Nutrition Tips for Your Senior Loved One

Did you know that between the ages of 40 and 50 the number of taste buds you have decreases? Your sense of smell also decreases. By the age of 60, it’s possible to lose the ability to distinguish the taste of sweet, salty, sour, and bitter foods. Because of all this, it’s very common to lose interest in food which can lead to nutrition deficiency.   

Other causes of deficiency include difficulty chewing or swallowing and poor food choices. During this time of year, nutrition is even more important as it can help prevent colds, flu, and injuries that are more prevalent in changing weather. There are several ways to make sure that your senior loved one is getting what they need all year round. Here, we share just a few.

Using Food for Proper Nutrition

  1. Increase fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber, vitamins, and enzymes so fresh plants are the best choice for all of us. For those who have dental issues, it may be best to choose softer fruits or to steam vegetables. Whether there are chewing problems or not, it’s always great to change how you eat vegetables by adding a different dip or seasoning. If you cannot always have fresh, frozen is preferable over canned.
  2. Choose grains. When making decisions about which breads to choose, always go for one higher in whole grains. Brown rice and quinoa are great choices that are more nutritious than many other grains.
  3. Encourage hydration. It is important for all bodily processes to drink fluids throughout the day. And the more fruits and vegetables in our diets, the more naturally hydrated we are. If your loved one doesn’t like plain water, try some of these great infusing recipes.
  4. Boost calories. For those who need extra calories or nutrients, consider serving high-calorie drinks like milkshakes. Add calories and nutrients by incorporating a banana and a tablespoon of peanut butter or wheat germ into a chocolate shake. 
  5. Choose nutrient-dense foods. Nutrient-dense foods that are easy to chew include avocado, hummus, and nut butter. These are all easy to eat as snacks.

Using Habits for Proper Nutrition

  1. Make lunch the main meal of the day. As we age, we get tired more quickly so by making lunch a larger meal, the heaviness of our meal doesn’t interfere with our sleep. Plus, your loved one is more likely to eat more when they have more energy to do so. Additionally, some people with digestive or frequency problems may need more time between a large meal and bedtime. 
  2. Eat small meals more often. It is better for many seniors to eat 5-6 small meals a day. This reduces the highs and lows of insulin levels and encourages more calorie intake for those who have lost their appetites.
  3. Don’t skip meals. Skipping a meal usually makes someone eat more at the following meal and can drop blood sugars causing dizziness. If they’re not hungry, it is better to eat a little than to skip an entire meal.\
  4. Eat with your loved one. No one likes to eat alone. Often a lack of interest in eating is because a person is bored, lonely, or distracted by the TV. You can also ask loved ones to sit and eat with your senior loved one. This is a simple thing most people, including children, can do to help, and offers nourishment in more ways than one!
  5. Don’t rush. It is especially important for senior digestion to eat slowly. When eating with a loved one, be patient and don’t rush through a meal. Reheating food may help them to finish a meal that has cooled.

Other Tips for Improving Nutrient Intake

  1. Make chunky stews. These tend to be soft and easy to eat.
  2. Serve shredded or cut-up meats. For those with chewing and swallowing problems, shredded meat and chicken with a nice sauce can really help. If a person needs food cut up, do it before serving to increase the dignity of the meal.
  3. Think “finger food.” Many seniors have eyesight and motor issues that make eating with a fork, knife, and spoon difficult. Things like chicken nuggets, cheese sticks, and cut-up veggies can help.
  4. Smoothies. These are great as a light meal for breakfast and are great for adding vitamins and nutrients for people who have trouble chewing or eating.
  5. Utilize Meals On Wheels. If you are having trouble coming up with the time or money for good meals for someone aging in place, see if Meals On Wheels can help.

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