Most of us enjoy a delicious meal – the comforting smells and tastes, the gratifying feeling of a full stomach. For a lot of seniors, however, a number of health problems can hinder their enjoyment of meals or even their ability to shop for healthy foods, which can contribute to malnourishment in many cases. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has some remedies to some of the most common hurdles to proper senior nutrition, including:
Difficulties with chewing: For older people who have difficulties with chewing food well, meats, fresh vegetables, and fruits could cause a problem. The FDA proposes the following replacements:
- Rather than large cuts of meat, try ground meat, eggs, cheese, yogurt, milk, and other dairy products.
- As a substitute to raw veggies, consider vegetable juices or cooked or mashed veggies.
- Instead of sliced bread, choose bread pudding, rice, soft cookies, or cooked cereals.
- In place of fresh fruit, try canned peaches and pears, fruit juice, or applesauce.
Upset stomach: Excessive gas, acid reflux problems, and various other stomach problems could potentially cause older individuals to abstain from foods they think may possibly cause a problem. Because of this, they might be passing up on essential nutrients, like protein, vitamins, fiber, and calcium. The FDA recommends:
- Try dairy foods other than milk which may not upset the stomach, such as cream soups, pudding, cheese, or yogurt.
- Exchange fresh fruit with soft canned fruits or fruit juice.
- Try vegetable juices, carrots and potatoes, which are easier to digest, as opposed to vegetables like cabbage or broccoli.
Shopping problems: Many seniors who cannot drive or who experience other mobility struggles have difficulty shopping for themselves. When the inability to shop for groceries becomes a senior nutrition hurdle, the FDA suggests:
- Enlisting the help of a family member or neighbor.
- Working with a professional senior care company, such as Carolina Hearts Home Care, for grocery shopping assistance.
- Utilizing a grocery delivery service.
- Requesting volunteer shopping assistance from a nearby church, synagogue or volunteer center.
Inability to cook: Challenges with cooking food can result from cognitive problems like dementia, difficulty with handling cooking utensils or with standing for long periods of time. When inability to cook is a problem:
- Use a microwave to cook frozen dinners as well as other frozen foods or meals that are prepackaged at the store.
- Request help from a local program like Meals on Wheels. If you are unsure of local meal preparation options for seniors, contact us for recommendations.
Loss of appetite: 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 that they take could be impacting the way the food tastes. For problems like these, the FDA advises:
- Engaging in group meal programs provided through local senior centers.
- Contacting a nearby home care agency, like Carolina Hearts Home Care, for a companion to both prepare meals and make meal time more social.
- Talking to the physician about whether medication could be causing a problem.
- Eating meals with loved ones whenever possible.
Good nutrition is crucial, regardless of age. If a senior family member is struggling to conquer age-related nutritional barriers, contact the home care team at Carolina Hearts Home Care. We can provide tips and community connections to improve senior nutrition.