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Foreword

In recent years the Health Promotion Board has developed dietary guidelines for children and adolescents as well as adults. However, older adults have different nutritional requirements and require a separate set of guidelines. While there is much advice on nutrition available through magazines and new media channels, not all of these are science-based and accurate. This set of Dietary Guidelines for Older Adults is specially formulated to be a trusted source of information, and is based on scientific evidence. 

The Dietary Guidelines for Older Adults is the first of its kind in Singapore. The release of these guidelines is timely as Singapore’s population is greying with the number of Singapore Residents aged 65 years and older expected to increase to one in every five residents by 2030.

Why do I need a healthy diet?

Your body changes as you get older. You don’t need to eat as much as you used to, so this makes it challenging to get the vitamins and minerals your body requires. Getting older may also increase the likelihood of chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. A healthy diet can provide the nutrients necessary to help protect you from chronic diseases. If you are already living with a chronic disease, a healthy diet can help you manage it better.

It’s never too late to start eating healthily!


What is a healthy diet?

A healthy diet is about choosing the ​ right types of food in the right quantities.

A healthy diet can give you all the nutrients you need - it is better to get nutrients from food rather than from supplements.

It is important to choose nutrient-dense foods i.e. foods with more vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients, but with fewer calories.

Don’t forget, being physically active also plays an important role in promoting and prolonging good health.

Aim for 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Besides activities like brisk walking, cycling and swimming, daily lifestyle activities (e.g. taking the stairs, doing household chores) and strength activities (e.g. using hand weights, doing qigong or yoga) count as physical activities too.

To learn more about physical activities, visit https://www.healthhub.sg/programmes/142/MoveIt. Consult your doctor on the types and amount of physical activity and the amount that is best for you, especially if you have a medical or chronic condition


Food-Based Recommendations

Food Group

Recommended Number of Servings

Brown Rice, wholemeal bread & others

  • Wholegrain foods

Fruit

Vegetables

Meat, Beans, Fish & Diary

  • Dairy foods or calcium fortified foods

4-6

2-3

2

2

3

1


What is a serving?

Brown rice, wholemeal bread & others

2 slices bread (60g)

½ bowl** rice (100g)

2 bowls rice porridge (500g)

½ bowl noodles, beehoon or spaghetti (100g)

4 plain biscuits (40g)

1 thosai (60g)

2 chapatis (60g)

1 large potato (180g)

1½ cups plain cornflakes (40g)

2/3 bowl uncooked oatmeal (50g)

Fruit

1 small apple, orange, pear or mango (130g)

1 wedge papaya, pineapple or watermelon (130g)

10 grapes or longans (50g)

1 medium banana

¼ cup dried fruit (40g)​


Vegetables

150g raw leafy vegetables

100g raw non-leafy vegetables

¾ mug*** cooked leafy vegetables (100g)

¾ mug cooked non-leafy vegetables (100g)

¼ round plate+ cooked vegetables


Meat, Beans, Fish & Dairy

1 palm-size piece meat, fish or poultry (90g)

2 glasses milk (500ml)

2 small blocks soft bean curd (170g)

¾ cup*** cooked pulses (peas, beans, lentils) (120g)

5 medium prawns (90g)

3 eggs (150g)‡

NOTE:

* All weights listed are for edible portions only
** Rice bowl

*** 250ml
+ 10 inch plate
‡ Eggs are high in cholesterol and no more than 4 eggs yolks should be eaten a week.


How do I achieve a healthy diet?

To achieve a healthy diet, it may be necessary to make changes to the way you eat. The following guide contains helpful pointers on healthy eating for Singaporeans.

More...

  • Eat more fruit
  • Eat more vegetables, especially dark green, leafy and brightly-coloured ones.
  • Eat more calcium-rich foods (calcium-fortified soy milk, tofu, milk, cheese, yoghurt)

Replace...

  • Replace refined grains with whole grains
    • Instead of white rice and white bread, choose brown rice, wholemeal bread and oats
  • Replace saturated and trans fat food with food containing unsaturated fat
    • Instead of deep fried meat, lemak dishes and fatty meat, go for lean poultry, fish, tofu and beans
    • Instead of cooking food with lard, ghee or palm oil, choose oils higher in unsaturated fat (e.g. sunflower, canola oils) or those with the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS)
  • Try to have plain water or unsweetened drinks (e.g. Chinese tea) instead of soft drinks, kopi, teh or other sugar-sweetened drinks.
  • Aim to drink around 8 glasses of water a day, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

Less...

