Improving Nutrition in the Elderly
As we age our appetite naturally decreases, so reduced food intake among the elderly is normal to some degree. But, issues like medications, certain health conditions, and depression can further restrict calories to a point where malnutrition appears. It causes a host of problems in the elderly, from impeding healing from infections and illnesses, to worsening the effects of other health problems present. If you are concerned about the eating habits of a loved one, you have good reason to be. It is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Here are some tips to improve elderly nutrition.
Beware of Over-Reliance on Supplement Drinks
Supplement drinks certainly play a role in elder nutrition, but experts caution against becoming overly reliant on them. If your loved one is not eating, you may think that giving them a shake for every meal is okay since it is better than nothing. On the one hand, this is true. But, making the drinks a staple of their diet can be dangerous. It may be challenging, but you should always aim to give them whole foods first and be firm on this.
Adding Calories without Volume
Getting adequate nutrition is not necessarily about getting your loved one to eat larger volumes of food. It is about making the most of the food they are eating. Add powdered milk to hot and cold cereals, milkshakes and regular milk. Boost the calorie content of meals by adding sauces, gravies, cheese to savory dishes. Add some maple syrup, honey or molasses to hot cereals. Wheat germ is a super-healthy food that you can add to cereals and baked goods.
Spice Things Up
Our taste buds change as we age, and one of the reasons elderly people often eat less is because food just does not taste as good as it used to. Changes in taste are particularly strong when it comes to savory foods. Combat the blandness by experimenting with spices like garlic, onions, cilantro, rosemary and the like. Look for salt-free seasoning blends. On a somewhat related note, it seems that older people retain a sense of sweets most strongly, so you may have some luck with sweeter foods. Just make sure they are more on the healthy side.
Serve Up a Colorful Variety
Eyesight problems may also contribute to decreased food intake. Your loved one cannot see the food as well and it may not look as palatable. One way to address this is serving a variety of color foods that are easily distinguishable from one another on the plate. Studies have found that elderly people tend to eat more when presented with a variety of foods, so consider making meals that have something from all the food groups. If your loved one is well enough to eat out, buffet-style restaurants may be a good idea.
Don’t Push Three Big Meals
Most of us follow the tradition of three meals a day, but for elderly people with nutritional challenges, this eating pattern may not be the best one for maximizing food intake. Three big plates of food may seem overwhelming and they are likely to eat less food. When presented with smaller meals throughout the day, the task of eating seems more manageable.