Importance of protein in a senior's diet

Importance of protein in a senior's diet


Everyone constantly talks about the importance of protein in a diet, but what we may not realize is how much it is important for elders and their health. This topic is not talked about enough and not many people realize how important it is for elders to incorporate protein in their meals. So, before we get to how you can help them have more protein intake, let’s discuss the importance of protein intake for elders.

1. Why is protein more important for seniors?

The protein tissue in the human body accounts for about 30% of total body protein turnover. But since that count declines as we get older, it usually drops to 20% once the adult reaches 70. This is the reason why older people need more protein than younger people. According to dietary guidelines for elders, seniors should consume at least 0.8 gm of protein per kg of their body weight daily.

2. How the protein helps the elderly in their senior life?

Proteins, as we already established, are crucial for elders' everyday dietary plan and should be a part of the healthy food for them because of many reasons. Firstly, proteins act as building blocks that produce new cells, skin, tendons, and ligaments. Proteins can even produce hormones and enzymes and repair damaged tissues and worn-out cells. They also help our bodies develop high concentration and produce energy by stabilizing sugar levels. They are great for reducing sugar and blood cholesterol levels as well. But other than that, healthy protein intake will make your bones healthier and reduce the risks of osteoporosis. For seniors, protein in food can also reduce the risk of having a stroke attack.

3. Why proteins are invaluable for seniors?

Older people, above 50 have a major risk of developing a muscle loss ailment, typically called “sarcopenia”. By having a healthy amount of protein intake daily, senior citizens can significantly reduce the risk of getting this disease, but they can also reduce the risk of paralysis. Elders who have protein deficiency may face problems such as delayed wound healing, easy injury and bruising, dental issues, fatigue and poor appetite. That is why taking enough protein in food on a daily basis is very important for senior citizens.

4. How should seniors consume protein?

When it comes to some general dietary guidelines for elders, women should be consuming 45mg of protein, and men about 60 mg of protein a day. They can choose to start taking protein in their breakfast, lunch or dinner. For instance, foods such as eggs, cheese, and fish are great sources of protein. One cheese string contains 8 gm of protein, the egg white has about 7 gm, and one can of tuna has about 40 gm of protein. Cereals and beans are also great for the protein-packed diet. If elders have difficulties chewing foods like these, they can always take their protein in protein drinks. There are many varieties of drinks made of soy, or casein that can be given to the elderly.

5. High Protein Breakfast Ideas

Breakfast is usually the meal of the day that lacks protein the most. Generally speaking, an egg, a slice of toast with peanut butter and a glass of soy milk can be a great healthy protein-packed breakfast for seniors. It will give them about 20 gm of protein. Vegetarians can choose protein cereal and cook it in protein or soy milk.

Other than that, here are some more specific ideas for breakfast. To make it tastier, you can add nuts and seeds to your breakfast cereal. You can even try to decrease the cereal and replace it with nuts and seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, flax, and others.

For a typical breakfast, you can choose to start with an egg since it is a neat little protein package that holds about 6 gm of protein. Plus, the great thing about eggs is that there are many ways to eat them. You can choose to hard boil some eggs and eat them with toast and some guacamole. You can make scrambled eggs, or make an omelette. The possibilities are endless.

Another great breakfast idea is to make a breakfast bowl. For example, try making it with a Greek yogurt instead of cereal. Greek yogurt is a great source of protein. Eight ounces of yogurt contain 17-20 grams of protein. Mix it with some nuts and seeds, and there you have it, your delicious bowl of morning protein intake.

Keeping a jar or maybe even a few jars of your favourite nut butter on hand makes adding protein to your breakfast a lot easier. You can try a spoonful of peanut, cashew, or almond butter. However, be careful what butter you choose. You need to avoid the ones with added sugars. You can eat nut butter on whole-grain toast, mixed with oatmeal, in a shake, or even on a sweet potato with some cinnamon.

You can also make protein shakes for breakfast since they are so quick and easy to make, yet very delicious. You can choose to either make a plant-based or animal-sourced type of protein. The best part is that you can mix whatever fruit or vegetables you want. For instance, you can mix some of your favourite fruits with some soy milk, add some wpc powder and there you have it, your breakfast protein shake.

6. High Protein Lunch Ideas

There are many great ways to add protein to your lunch. One of the easiest ones is to simply add it to your salads. This is a great way to load up on veggies and protein. Some of the things you can add to create a superfood salad that will keep you full are nuts, seeds, leftover meat, cottage cheese, eggs, and so on.

Also, try to substitute meat for bread. For example, instead of making a sandwich, try making a meat roll-up. You can make a quick lunch-to-go by using thin slices of turkey and wrapping them around cucumber, cheese, sprouts, or lettuce.

