People’s nutritional needs change as they get older, notably around age 65. As age-related physiological changes and finicky appetites keep a senior’s diet from being what it should, malnutrition is possible. Aging-in-place seniors that become malnourished oftentimes face unique health challenges that place their independence at risk. March is National Nutrition Month, making it the perfect time to learn about ways to personalize your loved one’s plate so their body gets the nutrition it needs.
Why Seniors Don’t Eat Right
Eating challenges that many aging adults deal with include:
- Depression (Loss of a spouse, declining health, etc.)
- Medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol
- Dementia or Alzheimer’s
- Diminished senses like taste and smell
- Chewing or swallowing difficulties
- Poor appetite due to a sedentary lifestyle
- Medications that diminish appetite
- Inability to food shop or cook
For one reason or another, the nutritional needs of the elderly differ from those of younger people. As their body changes there’s an increased need for certain nutrients like Vitamin D or B12. Chronic health problems oftentimes require seniors to be extra careful about what and how much they eat.
The Dietary Needs of Older Adults Varies
Finding ways to personalize your loved one’s diet can be a double-edged sword. For example, if you add more salt to their food to compensate for diminished taste and smell, it might raise their blood pressure. Instead of oversalting their food, substitute healthier seasonings like fresh or dried herbs and spices.
In situations when depression and/or loneliness are affecting eating habits, sitting down and joining your senior over dinner may help kickstart their appetite. If they are having trouble chewing food, a missing tooth, cavity, or ill-fitting dentures could be the issue. Offer to take them to dentist so that the problem can get resolved.
In any event, the first step is to determine what is keeping your senior from eating enough nutritious foods so that you can address the underlying problem.
Creative Meal Ideas for Finicky Seniors
As an informal caregiver personalizing your senior’s diet with these nutritious, palette-tempting foods should make mealtime go more seamlessly:
Oatmeal is one of the easiest, most versatile breakfasts you can make. Using the overnight method makes it even easier. Combine one part rolled oats with two parts low-fat milk, Greek yogurt or almond milk and then allow the mixture to soak overnight. The next morning, add some flavorful, nutritious ingredients like sliced bananas, cinnamon, peanut butter, or freshly chopped frozen berries.
As an excellent source of protein and lutein eggs allow you a lot of creativity. Serve your senior scrambled eggs with a handful of steamed veggies or turn some eggs into a baked frittata garnished with fresh vegetables.
As an easy to prepare lunch, soups can be personalized based on a senior’s dietary needs, along with any swallowing or chewing difficulties they might have. Softened cooked veggies, chopped lean meats or fish, and healthy herbs and spices can all be used to create the perfect soup for your senior. If necessary, you can even puree their soup in a blender.
When preparing a quick, nutritious dinner plate for a senior, be sure to include one lean protein, one cup of fresh veggies or fruit, and one portion of whole grains. Ideal sources of protein include lean beef, chicken or salmon. With a little culinary creativity, tofu or beans can be used as substitutes.
Grains like brown rice, whole wheat pasta or quinoa are healthy for most seniors. Whenever possible vary your veggies so that your loved one gets a full balance of vitamins and minerals. Although steaming or boiling vegetables is the quickest way to prepare them, they may taste a little bland. Boost flavor by adding melted butter or a dash of lemon juice.
In-Home Meal Assistance for Seniors in Florida
Finding time to personalize your senior’s diet isn’t always easy. When you need a break, professional caregivers from First in Care can step in and provide your aging loved one with the in-home meal assistance that’s needed. Our highly trained professionals understand the changing nutritional needs of seniors and can assist with the grocery shopping, meal planning and preparation, and even take care of cleanup afterwards!
In addition to those services, First in Care also provides reliable in-home caregiving for other daily living activities like personal hygiene, light housework, transportation and companionship. Our senior caregiving services are affordable, flexible, and always delivered in a seamless package that restores your peace-of-mind. For more information on our family-trusted senior home care services available in Bradenton and Manatee County, Florida, please visit www.firstincare.com now.