Nutritional Supplements vs. Natural Foods: Which Is Best for Seniors?

A pyramid of different foods to help determine which is best for seniors.

Discover which is best for seniors, natural foods or nutritional supplements.

It can be difficult to determine the diet plan that’s best for seniors. First of all, there are a number of factors that affect a senior’s ability to eat a balanced diet. That’s why it is important to know how to get the most nutrition of the foods your loved ones are willing or able to eat.

Dietary supplements, like Ensure and Boost, are sometimes recommended for seniors in order to make sure they consume the necessary minerals and vitamins each day. But how do these beverages measure up against real, natural foods? Our team decided to check it out!

First, we took a look at two healthy, easy, convenient, and low-cost foods for seniors to enjoy for breakfast or a snack: an orange and low-fat yogurt. Together, these foods offer the following nutritional value:

  • 12g of protein
  • 31g of carbohydrates
  • 3.5g of fat
  • 206 calories
  • 467g of calcium
  • 71mg of vitamin C
  • 3g of fiber

We then took a look at three common dietary supplements: Carnation Instant Breakfast Essentials, Ensure, and Boost. Here’s what we found:

Carnation Instant Breakfast Ready-to-Drink (10 oz.):

    • 12g of protein
    • 37g of carbohydrates
    • 3g of fat
    • 200 calories
    • 500g of calcium
    • 30mg of vitamin C
    • 0g of fiber

Ensure (8 oz.):

    • 9g of protein
    • 40g of carbohydrates
    • 6g of fat
    • 250 calories
    • 300g of calcium
    • 30g of vitamin C
    • <1g of fiber

Boost (8 oz.):

    • 10g of protein
    • 41g of carbohydrates
    • 4g of fat
    • 240 calories
    • 300g of calcium
    • 60mg of vitamin C
    • 0g of fiber

The results? The orange and low-fat yogurt win hands-down in terms of nutritional value, and they’re the most cost-effective option. In a taste test, they were also the top preference, beating out all of the supplemental beverages.

Of course, nutritional supplement drinks do still offer relatively well-balanced nutrition for those who struggle to maintain the recommended daily calorie intake, and recommendations from a senior’s doctor should always be followed.

If you need additional help in ensuring senior loved ones have healthy meal options every day, contact Advanced Home Health Care, a provider of senior care in Mt. Pleasant, Mediapolis, Burlington, and the surrounding areas.

We are dedicated to helping the seniors in our community achieve maximum health and happiness in their lives, and we can help in a variety of ways, including providing friendly companionship to make mealtimes more enjoyable and engaging.  Contact us at 800.791.7785 to find out more about our home health care services.


The Care You Need. The Quality You Deserve.