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Healthy Diet

Diet & nutrition are important factors in the maintenance of good health throughout the entire life course. Common nutritional problems for the older people include both under-nutrition and over-nutrition. While the need for energy intake decrease with age, the requirements for fluids, protein, most vitamins and minerals stay the same or even increase. With the overall reduction of energy intake that occurs with ageing, the quantity of certain nutrients taken may not be sufficient. Therefore, the older people are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition. Malnutrition is clinically characterized by inadequate intake of protein, energy and micronutrients and by frequent infections or diseases.

Diets high in saturated fat and salt, low in fruits and vegetables and providing insufficient amounts of dietary fibers and vitamins combined with sedentary lifestyle, are major risk factors for chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, stroke, osteoporosis, obesity and various forms of cancer. Making positive changes in dietary habits seem to reduce those risks throughout life and may have an even greater impact in older people. Some examples of impact by making dietary changes are indicated as follows:

•  Relatively modest reductions in saturated fat and salt intake, which would reduce blood pressure and
cholesterol concentrations, could have a substantial effect on reducing the burden of cardiovascular

•  Increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables by one to two servings daily could cut cardiovascular risk
by 30%.

•  A 10% reduction in blood cholesterol concentration will reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 30%.


  • Balanced Diet

  • Nutrients from food

  • Healthy Eating Pyramid

  • How much quantity we need to take for each food type

  • Principles of Healthy Eating for the Elderly

  • Special Diets

  • Related Websites


Balanced Diet

It is important for us to have a balanced diet and eat a variety of food to ensure adequate energy intake and sufficient intake of different nutrients in food to prevent illness and maintain health. To ensure healthy eating for the older people, we need to understand firstly about the different types of nutrients and their food sources and then know how to get the sufficient intake of these nutrients from diets.

Nutrients from food

Table A: The types, functions and major food sources of various nutrients from food.

Type of Nutrient


Major Food Sources


•  Supply energy/calories, cellulose,
vitamins, minerals and protein

•  Rice, wheat, barley and other
cereal products


•  Supply energy

•  Help for growth and repair of body
cells and maintain normal

•  Meats, fish, eggs, dairy
products, beans, nuts


•  Supply a great deal of energy and
some vitamins (vitamin A, D, E &

•  Serve as an energy storage in the

•  Cooking oils, butter, milk, fats
from meats

•  Fried foods

•  High fat animal products

•  Nuts



•  Supply energy

•  Help for growth and repair of body
cells and maintain normal

•  Vegetables, fruits, cereals,
meats, fish, eggs, dairy
products, oils



•  Each mineral serves specific
function to maintain normal or
healthy functioning of the body

•  Vegetables, fruits, cereals,
meat, fish, eggs, soybean
products, dairy products, nuts

Dietary Fiber/ Cellulose

•  Promote bowel function and
prevent constipation

•  Control blood cholesterol level

•  Fruits, vegetables, whole
grains, beans, nuts

Table B: Different food types and nutrient constituents.

Food Type



Carbohydrates, proteins, dietary fibers, vitamins B, minerals

Fresh fruits and vegetables

Vitamins A, B & C, dietary fibers, minerals, carbohydrates

Meats, fish, eggs, beans, diary products

Protein, fats, vitamins, minerals

Fats, oils

Calories, essential fatty acid

Related websites of Food and Environmental Hygiene Department:

Nutrient Information Inquiry– The database system provides nutrient information of about 1000 food items

Nutrition Information on Food Labels

Healthy Eating Pyramid

A balanced diet contributes to good health. Healthy Eating Pyramid is a useful practical guide for balanced diet. It was designed as an easy way to show the groups of foods that make up a healthy diet. It also tells us that we need to eat a variety of foods and how much of the foods from the different groups we should eat to stay healthy.
              Drink 6-8 glasses of water everyday (United States Department of Agriculture)
 - provide personalized healthy eating pyramid and dietary guidelines

Food Pyramids (Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health)

How much quantity we need to take for each food type?