Top your lunch with some eggs. They can be added to your lunch as egg salad or even just as hardboiled egg along with the regular meal.  You can also add beans. Maybe mix a can of chickpeas with some quinoa, fresh parsley, and tomato. You can also add some feta cheese to give it some extra flavour. Lastly, you can make a high-protein soup or some pureed food. This protein-packed lunch is great for seniors who struggle with tough textures. Slow cook stews and soups so that you can make meat or beans softer and easier to eat and digest.

7. High Protein Dinner Ideas

Dinner should have less meat and more vegetables and fruits that supplement protein. Elders, in this case, should aim to consume less protein at night than what they consume for breakfast and lunch. Most people make a mistake of consuming most of their protein for dinner. Keep in mind that protein does not need to be evenly distributed in meals throughout the day. Just make sure you are getting enough of it.

For instance, a serving size for meat is about the size of your palm. For protein-packed dinner, you can have a steak since beef is a high protein food. You can choose to go for a lean cut of meat. In that case, you can increase your portion and protein content, or you could, for instance, add some fresh or grilled veggies too.

You can also grill some chicken breast. It is also a great source of protein that you can choose to eat more if you go for a lean cut. It is also very quick, easy and tasty to add some veggies or high protein grains. You can also add some cheese to your dinner since it can add some nice flavour to the meal. Consider trying a cup of cottage cheese, a sprinkling cheese or a few slices of hard cheese as a finishing touch to your meal.

Fish is also great for dinner and it provides extra options. There are many different types of fish that you can prepare for dinner. For instance, salmon and tuna are great sources of protein, but other canned and frozen options are also great.

Lastly, pick one day in a week to make a meatless meal. Make a plant-based meal with chickpea falafel, tofu added to a stir-fry, or some bean soup or chilli. Beans are great sources of protein and are low in fat, but high in fibre, which is great. So, try going meatless once a week and mix it up.

8. Where Does Protein Come From?

Protein can be found in your body and your food. What your body does with this protein is break it down into amino acids. Then, your body uses those acids to build, repair and maintain itself. Protein can be found in either animal or plant-based sources. Amino acids can either be essential, nonessential, or conditional. The first ones need to come from the food you eat. The second one your body makes from the food you eat. And lastly, the third ones are the ones you rely on when you are injured or ill.

9. Where to Start?

Firstly, you need to figure out what foods your loved ones love to eat. Find out their meat preference, but also about all the food groups preferences they have and try to incorporate more protein into them. Step by step, start including new things and see what works for them. Don’t try to make sudden and big changes. Take baby steps and it will be much easier for them to adjust to the new diet.

10. Calculate Nutrient Needs

What you also need to do is calculate the nutrient needs. They vary for each person depending on several different factors such as age, weight, height, the amount of exercise they do, and so on. On average, seniors are recommended to have at least 45 grams (for women) and 60 grams (for men) per day. But just to be sure, you need to calculate the nutrients needs for yourself and talk to a registered dietitian.

11. Search Out Protein-Packed Snacks

Opt for healthier and more protein-packed snacks. You can bake some healthy peanut butter cups or cookies for the whole family or make a carrot cake truffles or whole-wheat strawberry banana protein muffins that your elders will enjoy when they crave something sweet. Buy some Greek yogurt for them and oatmeal. Make them some pumpkin protein pancakes.

However, these shouldn’t be the only high-protein snacks or meals in their diet. Edamame and mixed nuts such as almonds, pistachios, cashew can be great snacks for increasing protein intake. Also, broccoli, lima beans, peas, and Brussel sprouts are great sources of protein too.  They can be incorporated in regular meals as well as beans and cottage cheese.

12. Research Recipes

However, this is just the beginning. There are many different ways to incorporate protein into your everyday meals. You can get creative with it and go beyond online suggestions such as chicken breast, tilapia, pork tenderloin, etc. Sometimes it's not enough to just ass a protein shake and expects it to do all the work. For seniors, that might not always be enough. They are great as a snack or addition to breakfast, but it is best you not use them as a meal replacement.

Too much of something can be just as bad as too little of it. Remember that. This goes for meat too. Eating too many processed meat can't be good for anyone and can cause cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

13. Ask for Advice

Lastly, in case all of this information at once feels like too much, don’t be afraid to ask for some help and additional advice. Turn to professionals and ask them about their opinion. They will give you the needed guidance for your nutrient needs and make sure you are on the right track.


In conclusion, it is very important to understand how crucial protein is for older people and to know where that protein comes from. If you have someone older in your family who needs help incorporating more protein in their daily meals, these tips will help you do so.

We can Help! Our local advisors can help your family make a confident decision about senior living.

Call: 800-997-1342


Mia Johnson
Mia Johnson

Mia Johnson is a writer with a ten-year-long career in journalism. She has written extensively about health, fitness, and lifestyle. A native to Melbourne, she now lives in Sydney with her 3 dogs where she spends her days writing and taking care of her 900 square feet garden

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