As people age, appetite decreases, sense of taste and smell may change and it may become harder to chew or digest food. Even with these changes, the body still requires nutrients. Small dietary modifications can often help aging loved ones enjoy meals and overcome eating challenges.
Consider these suggestions to help meet the special nutrient needs of older adults:
- Increase complex carbohydrates to provide fiber and bulk-whole grains. They take longer to digest and allow slower absorption of sugars, which helps to provide a steady supply of energy. Complex carbohydrates are found in grains, cereals, fruits and vegetables.
- Limit simple carbohydrates. Examples include cake, chocolate, candy, honey and food with added table sugar. These are high in calories but provide minimal nutritional benefit.
- Offer calorie-dense foods to achieve higher caloric intake with smaller portions. Butter, mayonnaise, half and half and sour cream can be added to recipes to increase calories.
- Protein-rich ingredients can also be incorporated. Powdered milk, cheese, eggs and peanut butter are all good sources of protein and can easily be mixed into recipes.
- Increase potassium-rich foods and reduce sodium to lower your risk of high blood pressure. Fruits, vegetables and low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt are good sources of potassium.
- Provide an adequate atmosphere for eating. If the surroundings are not comfortable, people have less of a desire for food.
- Offer smaller portions. Large plates of food can discourage some elderly from eating.
- Presentation is everything. If the appearance of the food is good, there is a greater chance it will be eaten.
- Try adding spices or herbs for flavor. When an elderly person's sense of taste changes, foods may lose their flavor. Spices and herbs can enhance flavor and restore interest in food.
- Choose foods wisely. Some people lose interest in eating because they have trouble chewing or digesting food. If this is the case, consider softer foods or liquid diets.