Eat, Papa, Eat!!!! I remember that phrase at Christmas time where Mrs. Claus fusses at Santa to eat. Now I hear it several days during the week when my Mom fusses at my Dad to eat. Unfortunately, half the time food is not palatable to him, or he is not feeling good.
We have clients that are in the same boat; nothing seems to taste good. Or they simply don’t like cooking something for themselves. So, how can we help them get the proper nutrition in their bodies? How can we get someone to eat? It is always best to consult your physician, but here are some simple things you can try.
- Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate: Make sure the person has plenty of water or other fluids to avoid dehydration, which can lead to loss of appetite.
- Eat More Frequently/Smaller Portions: Eat six times a day with smaller portions as opposed to the normal three times per day. Try having nuts on hand as a healthy snack for your loved one. Nuts can help with their nutrient and calorie intake.
- Make it Social: Enjoy meals and snacks with family members or friends as much as possible. Playing their favorite music and having casual conversations can create a good environment and help redirect their attention away from the ‘not eating’ issue.
- Spice Up Your Life: Limiting salt intake is important. Adding a variety of their favorite foods or alternate seasonings to your loved one’s diet may be the secret to avoiding large amounts of salt. Try adding fresh herbs like basil, parsley, or oregano to their meals.
- Make it Soft and Bulk it Up: Try adding protein powder to pudding for added nutrient needs. Protein powder may contain some nutrients that your loved one could be missing out on. Try a ‘Super Shake’ made in the blender with Ensure or Boost, a scoop of their favorite ice cream (sugar-free, if necessary), and fruit like berries that contain beneficial antioxidants. This shake is popular with our clients; it goes down smoothly and is easy on the throat and stomach with good added calories.
- Make it Colorful: Providing a variety of fruits, veggies, grains, protein, and dairy will help your loved one make the most of their food choices. Eating food that is full of vitamins and minerals is still the best way for them to get what they need to fuel their body. Individuals who have lactose intolerance can be helped with lactase supplements, like Lactaid.
- Exercise: Exercise is still the best way to work up an appetite. If your loved one is unable to walk, they can try folding laundry or dancing in place by waving their arms and tapping their feet. Helping a senior to keep moving, even in small ways, can help with increasing their appetite.
Nutrition is vitally important for seniors, especially those living with chronic conditions, dementia, or cancer. Seniors have different nutritional needs than other populations and using the tips above can be helpful in planning meals for them. Enjoy helping your loved one plan a fun, nutritional menu with lots of variety!