Nutrition heavily factors into our health, physical and mental, at every stage of life. In elderhood, it’s especially important to get all our essential nutrients without complicating our meals. A healthier diet can mean more energy, a higher desire for physical and social activities, fewer health complications, less pain, and fewer issues specific to geriatric health. Yet, one of the challenges of aging is working through drastic changes in appetite. For most, a decrease in appetite can be brought on by hormonal changes, common geriatric illnesses, a decreased sense of taste and smell, and even depression brought on by isolation and/or lack of independence. Unfortunately, a decreased appetite can not only deprive an elderly person of the pleasure of eating, but can also lead to various symptoms of malnutrition, including frailer bones, vascular and heart problems, digestion issues, decreased energy, and more. One of the essential roles a quality Geriatric Care Management service can play is monitoring health symptoms that can be caused by poor nutrition and recommending a healthy eating plan.
Below, we have outlined our best tips for helping keep food pleasurable and healthy for your aging parents:
Consult with a physician or nutrition specialist to determine your parent’s specific needs.
Quality preventative care will include regular bloodwork to monitor vitamin and mineral deficiencies, weigh-ins, and other tests to determine a patient’s specific needs and formulate a special eating plan accordingly.
Make food a no-brainer.
Look into hiring a meal planning/meal delivery service! With so many options to choose from, you will certainly find one that fits your parent’s needs. Different meal services tailor to various diets and allow you to choose your preferences, desired caloric intakes, and delivery frequency and schedule. Many available services are much more cost effective than takeout and tend to eliminate food waste and decision fatigue. We are more likely to eat healthy (or just EAT) if healthy food is readily available.
Make adjustments to portion size and type of food.
With decreased appetite, it’s important not to sacrifice too much of one food group. Instead, try serving smaller portions that still contain protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables/fruits. HOT TIP: try incorporating foods that are easier to eat, like finger foods and pre-cut/pre-assembled ingredients.
Try new meals and cuisines.
With duller senses of taste and smell, eating can become quite monotonous. A great way to break up the repetitiveness and switch things up is to incorporate new cuisines, or simply new fruits and vegetables into the mix. For the added bonus of spending some quality time with your relative, set aside an hour every week to have a meal together at a new restaurant or hit up an ethnic grocery store and try something new.
Stock up on their favorite healthy snacks.
Much like meal delivery services, you can choose to sign up for a healthy snack delivery service, or simply pick up some healthy snacks at the store. Some good options include dark chocolate, nuts, hummus with pre-cut veggies or pretzels, yogurt snacks, dried fruits, fruit pastries, and fruit juices. HOT TIP: snacks are a great way for senior citizens with a tendency to under eat to get in some extra calories and it’s important to have some available at home. For those who are losing their sense of taste, sweet-tasting foods seem to remain enjoyable the longest!
Fight lack of quantity with great quality!
Even if your parent or relative is not eating as much as they used to, it’s important they still get all their nutrients. This can be achieved by choosing quality whole foods with high nutritional value. This means, a good source of protein (chicken, fish, lean meat, tofu, tempeh, etc.), whole grains (whole wheat bread, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, etc.), and colorful fruits or vegetables MUST be present at every meal. It’s important to minimize processed foods, like canned goods, white sugar, and microwavable meals as they often contain harmful preservatives and provide little nutritional value.
Make a meal out of it!
Cooking a healthy meal together, or even cooking for your parent, can be a great way to encourage healthier eating habits and spend quality time together!
The team at Senior Steps is happy to share their extensive experience on the challenges and solutions of elderly nutrition and help you, help your parent or relative live a healthier and happier life. We offer free consultations and welcome all inquiries!