Variety is Key

Sierra Rankin, MS, Millennium Associate Operations Manager

Opting for wise food choices plays a crucial role in maintaining health as you age. Developing an understanding of the various food groups and their recommended proportions in your diet contributes to the formation of a healthy eating pattern over time.

It’s essential to ensure you meet the recommended intake for each food group without exceeding your daily calorie limit. Keep in mind that the appropriate amount to maintain your weight depends on factors such as age, gender, and physical activity level. Striving for a balanced diet involves regularly incorporating a variety of foods from different groups into your meals.


Your parents were correct: incorporating vegetables into your diet is fundamental for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In fact, there’s no harm in consistently adding a variety of plants to every meal. Vegetables boast a diverse range of colors, flavors, and textures, and they are rich in essential vitamins and minerals, carbohydrates, and valuable fiber. The vegetable food group encompasses dark green vegetables, red and orange vegetables, starchy vegetables, as well as legumes like beans and peas.


Leafy green vegetables stand out as an exceptionally healthy choice. For instance, spinach provides essential nutrients such as vitamins K and A, folate, magnesium, iron, and dietary fiber.


Fruits play a vital role in maintaining a healthy diet, adding color, flavor, and essential nutrients to your meals. The array of choices includes citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits, various berries, tree-grown fruits such as apricots, cherries, peaches, and mangoes, as well as others like figs, grapes, and pineapples.

Incorporating more fruits into your diet offers significant benefits for overall health. Similar to vegetables, fruits contain carbohydrates and provide valuable fiber that supports a healthy digestive system. While 100% fruit juice contributes to this category, it is recommended that at least half of the fruits consumed be whole fruits. When opting for frozen, canned, or dried fruit, choose options with the lowest added sugar content.


Any food derived from wheat, rye, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or other cereal grains falls under the category of grain products. This encompasses a variety of items such as bread, pasta, breakfast cereal, grits, tortillas, and even popcorn. Grains, in conjunction with fruits, vegetables, and dairy, constitute a primary source of carbohydrates, the body’s main energy provider. It is advisable to check food labels to opt for grain choices low in saturated fat and added sugar. Whole grains offer iron, various B vitamins, and fiber.

Certain grain products undergo a refining process, resulting in a finer texture and extended shelf life.

However, this process removes fiber and nutrients. Many refined grains are subsequently enriched, meaning that certain nutrients are reintroduced after processing. Examples of refined grain products include white flour, degermed cornmeal, white bread, and white rice.


Proteins are often referred to as the body’s building blocks, crucial for tissue building and repair, as well as supporting the immune system to fight infection. Additionally, the body utilizes excess protein as an energy source. For optimal health, older adults are advised to include a diverse range of nutrient-dense proteins in their diet. Opt for lean (low-fat) meats and poultry, and consider alternative sources such as seafood, eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, and soy products.

Plant-based protein sources, like nuts and seeds, tend to be lower in saturated fat, cholesterol-free, and provide additional fiber and health-promoting nutrients. It’s essential to note that plant-based meat alternatives can differ in nutritional value, often being highly processed and containing elevated sodium levels.

For a balanced intake, it is recommended to consume 8 to 10 ounces of various seafood per week. This not only contributes to protein intake but also ensures a source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as EPA and DHA, which are beneficial for heart health.


Incorporating dairy into the diet is also beneficial, aiding in the maintenance of strong bones and supplying essential nutrients such as calcium, potassium, and vitamin D. Opting for low-fat or fat-free options within the dairy group supports heart health by providing vital vitamins and minerals with reduced fat content. Additionally, some fortified dairy alternatives can offer comparable nutritional benefits to traditional dairy products.


Millennium Health and Fitness