FLORENCE, Wis. - Eating well and getting enough nutrition to maintain a healthy weight can prove to be a challenge for older adults.
Many individuals simply find they don't have the same appetite they did when they were younger. And while the body needs fewer calories later in life, not eating enough can cause an unwanted weight loss.
Judith Knudsen, family living educator with Brown County UW-Extension, says there are other age-related changes that can affect older people's appetites and nutrition levels.
"Food may not be as appealing if the senses of taste and smell are not as sharp as before," she says.
Older adults might not realize when they are thirsty and a dry mouth may create problems with teeth and gums. Muscle loss can contribute to difficulties chewing and swallowing.
If you are caring for an older adult who could benefit from consuming more nutritious foods, Knudsen offers some tips.
- Serve soft and easy-to-chew foods such as mashed sweet potatoes, cooked pasta, canned fruits, scrambled eggs, pudding, yogurt and cheese. "Make smoothies for breakfast," suggests Knudsen.
- Prepare hearty soups and chunky stews with plenty of well-cooked vegetables.
- Offer high-calorie snacks when gaining weight is a priority.
- Make lunch the main meal of the day and serve colorful foods.
- Provide plenty of water and fluids to increase hydration.
- Encourage an older adult to eat smaller, more frequent meals rather than sticking to a rigid schedule of three meals a day.
"Make eating and preparing food easier by using kitchen tools and utensils specifically designed for older adults or people with disabilities," says Knudsen. "Ask an older adult to help you prepare a meal or snack."
Invite family members or friends to dine with older adults to make eating a more pleasurable experience. And every so often, leave cooking and clean-up behind and plan to dine out as a special treat.
Learn more about good nutrition for older adults here or contact Terri Miller, (715) 479-3653, firstname.lastname@example.org at your UW-Extension office.