to make the healthy habit fit.


When possible, consider focusing on minimally processed, functional foods to provide a variety of nutrients to help meet your needs. Click through these slides for specific examples.

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Stir Fry Pasta

Bring Asian flavors to pasta night by tossing a box of cooked, whole-grain pasta with your favorite stir-fried protein (chicken, pork tenderloin, lean beef or shrimp), veggies and bottled, lower-sodium teriyaki sauce. You could use a variety of fresh veggies that are cooked in a skillet with the protein, or go with a frozen, steamable stir-fry mix to save time. 

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Simple Chicken Casserole

Although this meal cooks for about 45 minutes, the entire prep takes less than ten. Combine skinless chicken thighs, peeled and diced root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, onions, and parsnips in a casserole dish. (For an even quicker meal, use a bag of frozen veggies instead.) Pour a can of low-sodium cream of mushroom or celery soup on top. Season with ground pepper and stir before baking at 375°F. 

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Store-bought Rotisserie Chicken

Buying a store-bought rotisserie chicken is perfect for when you need to get a healthy dinner on the table in a quick minute! All that is left for you to do when you get home is heat and serve with your favorite vegetable and/or a leafy green salad this nutrient-packed protein main entrée


 A healthful eating style, which includes a variety of foods from each food group, prepared in a healthful way, can help you meet your nutrient needs and reduce your risk for various chronic diseases. Focus on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein foods and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. 

Resource:; Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

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