Most of us enjoy a delicious meal – the comforting scents and tastes, the gratifying sensation of a full stomach. For a lot of older individuals, though, a number of health conditions can hinder their enjoyment of meals or even their ability to shop for healthy foods, which can lead to malnourishment in many cases. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has several remedies to some of the most common elderly nutrition obstacles, such as:
Difficulties with chewing: For older people who have problems with chewing food well, meat, fresh fruits and vegetables could cause a problem. The FDA suggests the following substitutions:
- Instead of fresh fruit, try canned pears and peaches, fruit juice, or applesauce.
- In place of large cuts of meat, try ground meat, eggs, cheese, yogurt, milk, and other dairy products.
- As a substitute to raw vegetables, choose vegetable juices or cooked or mashed veggies.
- Rather than sliced bread, choose bread pudding, rice, soft cookies, or cooked cereals.
Nausea: Excessive gas, acid reflux problems, and a variety of other stomach problems could potentially cause older adults to stay away from foods they think may possibly cause a problem. Due to this, they might be missing out on crucial nutrients, such as protein, vitamins, fiber, and calcium. The FDA advises:
- Try vegetable juices, carrots, and potatoes, which are easier to digest, instead of vegetables such as cabbage or broccoli.
- Try dairy foods other than milk that may not irritate the stomach, such as cheese, cream soups, pudding, or yogurt.
- Exchange fresh fruit with soft canned fruits or fruit juice.
Shopping difficulties: Many older adults who cannot drive or who experience other mobility struggles find shopping for themselves difficult. When the inability to shop for groceries becomes a nutrition obstacle, the FDA suggests:
- Bringing in the help of a family member or friend.
- Utilizing a grocery delivery service.
- Requesting volunteer shopping assistance from a nearby church, synagogue or volunteer center.
Problems with cooking: Challenges with cooking food can result from cognitive problems like Alzheimer’s disease, difficulty with handling cooking utensils, or with standing for long periods of time. If inability to cook is a problem:
- Ask for help from a local program such as Meals on Wheels. If you are unsure of local meal preparation options for seniors, contact us for suggestions.
- Try using a microwave to cook frozen dinners as well as other frozen foods or meals that are prepackaged at the store.
Appetite loss: Older adults who live independently can feel lonely at mealtimes, which can lead to reduced appetite. They might also not feel like preparing a meal for just themselves, or medications they are taking could be impacting the way the food tastes. For issues such as these, the FDA recommends:
- Talking to the doctor about whether or not medication could be causing a problem.
- Eating meals with loved ones if possible.
- Engaging in group meal programs provided through local senior centers.
Good nutrition is essential, regardless of age. In the event an older family member is struggling to overcome elderly nutrition hurdles, contact the home health care team at Harmony Home Health & Hospice. We can provide tips and community connections to improve senior nutrition. Contact us at 1-877-I-NEED-CARE for more information on our home health care services in New Mexico and Utah. For a full list of the communities we serve, please visit our Service Area page.