Start the New Year off Right: Healthy Eating for Seniors

happy senior lady holding pepper
Learn how to overcome obstacles to healthy eating for seniors.

For the new year, many people make resolutions to exercise and eat better only to give up their plans after a few weeks. Those healthy goals are especially important for older adults to keep throughout the year but can be difficult to maintain. Aging, certain health conditions, medications, and other factors can make healthy eating for seniors a challenge. Older adults may not eat enough, get sufficient nutrients, or make optimum food choices, which can lead to malnutrition or can worsen chronic medical conditions.

During the aging process, a person’s body may change in a number of ways, affecting appetite and nutritional needs. Muscle mass shrinks and metabolism slows down, leading to a need for fewer calories. Older adults may also have trouble getting enough nutrients or have difficulty absorbing some nutrients. Older adults who are not eating enough of the right foods can become malnourished, which can lead to unintentional weight loss, fatigue, anemia, decreased muscle strength, and an increased fall risk. To help combat these age-related changes, it’s essential to make healthy eating for seniors a priority.

Abrio Home Care, a leading provider of home care in Flagstaff and the nearby areas, wants to help the older adults you love meet their nutritional needs by overcoming some common obstacles to following a healthy diet in the new year and beyond.

What Are Some Obstacles to Healthy Eating for Seniors?

In addition to the changes in the body due to aging and medical conditions, there are several other obstacles that can make healthy eating more difficult for older adults, including:

  • Mobility issues can make shopping for healthy groceries or preparing meals more challenging.
  • A loss of smell or taste due to medication side effects can make eating less enjoyable.
  • Arthritis or pain in the hands can make holding utensils or chopping and preparing ingredients more difficult.
  • Decreased appetite can occur due to a slower metabolism or medication side effect.
  • Mouth soreness, dentures, or missing teeth can make chewing food painful.
  • The loss of social connection during meals (if living alone) may make seniors less likely to want to eat.
  • Not wanting to cook for only one person may lead older adults to grab less-nutritious snacks instead of enjoying nutrient-dense meals.

If you have concerns that an older adult you love isn’t eating well or is having challenges with choosing, preparing, or eating nutritious foods, try these ideas:

Talk with the doctor – Discuss any nutrition concerns with the individual’s physician, and see if there are any recommendations for foods or supplements to incorporate. Make sure to notify the doctor of any medications and supplements the senior is currently taking in order to avoid any adverse interactions.

Check out MyPlate for Older Adults – Learn tips about healthy eating for seniors and dietary recommendations including:

    • Enjoying a variety of foods from each of the food groups.
    • Adding protein (seafood, dairy, and legumes) to help maintain muscle mass.
    • Hydrating with water and fat-free or low-fat milk.
    • Limiting foods and beverages with added sugar and salt.
    • Trying a rainbow of fruits and veggies for meals and snacks. Frozen, canned, or ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh and can make meal preparation easier.
    • Eating fortified cereals to help seniors meet their vitamin B12 needs.

Start with small dietary changes – When trying to improve an older adult’s diet, it usually doesn’t have to be a radical change. Even making small changes can have a big impact! Try adding spinach or other dark, leafy greens to a salad instead of lettuce or swapping carrot sticks for a side of chips.

Make smoothies – Blend up a variety of fruits and vegetables, along with some dairy, for a delicious and nutritious option for someone dealing with mouth pain or chewing difficulties.

Make the meal social – To help older adults maintain a social connection, invite friends, neighbors, or family members over for lunch. Or visit a senior center or place of worship during a mealtime or celebration.

Pick ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables – If chopping produce is painful, or if the older adult doesn’t need an entire package of carrots, try buying single portions at the salad bar or pre-packaged, ready-to eat section.

Sign up for a cooking class for one – If your loved one thinks cooking for one person is too difficult or time-consuming, a cooking class may give them new ideas that are simple to make.

Incorporate exercise – Light aerobic exercise and strength training exercises can help increase the appetite while helping older adults improve balance and strength while reducing fall risk.

Hire a professional caregiver – A caregiver can be a helpful companion during grocery shopping trips and can assist an older adult in planning and preparing healthy meals using a variety of food groups. They can also provide gentle reminders to eat if the older adult forgets or doesn’t have much of an appetite.

Abrio Home Care’s highly trained care team is available to help with a variety of in-home care services, including preparing meals, accommodating special dietary needs, and encouraging gentle exercise, to help older adults live healthier, happier lives at home. For additional tips for healthy eating for seniors, or to learn about our home care in Flagstaff and the surrounding areas, contact us at 877-71-ABRIO.