7 Foods to Avoid After 50

woman holding an apple and a doughnut

Healthy eating is vital at any age. 


Even more so for older adults since nutritional needs change as you age. And so do your hormones.


But this doesn’t mean you need to go on some crazy diet plan, count calories, or avoid certain foods like the plague.


We’re here to keep it simple and manageable.


To help you feel energized, live longer, and improve your overall health in retirement, we break down the 7 foods to avoid after 50 (and propose healthier substitutes).


#1 Fried Food

You know that fried food tastes really good. But it’s not worth the damage it does to your body.


Here is just some of the scary research:



Does that mean you have to write off delicious fried foods forever? No.


But there are great swaps you can make to lessen the damage to your body.


eat oven- or air-fried foods and avoid fried foods


What to Eat Instead

The good news is that nearly everything that’s fried can be prepared differently. And it has a significant impact on how healthy your meal is.


If fried meals don’t make it on your list of foods to avoid, try switching up the oil you use. Avocado, olive, and coconut oil can make your favorite dishes healthier.


Even better, try to oven- or air-fry your food to get similar results without the unnecessary (and unhealthy) fats.


A French fry here or there isn’t going to be the end of the world. But as always, awareness changes everything. And it’ll help you choose the healthier version to balance your nutrition.


#2 Processed Meat

Processed meat refers to any type of food that has been changed from its original state (think hot dogs, bacon, and sausage). And if you’re like most Americans, bacon is a breakfast staple, and hot dogs are a cookout classic.


But processed meat is at the top of the list of foods to avoid, since if you eat 50g (about 2 ounces) of processed meat every day:



eat cooked or roasted meat and canned fish and avoid processed foods


What to Eat Instead

These scary statistics don’t mean that you should give up on the idea of eating amazing sandwiches or your favorite charcuterie platters. Instead, choose healthier alternatives such as:


  • Cooked or roasted meat
  • Canned salmon
  • Canned tuna


Like with all the items on our list, it’s about making these swaps more often over time.


#3 Coffee

Do you enjoy your morning coffee? How about a mid-afternoon pick-me-up in the form of a cup of joe?


The thought alone probably makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but what if we told you that drinking coffee daily could be bad for your health? You may want to read on before making your next order at Starbucks. 


Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in America, with over 64% of adults consuming it daily


But despite the energy- and mood-boosting effects, some concerning side effects come with excessive caffeine consumption, such as anxiety, sleep problems, high blood pressure, and digestive issues.


Before you write us off for advising you to give up coffee, that’s not what we’re suggesting. 


drink tea instead of coffee


What to Drink Instead

Coffee actually has numerous health benefits when consumed in moderation. So just try to keep it to a cup a day.


And only in the morning since it can be especially tough to digest for older adults. After the age of 65, it takes 33% longer for your body to metabolize caffeine compared to younger adults. Thankfully, there are other ways to increase your energy without coffee.


If you’re tired of sleepless nights, you might want to consider switching to tea. Tea, on the upside, might contain theine. Theine is a form of caffeine that is absorbed differently, and apart from sharpening your mind, it also relaxes you. 


#4 Diet Soda

Many people think that drinking diet soda is a good option — fewer calories, no sugar. But recent research shows the opposite.


There’s compelling evidence that drinking diet soda increases:


drink water and avoid diet soda


What to Drink Instead

Join the many Americans that are drinking less soda, and choose healthier alternatives, such as water


If you’re craving something sweet, you can always:


  • Spice up your water by infusing it with fruit
  • Go natural with home-made iced tea (without adding sugar)
  • Whip up a veggie or fruit smoothie


Easier said than done, of course, especially if you’re used to consuming your favorite diet bubbly daily. Our tip — wean off slowly and consistently by decreasing the number of diet drinks you consume per day and per week.


#5 Alcohol

If you’re like most adults, you have an occasional drink. But hopefully you don’t fall into the 20% of older adults that drink more than four times a week.


We won’t go over the negative side effects of excessive drinking. However, cutting down on alcohol could be one of the best things to do for your health. 


The body’s ability to respond gradually worsens over time, so even small amounts of alcohol could have a worse impact compared to when you were younger.


On top of that, alcohol is just empty calories, making it one of the worst things to consume when trying to lose weight.


older adults should avoid excessing drinking and limit alcohol intake to one glass


What to Eat Instead

Alcohol, in large quantities, should make it on your list of foods to avoid on a regular basis. But there’s nothing wrong with having a drink now and then. 


To be precise, the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism advises that people older than age 65 who are healthy, have no more than 7 drinks per week. 


So don’t worry — it’s perfectly fine to sip a glass of wine (it might even be healthy).


#6 Pre-packaged Food

Who doesn’t love a meal that’s ready to eat with zero prep time? 


The only problem with this convenience is that you might not know what ingredients are in the food. You can’t control how much salt, sugar, or preservatives are being added to your food.


As an older adult, it’s especially important to be aware of the ingredients in your food since nutrition guidelines change as you age. 


That’s why the best thing is to make all of your own meals at home. You’ll feel better, look better, and know exactly what’s going onto your plate and into your body.


eat frozen and canned foods and avoid prepackaged foods


What to Eat Instead

Eating healthy foods with fewer preservatives can sometimes be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. 


If you’re looking for products that are as convenient as prepackaged food, you can:



To spot any unhealthy additives, just check out the ingredients labels to scan the contents. (Anything foreign-sounding or hard-to-pronounce is likely a cue that it’s some form of artificial preservative.)


#7 Grapefruit

You might be wondering, “What the heck is grapefruit doing on the list of foods to avoid after 50?”


As it turns out, eating or drinking grapefruit can actually make some medications dangerous for you. It can either counteract or amplify the side effects of many medications. For instance, grapefruit is off-limits for blood pressure, anti-anxiety, and antihistamine drugs.


So, if you’re taking any meds that might not mix well with grapefruit, it’s best to steer clear.


do not eat grapefruit if on certain medication


What to Eat Instead

Grapefruit is a great way to get your vitamin C and fiber.


But thankfully, it isn’t the only fruit in the world packed with vitamin C. You can also get it from:


  • Broccoli
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Strawberries


Best Diet for Over 50

The key to a healthy diet after 50 is finding balance with your food choices. And, of course, trying to avoid the foods we listed.


Be mindful about what you eat in terms of how it makes you feel afterwards. If you’re feeling sluggish or uncomfortable after eating certain things, try cutting back on those items and see how that affects your body. 


Keeping a food journal will help you track down the food culprits that make you feel sluggish, too. Sometimes food aversions take a bit longer to make their mark, so it’s a great way to quickly spot what’s happening in your diet.


As always, don’t just take our advice at face value. Instead, use our tips as a foundational starting point and figure out what works best for you. From there, all you need are consistent micro-steps to achieve any of your retirement goals.

For more insights on nutrition for older adults, check out our comprehensive guide.

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