How the food pyramid changes as we age


Generations of Americans have based their food choices on the familiar Food Pyramid. 

Created by the USDA to educate Americans about the proper balance of food groups to eat, it’s a useful, visual tool that reminds us to eat more healthy foods and less unhealthy foods.

The food pyramid is still around, but these days you might notice that a few changes have been made. For starters, it’s not a pyramid anymore!

The new food pyramid is a plate.

Called MyPlate, there are two versions: one for people over 50 and one for younger people. The idea is that dietary recommendations change as we age. Here’s what that looks like, decade by decade.

How Your Food Pyramid Changes As You Get Older

The following nutrition recommendations are based on the MyPlate suggestions, which in turn are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

In Your 30s

How you approach nutrition during your 30s can set the pace for decades to come. That’s why you should be moving away from the unhealthy snacks you may have enjoyed in your 20s. No more donut runs in the afternoon, and skip that bag of chips with lunch.

In Your 40s

Many people are at the height of their careers and child-rearing in their 40s. Living life in the fast lane often means nutrition takes a back seat to family and career.

Time for cooking meals from scratch can seem limited, but it’s worth the effort. Your years of eating junk food should be far behind you by now since your metabolism is beginning to slow down. Try to find recipes that follow the MyPlate guidelines.

Double down on the lean protein and plenty of fruit and vegetables.

In Your 50s

Your metabolism is changing, so it’s a good idea to reconsider the traditional notion of three large meals per day. Think about eating smaller portions more often throughout the day to keep pace with a slowing metabolism.

In addition, keep up your exercise routine. Some physical activities you may have enjoyed twenty years ago, like running, might not be as much fun on the joints. This could be the time to find new ways to stay fit for the rest of your life.

In Your 60s

If you’re taking any medication, it’s important to stay in touch with your doctor about food interactions. In addition, make conscious efforts every day to stay hydrated. Fluids make an appearance on the MyPlate for Older Adults in the form of water, tea, soups, vegetables, and fruits. 

In Your 70s and Beyond

Your appetite may diminish as you age, so it’s important to stay mindful of good nutrition. In addition, it’s essential to good health that you stay active. One improvement on the old Food Pyramid is that the new MyPlate guidelines include fitness activities.

 “Find an exercise that you enjoy and look forward to doing, then do it at least 3 – 4 times per week for 30 minutes to boost your cardio fitness and maintain lean muscle mass.”

-Sunrise Senior Living Vice President of Dining Services Caitlin Rogers

MyPlate, Sunrise, and You

MyPlate was designed to help people improve their diets. It’s also used by leaders across the nation to develop nutrition policies and food programs for Americans.

Since Sunrise Senior Living is a National Strategic Partner with the MyPlate program, we adhere to these guidelines as well!

Residents at Sunrise communities enjoy a pleasing selection of healthy, appetizing meals prepared with important nutritional guidelines in mind. Menus change each week and feature fresh ingredients and seasonal selections. Find out more by visiting a community near you, or visit us online for a look at the Sunrise Dining Program.