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Diet for Elderly With Diabetes: Challenges and Rules To Follow

Diet for Elderly With Diabetes: Challenges and Rules To Follow

The nutritional requirements of a healthy young adult are not the same as that of a diabetic. The differences become even more pronounced for elderly diabetics. Here’s what you need to know about the diet for elderly with diabetes.

Diet for Elderly With Diabetes: The Challenges

To fully appreciate how different a diet for elderly with diabetes is, we need to understand the nutritional challenges they face with aging. Some of these challenges include:

  • An increased risk for other health conditions, particularly cardiovascular diseases.
  • A decrease in metabolism due to a combination of factors, such as reduced lean body mass and lack of physical activity.
  • Difficulty in achieving or maintaining the optimal body weight.
  • Potential issues in eating habits due to changes in appetite, dietary restrictions, loneliness and depression, and economic factors.
  • Changes in their eating habits may mean their medications are no longer appropriate for their food intake and weight. This increases their risk of hypoglycemia.

Notice that these challenges have a direct impact on their nutritional needs.

The Simple Rules To Have a Healthy Diet for Elderly With Diabetes

Now that you have a better idea of why the nutritional demands of an older adult with diabetes are different from that of a healthy young adult, let’s delve deeper into the diet for elderly with diabetes.

If you’re an older adult with diabetes, experts say you can have a healthy and balanced diet if you follow these rules:

1. Work Closely With Your Doctor or Dietician

Are you receiving insulin shots? If you are, then please keep in mind that your carbohydrate intake should match the insulin you administer. Too much carbs and your insulin might not work that well; too little and your sugar levels might drop.

The best way to know if you have just the right amount of carbs in your diet is to work with your doctor, dietitian, or nutritionist. They can help put together an appropriate meal plan that matches your:

  • Health status and underlying conditions
  • Medicines
  • Activity level
  • Weight goals

2. Don’t Eliminate Fat

Despite the hype about “fat-free” products, doctors emphasize that fat is important in the diet for elderly with diabetes.

Adiet rich in fat-free items may result in low blood sugar levels, and it might make you feel hungry in between meals.

Instead of eliminating fat, modify your sources. Choose healthy fats from nuts, olives, or avocados, and avoid saturated and trans fats.

3. Lean Sources vs. Processed Meats

Besides getting adequate fat from good sources, a diet for elderly with diabetes must consist of lean sources of protein.

Good sources of protein include low-fat fish and skinless poultry. From time to time you can also have leaner cuts of beef.

Finally, remember that you should avoid processed foods as they usually contain added salts, fats, sugars, or preservatives.

4. Choose Whole Grains Over Refined Food

The diet for elderly with diabetes is not void of rice, pasta, or bread — you only need to choose the whole grain varieties rather than the refined ones.

The color of the product usually clues you in: If it’s white (pasta, flour, rice, or bread), then it must be refined. If it’s brown, it’s probably made from whole grains. Still, don’t forget to check the label.

5. The Little Things Count, Too

The diet for elderly with diabetes doesn’t require sugary drinks or salty food. However, it must contain adequate fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Getting fiber, vitamins, and minerals is quite easy if your diet has a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

Additional Reminders

Other than food choices, please remember that food portion control is also crucial, especially for carb intake. When and how often you eat is also a critical aspect to discuss with your doctor. If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider.

Learn more about Nutrition for Aging here.


BMR Calculator

Use our calorie-intake calculator to determine your daily caloric needs based on your height, weight, age, and activity level.



Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Nutritional challenges in the elderly with diabetes, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877593409000162, Accessed October 23, 2021

Nutrition Considerations for the Growing Population of Older Adults With Diabetes, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4522893/, Accessed October 23, 2021

Nutrition in older adults living with diabetes, https://wchh.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pdi.2287, Accessed October 23, 2021

A Healthy Diet for Older Adults to Manage Diabetes, https://bethesdahealth.org/blog/2019/08/20/a-healthy-diet-for-older-adults-to-manage-diabetes/, Accessed October 23, 2021

Diabetes in the Elderly: Making a Diabetic Diet More Enjoyable, https://www.completecare.ca/blog/diabetes-elderly-make-diabetic-diet-more-enjoyable/, Accessed October 23, 2021

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Oct 25
Fact Checked by Cesar Beltran