Most of us look forward to enjoying a delicious meal – the comforting tastes and smells, the gratifying sensation of a full stomach. For a lot of older individuals, however, a plethora of health problems can prevent their enjoyment of meals or even their ability to shop for nutritious foods, which can contribute to dietary deficiency in many cases. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has solutions to some of the most common senior nutritional concerns, such as:
Complications with chewing: For older individuals who have challenges with chewing food well, fresh vegetables, fruits, and meat could cause a problem. The FDA proposes the following substitutes:
- Instead of fresh fruit, try canned peaches and pears, fruit juice, or applesauce.
- Rather than large cuts of meat, try eggs, ground meat, cheese, yogurt, milk, and other dairy products.
- In place of sliced bread, try bread pudding, rice, soft cookies, or cooked cereals.
- Instead of raw vegetables, choose vegetable juices or cooked or mashed veggies.
Nausea: Excess gas, acid reflux, and various other stomach problems could potentially cause older individuals to stay away from foods they think may possibly cause a problem. Because of this, they might be passing up on crucial nutrients, such as protein, vitamins, fiber, and calcium. The FDA recommends:
- Try vegetable juices, potatoes, and carrots, which are easier to digest, instead of vegetables such as cabbage or broccoli.
- Try dairy foods other than milk which may not upset the stomach, like cheese, cream soups, pudding, or yogurt.
- Replace fresh fruit with soft canned fruits or fruit juice.
Shopping problems: Many seniors who can no longer drive or who experience other mobility problems have difficulty shopping for themselves. When the inability to shop for groceries becomes a senior nutritional hurdle, the FDA recommends:
- Requesting volunteer shopping assistance from a nearby church, synagogue or volunteer center.
- Bringing in the help of a family member or friend.
- Utilizing a grocery delivery service.
- Partnering with a professional senior care company, such as Heaven at Home Senior Care, for grocery shopping assistance.
Inability to cook: Challenges with cooking food can result from cognitive concerns like dementia, difficulty with handling cooking utensils or with standing for long periods of time. When inability to cook is a problem:
- Request help from a local program like Meals on Wheels. If you are unsure of local meal preparation options for seniors, contact us for suggestions.
- Use a microwave to cook frozen dinners as well as other frozen foods or meals that are prepackaged at the store.
Loss of appetite: Older adults who live independently can feel lonely at mealtimes, which can lead to decreased appetite. They might also not feel like preparing a meal for just themselves, or medications they take could be impacting the way the food tastes. For issues such as these, the FDA advises:
- Talking to the doctor about whether a medication could be causing a problem.
- Contacting a nearby home care agency, like Heaven at Home Senior Care, for a companion to both prepare meals and make meal time more social.
- Eating meals with loved ones if possible.
- Taking part in group meal programs provided through local senior centers.
Good nutrition is vitally important, regardless of age. If a senior family member is struggling to conquer age-related nutrition hurdles, contact the home care team at Heaven at Home Senior Care. We are able to provide tips and community connections to improve senior nutrition.