Caregiver Tip: Help a Loved One Eat Right
If you are concerned that your loved one is not getting enough nutrients, consider these steps to help them eat more:
1. Try to find the root cause
There are a variety of factors that may be limiting your loved one's ability to eat enough. For example, is she forgetting to eat? Is he having trouble opening jars? Is a medication side-effect diminishing her appetite? Is he struggling to chew because of problems with his dentures? Consider your loved one's unique situation to find any potential causes.
2. Stock the fridge with sources of protein
Protein may be considered the most important nutrient for older adults to consume, as protein helps slow muscle loss and weakness that happens naturally with age. While the average adults need around 45 grams of protein a day, consider checking with your loved one's doctor to see exactly what amount is appropriate.
3. Consider making smoothies out of fruits and vegetables to make them easier to eat
Fruits and vegetables are full of important nutrients like vitamins and fiber. For some seniors, especially those with teeth trouble, it is much easier to drink than it is to eat. Consider making a few healthy smoothies for your loved one. If calories are a concern, you could also add high calorie ingredients like ice cream.
4. Keep whole-grain snacks around the house
Whole grains have a variety of health benefits. One benefit is providing relief from constipation, which is common among older adults. Consider keeping whole grain snacks like oatmeal, cereal, and crackers around the house for your loved one.
5. Don't argue about eating
Do your best to avoid arguing about food choices or meal sizes. If your loved one seems to only eat less healthy foods, it can be advantageous to honor these food preferences, because at least they're consuming calories. In general, you are more likely to be successful when you use simple encouragement, such as calling your loved one daily to remind them it's lunch time.
6. Make mealtime a social event
Seniors are more likely to look forward to meal time if it is shared with loved ones. Additionally, seniors tend to eat more when they aren't eating alone. Check out our article on the relationship between socialization and diet here. Consider hosting family meals or going out to restaurants to help your senior enjoy mealtimes.
7. Shop together for food
If your loved one is involved in selecting the foods and meals that will be available at mealtime, they are much more likely to eat the food that is prepared. If you go shopping together, you can also suggest healthier options and help your loved one read labels.
Overall, it is important to realize that the aging process can make your loved one feel less hungry and less interested in food. Thus, your loved one is not to blame for their reduced appetite. Try to alleviate these changes by being persistently encouraging and making mealtimes a happy, social event.