Many individuals enter the adult life stage with an unhealthy dietary pattern already established from the childhood and adolescent years. A concerted effort to change this trajectory and support adults in adopting a healthy dietary pattern is needed for better health and to promote the well-being of family and friends across life stages.
- Following a healthy dietary pattern, engaging in regular physical activity, and managing body weight are critical during this life stage.
More than one-half of adults are living with one or more chronic disease—diseases that are often related to poor-quality diets and physical inactivity.
Improving dietary patterns in adulthood can play a beneficial role in promoting health and preventing the onset or rate of progression of chronic disease. For adults with overweight or obesity, making healthful changes to dietary patterns and increasing physical activity will improve health and prevent additional weight gain and/or promote weight loss.
The Importance of Physical Activity:
Adults who are physically active are healthier, feel better, and are less likely to develop many chronic diseases than are adults who are inactive. Physical activity decreases fat around the waist and total body fat, slowing the development of abdominal obesity.
For adults, regular physical activity can provide both immediate benefits (e.g., boost mood, reduce stress, improve sleep) and long-term benefits (e.g., improved bone health and reduced risk of many diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, dementia, and many types of cancer).
Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day. Some physical activity is better than none. To attain the most health benefits from physical activity, adults need at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking or fast dancing, each week.
Adults also need muscle-strengthening activity, like lifting weights or doing push-ups, at least 2 days each week.
Overweight and Obesity In Adults:
In the United States, 74 percent of adults have overweight or obesity, creating an increased risk for the development of other chronic health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Losing weight and maintaining weight loss is not a simple task. It requires adults to reduce the number of calories they get from foods and beverages and increase the amount expended through physical activity.
Weight loss and maintenance are not likely achieved using short-term solutions. They require a commitment to long-term lifestyle change and often need support from healthcare providers, family members, and social networks. Intensive behavioral interventions that use one or more strategies—like group sessions and changes in both diet and physical activity—can be effective for individuals trying to lose a significant amount of weight. In addressing obesity, professionals should be mindful of health problems stemming from obesity-related stigma and discrimination.
Factors that Affect Calorie Needs:
In general, calorie needs are lower for females compared to males.
- Calorie needs decline throughout adulthood due to changes in metabolism that accompany aging.
- Level of physical activity, body composition, and the presence of chronic disease are additional factors that affect calorie needs.
Females ages 19 through 30 require about 1,800 to 2,400 calories a day. Males in this age group have higher calorie needs of about 2,400 to 3,000 a day.
Calorie needs for adults:
Calorie needs for adults ages 31 through 59 are generally lower; most females require about 1,600 to 2,200 calories a day and males require about 2,200 to 3,000 calories a day.
Nutrient-Dense Foods and Beverages:
Nutrient-dense foods and beverages provide vitamins, minerals, and other health-promoting components and have little added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium.
Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, eggs, beans, peas, and lentils, unsalted nuts and seeds, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and lean meats and poultry—when prepared with no or little added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium—are nutrient-dense foods.
Calorie level ranges:
Ages 19 through 30:
Females: 1,800-2,400 calories;
Males: 2,400-3,000 calories.
Ages 31 through 59:
Females: 1,600-2,200 calories;
Males 2,200-3,000 calories.
Energy levels are calculated based on median height and body weight for healthy body mass index (BMI) reference individuals. For adults, the reference man is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 154 pounds. The reference woman is 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 126 pounds.
All foods are assumed to be in nutrient-dense forms; lean or low-fat; and prepared with minimal added sugars, refined starches, saturated fat, or sodium. If all food choices to meet food group recommendations are in nutrient-dense forms, a small number of calories remain within the overall limit of the pattern (i.e., limit on calories for other uses).
The number of calories depends on the total calorie level of the pattern and the amounts of food from each food group required to meet nutritional goals. Calories up to the specified limit can be used for added sugars, saturated fat, or alcohol, or to eat more than the recommended amount of food in a food group.
Increase Consumption Of Dietary Fiber:
Dietary patterns that do not meet recommended intakes of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contribute to low intakes of dietary Fiber. More than 90 percent of women and 97 percent of men do not meet recommended intakes for dietary Fiber. This aligns with intake patterns where fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are under consumed by more than 85 percent of adults.
Increasing intakes of fruits, vegetables, and replacing refined grains with whole grains to improve dietary Fiber intakes is especially important during this life stage, as the impact of poor diet quality becomes apparent with the onset and/or progression of diet-related chronic diseases.
Benefits of Dietary Fiber Consumption Of Dietary Fiber:
- Dietary Fiber adds bulk to your diet and makes you feel full faster.
- Dietary Fiber helps in digestion and helps prevent constipation.
- Helps control Blood sugar levels.
- Dietary Fiber Aids in achieving healthy weight.
- Food high in Fiber helps to prevent Heart diseases.
Intake OF Calcium and Vitamin D:
How do calcium and vitamin D work together?
