Aging is accompanied by a variety of economic, psychologic, and social changes that can compromise nutritional status. Aging also produces physiologic changes that affect the need for several essential nutrients. While nutritional status surveys of the elderly have shown a relatively low prevalence of frank nutrient deficiencies, there is a marked increase in risk of malnutrition and evidence of subclinical deficiencies with a direct impact on function. A critical risk factor of malnutrition among older adults is their declining need for energy due to a reduction in the amount of lean body mass and a more sedentary lifestyle. Decreasing energy intake with advancing age has important implications for the diet in terms of protein and micronutrients. Dietary quality is difficult to ensure when overall energy intake is low. The gap between actual nutrient consumption common among older adults and the recommended intakes from diets associated with health promotion and prevention of chronic diseases is large. The significance of sound nutrition education and the adverse impact of consumer misinformation about the benefits of these food choices becomes clear with the recognition that nutritional status influences the rate of physiologic and functional declines with age. New dietary guidelines for the elderly should emphasize the value of high quality, nutrient-dense foods. This approach will require new efforts in consumer education sensitive to the needs and beliefs of older people.