We need to eat a variety of food shown in the healthy eating pyramid in order to get adequate calories and nutrients. The daily energy requirements for individuals are varied and are affected by age, gender, body weight and activity level.

Table C: Recommendations from the WHO and Food and Agriculture Organization (UN) on the Proportions of Energy Intake from Various Nutrients.

Nutrient Source

Recommended % of Daily Energy Intake







* <10% should be derived from saturated fats and cholesterol intake should be limited to 300mg per day

Other recommendations:

•  <6g of salt should be consumed daily

•  Adequate amount of dietary fibre should be consumed daily

Table D: Recommendation on Healthy Eating for the Elderly.

Food type

Suggested daily intake


3-5 bowls (750-1250ml) – depends on individual's body built & activity level


6-8 taels (240-320g)


2-3 fruits

Meats, eggs, fishes and beans

4-5 tales (160-200g), consume not more than 3 eggs per week (1 eggs equal to 1 tael of meats)

Milk and dairy products

1-2 cups of low-fat or skimmed milks are preferable

Principles of Healthy Eating for the Elderly

Besides the choices of food and the amount of energy and nutrients intake, the cooking methods and other eating styles need to be taken into consideration. The followings are some practical tips of healthy eating especially for the elderly:

•  Have balanced diets

•  Eat a variety of food types with the proportions according to the Healthy Eating Pyramid.

•  Maintain healthy weight and ensure sufficient energy intake.

•  Take adequate proteins such as milk, soybean, fish and lean cuts of meat.

•  Non-selective favors and avoid over-eating.

•  Eat more vegetables & fruits

•  Choose more deeply colored (i.e. dark green, orange or yellow) vegetables and fruits which have more

•  Can make the vegetables and fruits into smaller pieces by food processor or make the vegetables become softer by over-heating.

•  Drink more water

•  Take 6-8 glasses (1.5-2 liter) of water daily.

•  Avoid tea, coffee or other caffeinated beverages.

•  Reduce intake of fats

•  Reduce intake of fat meats, sausages, kernels, creamy cakes and other kinds of food with high fat content.

•  Using steaming, stewing, boiling, simmering or fumigating instead of frying or deep-frying as the method of

•  Lean cuts of meat and peel-off poultries are preferable.

•  Minimize the intake of egg yolk, entrails and other food with high cholesterol content.

•  Reduce intake of salts

•  Avoid intake of salty food such as salted fish, salted duck's egg, salted vegetables, preserved meat and canned food.

•  Instead of using salts, choose other seasonings such as vinegar, lemon, pepper, coriander, ginger, garlic,
spring onion, mustard and so on.

•  Reduce soaking food especially fruits in salty water.

•  Reduce intake of sugars

•  Minimize the consumption of sugary foods such as honey, condensed milk, sweets, soft drinks, etc.

Special Diets

Senior Soups for 4 Seasons (Traditional Chinese Medicine) 2 ( 供稿︰香港中醫師公會 徐龍望 中醫師 )

Special Dietary Needs, Dietetic Information Centre of Hospital Authority (Special Diets for people with diabetic mellitus, hyper-lipid, hypertension, obesity, osteoporosis, swallowing difficulty or other problems, Chinese only)

Related websites / 相關網站 :

•  香港中文大學公共衛生及基層醫療學院營養研究中心 

•  醫院管理局營養資訊中心

•  Central Health Education Unit - Two Plus Three Every Day

•  東華三院社會服務科「識飲識食好快『落』」計劃

•  Hong Kong Nutrition Association

•  Hong Kong Dietitians Association

•  Food and Nutrition Information Centre by Agricultural Research Service, USDA and National Agricultural Library

•  Nutrition Information by WHO

•  American Dietetic Association

•  British Dietetic Association

•  Dietitians of Canada

•  International Confederation of Dietetic Associations

•  Fitness and Weight Loss Programs: Shape Up America


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