Nutrition for All Ages

Mary Chong_side_mugshot_2019
Dr Chong Foong-Fong Mary
Clinical Dietitian
Associate Professor,
Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, NUS

How does good nutrition benefit our health in the long term?

Good nutrition is essential for maintaining good health in the long term. Having good nutrition can help one maintain a healthy weight, reduce obesity and the risk of developing chronic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain types of cancer. It also helps build a strong immune system through establishing optimal gut health and consequently improving one’s productivity and mental health. Making healthy food choices and maintaining a balanced diet will allow us to reap the benefits of good nutrition.

Could you share some general nutrition tips for children, teenagers, young adults, older adults, and seniors? What are the developmental and lifestyle factors that we should “feed” at these different life stages?

Individuals at various life stages have different nutrient requirements and dietary focus, due to their developmental needs and lifestyle demands.


Children are at early developmental stage and experience varying periods of growth spurts. Establishing positive, healthy eating habits at this age is critical as these set the stage for later adult food habits and preferences. Besides having a balanced diet, children should be encouraged to limit sugar-sweetened beverages, drink sufficient plain water and consume age-appropriate portions of meals and snacks through mindful eating.


Teenagers are experiencing rapid growth and significant body changes, thus require good nutrition to support healthy development, good cognitive performance and mental wellness. They should be empowered to establish a healthy lifestyle through encouraging the intake of breakfast on a daily basis, teaching them to make healthy meals and snack choices - for example, through replacing high-fat, high-sugar processed food with nutrient-rich foods, plus promoting regular physical activity and limiting sedentary time and screen-time.

Young adults

Young adults often go through life transition periods, which can influence their eating and lifestyle patterns. Reinforcing healthy lifestyle habits such as eating well and being physically activity can help one maintain a healthy weight as well as cope with both physical and mental stress.  Focusing on adequate fruits and vegetables, staying hydrated by drinking water throughout the day, and avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol intake can all contribute to a positive, and happier outlook during this phase of life.

Older adults

A key focus for older adults and seniors is to maintain muscle mass and strength, prevent and/or reduce risk of chronic diseases and thus maintain their independence to enjoy many more years of high-quality living and healthy life. Due to body changes, changes in sleep patterns, energy levels and appetite, this would mean focusing on smaller intakes of nutrient-rich foods and ensuring adequate calcium and vitamin D for bone health. Additionally, limit sodium, saturated and trans fat to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart diseases. The importance of staying hydrated, by drinking small amounts of water throughout the day, cannot be understated.

One’s lifestyle could affect one's nutrition and food choices. Could you share with us some common lifestyle factors that could result in poor diets?

Lifestyle factors can influence nutrition and food choices. The following are some common factors that can lead to poor diets.

Busy schedules, eating on-the-go or viewing television or devices can result in mindless eating. This can often lead to intake of excess calories due to greater reliance on convenience foods, and processed foods and snacks that are often high in calories, fat, sugar and salt.

Chronic stress or poor stress management can lead to emotion eating, overeating and a greater dependency on comfort eating on often less healthy foods. Stress can also disrupt sleep patterns, one’s circadian rhythm, which can further impact one’s metabolism and increase risk of metabolic conditions.

Social influences such as peer pressure, multiple social events and gatherings can lead to over-eating and indulging in unhealthy foods, such as high-calorie snacks and alcoholic drinks.

Leading a sedentary lifestyle can lead to a decrease in the amount of energy expended and increase the risk of weight gain, obesity and related health problems. Often, sedentary lifestyles are associated with increased cravings for high-calorie, high-fat foods and decreased appetite for healthy foods.

Being aware of these common lifestyle factors can help individuals make better choices and improve their overall diet quality. Planning ahead, choosing nutrient-rich foods, and seeking out healthy options when available can help counteract these pitfalls