We worry about our grandparents and the older adults in our lives that refuse to eat or have lost their appetites. Of course, it doesn’t make family and friends happy to hear of these issues with their senior loved ones but we try our best to guide them to eat healthy, nutritious meals again. At times it isn’t due to medication side effects, health complications, or dental issues as to why seniors have lost their interest in eating. By experimenting in various ways and with small changes in their diet, seniors will learn how to eat again. Here are some helpful tips:
Smaller portions of high nutrient foods – can be beneficial to seniors who feel overwhelmed and intimidated with the larger plate of food. Rather than serving a larger plate of food, smaller portions are key! Instead of serving three large meals a day, your older adult can eat five or six smaller meals. Some healthy calorie boosters include olive oil, eggs, avocados, softer cheeses like cottage cheese or ricotta, meat, peanuts/various nuts and so forth. A great time saver is to cook the meals in larger portions and store them in individual, smaller containers that can be easily reheated later.
Stop using utensils – some seniors become frustrated with using a fork, spoon, or knife and they may not want to eat at all; to help them eat easier, why not serve food that can be eaten without utensils like avocado toast, steamed/raw vegetables like broccoli, cucumber pieces, slices of bell pepper with hummus, and carrot sticks.
A daily meal and snack schedule – is important to ensure that your senior eats at approximately the same times everyday to help their bodies become acclimated to eating at those designated meal and snack times. Please do not rely on the senior’s ability to feel hungry as it declines with age and maintaining a regular meal schedule is the best way to ensure that your older adult is eating.
Be prepared with easy to eat snacks – for some seniors they prefer to graze throughout the day rather than to eat larger, full meals in one sitting. That’s great and okay that your adult seniors want to eat delicious, healthy, and easy to eat snacks. Some examples include peanuts or other nuts like cashews, almonds, walnuts, whole chocolate milk, cheese and crackers, peanut butter and wheat crackers, fresh fruit in bite-size pieces, whole milk yogurts, whole milk cottage cheese and if your senior has health complications, try to stay away from foods with high in fats or cholesterol.
Liquid foods including soups, milkshakes or smoothies – are a great option for your seniors who have difficulty chewing or if they find that solid foods are too tiring to manage at the moment. Liquid foods are all the rage when chewing or eating becomes a challenge. Some suggestions include full-fat milk; enriches nutritious soups with olive oil, puréed meats, and veggies. When it comes to healthy smoothies one can add, full-fat yogurts, veggies like spinach, kale, avocados, and carrots. Hot cocoa with full-fat milk and milkshakes are also great liquid snack alternatives; milkshakes with the good quality ice cream is better than not eating anything at all.
It is challenging to get seniors who have lost their appetite but by taking notes or keeping track of what the senior enjoys eating/snacking, what they do not like, and any foods that may be causing an upset stomach. Tracking what times your seniors are more willing to eat or when they have a better appetite. It is a good mindset to be patient, continue to experiment with various foods, don’t be discouraged, be creative and stay positive while figuring out your seniors’ meals and snacks that will ultimately give them the nutrients that they need.