  • Eat sweet desserts and snacks less often.
  • Use less salt and sauces, and cut down on salted and preserved foods
  • If you drink alcohol: Men should not drink more than 2 standard drinks a day and women no more than 1 standard drink a day.
  • One standard drink is equal to 220 ml of beer (about 2/3 of a can), 125 ml of wine (about 1 small glass) or 30 ml of liquor (about 1 shot glass).​

Meeting the Dietary Guidelines

The following daily menus are examples of how you can meet the dietary guidelines.​

Sample menu 1


Breakfast
 
Shredded chicken porridge - 1 bowl

Tea, less sweet - 1 cup
 

Snack
 
Red bean pau - 1 piece

Low fat milk/High calcium soya milk - 1 glass
 

Lunch
 
Brown rice/porridge - 1 bowl
 
Stewed tofu with lean minced meat/Egg omelette  -  1 portion
 
Stir-fried mixed vegetables - 1 portion
 
Barley water, less sweet - 1 glass
 
Snack
 
Low fat yoghurt  - 1 carton
 
Papaya - 1 slice

Plain water - 1 glass
 
 
Dinner
 
Fish slice beehoon soup with vegetables - 1 bowl
 
Watermelon - 1 slice

Plain water - 1 glass
 

Sample menu 2

Breakfast
 
Oats porridge - 1 bowl
 
Banana -  1
 
Plain water - 1 glass
 

Snack
 
Raisin bun  -  1 piece
 
Low fat milk/ High calcium soya milk  -  1 glass
 

Lunch
 
Brown rice/porridge - 1 bowl
 
Assam fish - 1 portion
 
Stir-fried spinach  - 1 portion
 
Pear - 1 piece

Coffee, less sweet - 1 cup
 

Snack
 
Wholemeal biscuits - 3 pieces

Low fat cheese - 1 slice
 
Plain water - 1 glass
 

Dinner
 
Chapati - 2 pieces
 
Dhal and vegetable curry  - 1 portion

Plain water  - 1 glass
 

What if I find it difficult to follow the guidelines?

It is not unusual for you to experience changes in your attitude and approach to food as you get older. Sometimes, medicine can also affect the way you eat or taste your food.
 
If you have difficulty following these guidelines for a healthy diet, the following information may help you. If you experience long-term problems with eating, consult your doctor or a dietician. 

I can’t drink milk
There are many non-dairy foods that give you the calcium you need. 

Choose:
  • Soy milk, cereals and other foods fortified with calcium
  • Tofu
  • Sardines and other fish with edible bones
  • Dark green, leafy vegetables like kai lan, spinach and chye sim
I have difficulty chewing
Methods to help you enjoy your food better:
  • Soften brown rice and wholemeal bread by: 
    • Soaking raw brown rice in 2 ½ cups of water for half an hour before cooking.  Add more water when cooking.
    • ​Eating your food with more liquid.  Dip your bread in a drink or have porridge instead of rice.
  • Choose soft fruit like papaya, mango or watermelon.
  • Chop vegetables into smaller pieces and cook them longer if you must. Broccoli, cauliflower, and leafy green vegetables (without the stalk) can be prepared this way.
  • Replace meats with tofu, eggs and minced meat.
  • If your dentures give you problems, visit your dentist for a check-up.

I don’t feel like eating

  • If your food is tasteless, use herbs and spices to make your food taste better.
  • Make meals enjoyable by eating with your loved ones.
  • Eat smaller meals, more often.

What if I already have high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease or some other chronic disease?
Most people can follow the healthy diet tips listed in this booklet, even if they are living with a chronic disease.

If you are unsure, consult your doctor before changing your diet.
See your doctor if…
  • You have a persistent cough or feel pain when swallowing.
  • You lose weight unintentionally

What if I want to take (or am already taking) supplements?
Vitamin and mineral supplements do not replace a healthy diet, but as you get older, some vitamin and mineral supplements may help.

​If you… Type of supplement Recommendations
You should take Do not take more than
Do not drink milk or eat foods rich in calcium

Calcium &

Vitamin D

800 mg Calcium & 800 IU Vitamin D1000 mg Calcium & 3,200 IU Vitamin D
Wear clothes that cover your entire body, are of South Indian descent, or stay indoors most of the timeVitamin D800 IU3,200 IU
Do not eat fishOmega-3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA)500 mg

3,000 mg

(EPA + DHA combined)

Do not eat meat, fish, seafood, eggs or dairyVitamin B122.4 µgDosage recommended by manufacturer
Have loss of appetite accompanied by unintentional weight lossLiquid nutritional supplementAs advised by your health care professional. Please consult your doctor to determine cause of weight loss and the required treatment.

 


For your safety, ask your doctor, pharmacist or dietitian for more advice on vitamin and mineral supplements.  
 
When you take health supplements, remember that they include vitamin and mineral supplements as well as other plant or animal extracts like gingko, soy isoflavones and glucosamine.
 
If you plan to or are already using health supplements, consult a doctor. Unnecessary health supplements may do more harm than good.  For example, some supplements can change the way your medicine works. 
 
When choosing health supplements, keep in mind that:
  • More is not always better. Vitamin and mineral supplements like vitamin A, vitamin C or calcium can help, but taking too much can hurt you. Consult your doctor for advice on how much you should take.
  • "Natural" does not always mean safe. For example, royal jelly can cause allergic reactions in some people and too much calcium can cause constipation.

For more information on healthy eating:

 Call HealthLine at 1800 223 1313
 Monday-Friday: 8.30am to 5.00pm
 Saturday: 8.30am to 1.00pm