Calcium and vitamin D are important at any age, and most adults do not consume adequate amounts.
Close to 30 percent of men and 60 percent of women older than age 19 years do not consume enough calcium, and more than 90 percent do not consume enough vitamin D. Dietary patterns that do not meet recommended intake amounts for food groups and subgroups, which include sources of calcium and vitamin D—such as dairy foods and fortified soy alternatives and seafood—contribute to low intake of these nutrients. Particular attention should be given to consuming adequate amounts of foods with these nutrients during adult years to promote optimal bone health and prevent the onset of osteoporosis.
Adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D is particularly important for adults during the time period when peak bone mass is still actively accruing (ages 19 through about 30) and, for women, in the post-menopausal period when rapid bone remodeling occurs.
A healthy dietary pattern with nutrient-dense, calcium-rich foods, such as low-fat milk and yogurt and fortified soy alternatives and canned sardines and salmon, can help adults better meet intake recommendations.
Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium. Consuming the recommended amount of seafood and choosing foods that are fortified with vitamin D, including milk, fortified soy beverages, and fortified soy yogurt, and some whole-grain cereals, can help adults meet their needs.
In addition to dietary sources, the body can make vitamin D from the sun. However, some individuals may have difficulty producing sufficient vitamin D from sunlight exposure or consuming enough vitamin D from foods and beverages, so a supplement may be recommended by a health professional.
Reduce Consumption Of Fats, Especially Saturated Fats:
Staying within saturated fat limits and replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat is of particular importance during the adult life stage. The prevalence of coronary heart disease increases with age, and high LDL cholesterol peaks between the ages of 50 to 59 in men and 60 to 69 in women.
About 70 to 75 percent of adults exceed the 10-percent limit on saturated fat as a result of selecting foods and beverages across food groups that are not in nutrient dense forms. The top sources of saturated fat for adults are sandwiches (e.g., deli sandwiches, burgers, tacos, burritos, grilled cheese, hot dogs) and other grain-based mixed dishes (e.g. spaghetti and meatballs, casseroles, quesadillas) that typically contain ingredients from several food groups that are not in nutrient-dense forms, including grains, protein foods, and dairy. Making changes to the type of ingredients as well as amount and/or frequency of their consumption will help adults lower saturated fat intake without a need to eliminate these foods from the household diet.
Strategies include using lean meats and low-fat cheese to prepare these foods or substituting beans in place of meats as the protein source.
Saturated fat also can be reduced by substituting certain ingredients with sources of unsaturated fat (e.g., using avocado, nuts, or seeds in a dish instead of cheese). Cooking with oils higher in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat (e.g., canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, and sunflower) instead of butter also can reduce intakes of saturated fat.
Reduce Intake Of Sodium:
The number of adults exceeding the Chronic Disease Risk Reduction level for sodium during this life stage is concerning that 45 percent of adults ages 18 and older are living with hypertension. During adulthood, prevalence of hypertension increases from about 22 percent of adults ages 18 through 39 to about 55 percent of adults ages 40 through 59.1 Changing this trend is important because hypertension is a preventable risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Unlike other factors that cannot be changed, such as genetics and family history, reduced dietary intake of sodium is a modifiable risk factor that can help improve blood pressure control and reduce risk of hypertension.
Overconsumption of sodium occurs for several reasons:
Because sodium is found in foods and beverages across all food groups, with most coming from foods that have salt added during commercial processing rather than salt added to foods during or after preparation, reducing sodium consumption will require a joint effort by individuals, the food and beverage industry, and food service and retail establishments.
Choose A Diet Moderate In Sugar:
Adults should choose a diet that is moderate in sugar.
Most adults exceed recommended limits for added sugars as a result of eating foods and drinking beverages higher in added sugars and selecting foods and beverages across food groups that are not in nutrient-dense forms. Added sugars are of particular concern for adults because exceeding limits contributes to excess calorie intake.
Beverages As A Source Of Added Sugars:
Sugar-sweetened beverages (e.g., soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks) and sweetened coffees and teas (including ready-to-drink varieties) contribute over 40 percent of daily intake of added sugars. More than in earlier life stages, adults consume coffees and teas with additions, such as sugar and flavored syrup.
Frequent consumption of these and other beverages containing added sugars can contribute to excess calorie intake. Some sugar-sweetened beverages, such as coffee and tea with milk, contribute to food group intake (e.g., dairy) and can be made without added sugars. Others, such as fruit drinks, can be replaced with nutrient-dense options such as 100% juice to help meet fruit group recommendations.
Most adults’ diets include choices across multiple food groups that are not in nutrient-dense forms and therefore cannot accommodate excess calories from sweetened beverages. Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages should be limited to small amounts and most often replaced with beverage options that contain no added sugars, such as water.
By adopting a healthy lifestyle many risk factors and chronic diseases can be prevented to a great extent.