Nutrition & Special Diets

I have trouble chewing.“hungry
“Food just doesn’t taste the same anymore.“
“I don’t have a car to go shopping.“
“It’s hard to cook for one person.“
“I’m just not that hungry anymore.”

Sound familiar? These are some of the common reasons older people stop eating right. And that’s a problem because food provides energy and nutrients everyone needs to stay healthy.

Below are some ways to combat these reasons, and tips that may help encourage your loved one to eat, and eat better.

  • Have a variety of healthy foods available. Pick those that are lower in cholesterol and fat, especially saturated fat (mostly in foods that come from animals) and trans fatty acids (found in some processed foods, margarines, and shortenings).
  • Avoid “empty calories” as much as possible. These are foods and drinks with a lot of calories, but not many nutrients-for example, chips, cookies, sodas, and alcohol.
  • Increase nutrition density, not portion size.  For example, add healthy extra calories in the form of olive oil, a little peanut butter or avocado, without overwhelming with a huge helping.
  • Encourage social meals – sometimes eating alone can cause depression.  Churches, senior groups, or even local YMCA’s may have a program your loved one can attend for meals that you can’t eat together.
  • Be aware of medication side effects.  Some medications may make food, especially meat, taste “metallic” or “off”.  An oral rinse or sugarless chewing gum before eating may help taste to return, thus increasing nutrient intake.  If water flavor is off, try adding fresh fruit such as cumber or mint.
  • Encourage a variety of proteins which can include beans, fish, dairy and nuts.

The Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) encourage people to eat a suggested amount from five major food groups every day. If you can’t do that, at least try to eat something from each group each day. Lower fat choices are best. Make sure you include vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain foods.

How many calories each day for people over age 50?

A woman:

  • 1,600 calories if her physical activity level is low
  • 1,800 calories if she is moderately active
  • 2,000 — 2,200 if she has an active lifestyle812749e1a307f38fd0a88b54bea55ff2

A man:

  • 2,000 calories if his physical activity level is low
  • 2,200 — 2,400 if he is moderately active
  • 2,400 — 2,800 if he has an active lifestyle

If you suspect your loved one is not getting enough nutrition through food intake, sometimes a prescription appetite stimulants may be helpful.  However, always consult a health care provider if you begin to see signs on diet deficiency.


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