Best Energy Foods for Older Adults

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on February 21, 2024
4 min read

A healthy diet is important at any age. However, as you get older, eating right becomes even more important to increase your longevity and prevent illness. Fatigue, or low levels of energy, are a common complaint among older people. Luckily certain habits and foods can be energy boosters for seniors.

Eating a balanced diet is one of the keys to beating low energy levels. By eating a variety of foods with a moderate amount of calories, you can fuel your body with the proper nutrition it needs.

Each balanced meal should have a mix of lean protein, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. This combination can help keep you full while giving your body the vitamins and minerals that it needs.

Complex Carbs. Many people think that the key to maintaining a healthy weight is to avoid carbs. But carbs provide your body with energy and other essential nutrients. The key is to choose the right carbs, known as complex carbs.

Complex carbs are a good source of starch and fiber. Starchy foods like pasta, rice, bread, and potatoes are high-energy foods with essential B vitamins.

Eating whole-grain cereal for breakfast is a great way to lift your energy for the day. Whole-grain cereals and oatmeal have lots of fiber to help keep you full. They also have vitamins and minerals that should be part of a healthy senior diet.

Fish. Fish and seafood are excellent examples of lean proteins that can boost energy in older adults. Oily fish, like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent heart attacks. They also help prevent cognitive decline and relieve joint pain.

It’s recommended that adults eat at least two portions of fish each week and that one of those sources be oily fish. Fish are great foods for energy because of their essential nutrients and preventative benefits.

Lean protein, like fish, helps you to maintain muscle mass. Having enough muscle mass is important for staying physically active as you age. Protein is an important macronutrient that’s essential for maintaining high levels of energy throughout the day.

Iron-rich Foods. Anemia (low iron levels) is common in older adults and can cause low energy levels. Eating foods that are rich in iron, like eggs, spinach, and red meat, can help support energy for seniors and fight anemia.

Foods with Vitamin B12. B12 is a vitamin that is necessary for high levels of energy. As you age, your body isn’t as able to absorb B12 from foods as well, so it’s important that you eat enough foods with this vitamin.

B12 is found in animal products, which should be eaten moderately. A good source of plant-based B12 is non-dairy milk, like soy and almond milk.

Liquids. Dehydration is common among seniors since you feel less thirsty as you age. Drinking enough fluids is important to help fight fatigue and get a good night’s sleep. Liquids that are energy boosters for seniors are water, green tea, and the water found in fruits and veggies.

As you age, your metabolism starts to slow down. You also start to lose lean muscle tissue and gain fat tissue. Because of this, your body generally doesn’t need as many calories.

Since your body doesn’t need quite as many calories as you get older, it’s important to select nutrient-dense foods for energy and avoid those that are lower in nutritional value.

Refined Carbs. While complex carbs are great for maintaining high levels of energy, refined carbs are not. These are carbs that are simple sugars and do not have the same minerals, vitamins, and fibers as complex carbs.

Refined carbs can cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash. This crash will then cause your energy to drop, leaving you tired and sluggish. Some examples of refined carbs to avoid are:

  • White bread
  • White rice
  • Crackers
  • Sugary snacks
  • White flour
  • Cereal not made from whole grains

Too Many Animal Products. Eating animal products like lean protein and low-fat dairy can be part of a healthy senior diet. However, it’s important to eat animal products in moderation. Animal products generally take longer to digest than plant-based foods, which lowers your energy. Examples of animal products include meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.

As you age, you might find that you are eating less since you aren’t as active as you used to be. Even so, it’s important to still eat three meals a day to maintain energy and health. If you aren’t as hungry, try eating three small, balanced meals with healthy snacks in between. 

Starting your day off with a nutritious breakfast is also important to maintain energy throughout the day. Try a breakfast that includes lean protein, whole grains, and fruit. Examples of good lean proteins to eat in the morning are eggs, cottage cheese, and Greek yogurt.