By Roger Sims
There are many reasons why older adults may start to lose weight. For many seniors, maintaining a healthy weight can be difficult.
As your loved ones get older, their appetite and interest in food may start to wane, meaning they are less motivated to eat and more prone to weight loss. This can be expedited by loss of smell and taste, as this obviously makes food less enjoyable and can contribute to a loss of interest in eating.
A reluctance to eat can also be caused by the effects of various medications, the natural slowing down of the metabolism, or difficulty with digestion, all of which can contribute to weight loss and malnutrition.
Being underweight can have serious health implications for the elderly, and can jeopardize the health of the bones and muscles, leading to diseases such as osteoporosis which can increase their risk of falls and injuries. As muscle mass declines naturally as we age, it is of crucial importance to incorporate a healthy amount of protein in the diet and remain active.
Maintaining mobility and exercising is key in promoting independence in older adults, and can also help in preventing diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and even dementia. Many older people may also become deficient in essential vitamins and minerals, which are key in prolonging the health of the brain, blood and nervous systems, as well as many other vital organs.
Encouraging elderly friends and family members to eat a nourishing and nutritionally balanced diet can go a long way towards ensuring your loved ones enjoy a good quality of life well into their senior years. Here are our top tips for deciding on a diet that is calorically fulfilling and nutritious, without any need for large, unmanageable portions.
Choose Foods Rich in Vitamins and Minerals
Older people often have reduced appetites, and so eating a large quantity of any food can sometimes be impossible. Therefore, it is important all meals are rich in vitamins and minerals, so you can ensure your loved ones are getting an adequate supply. This supply is crucial in maintaining the health of the elderly, as many nutrient deficiencies can lead to the development of illnesses and diseases.
Recent findings suggest that getting enough of some nutrients, such as Vitamins D, E and B6, contribute significantly to better overall health and mobility later in life. Making sure their diet incorporates plenty of vegetables, nuts, grains, and fruit can go a long way towards promoting robust health in the elderly.
Calcium is also a key micronutrient for seniors, as the need for calcium increases as people age. Its primary role is to preserve the health of the bones and can help prevent the onset of diseases like osteoporosis. Promoting bone health in older people is vital for maintaining mobility and independence, and in preventing falls and injuries. Choosing foods such as dairy, dark leafy greens, and orange juice can help to raise the calcium content of any diet.
Incorporate Nutritional Supplements
Incorporating nutritional supplements into the diet of older people may be necessary if they are unable to get all the nutrients they need from their food alone, and can an excellent way of helping your loved ones to stay healthy. Getting all the vitamins and minerals needed from diet alone can be difficult, especially when the appetite is impaired. Supplementary drinks can be an excellent way to round out the diet of someone who has difficulty eating and can be taken in small, manageable portions.
If you are concerned that someone you know is suffering from a deficiency, talk with a medical professional to identify which supplements may be required.
Choose Calorie-Dense Foods
Older adults often struggle to maintain a healthy weight, as their appetite and interest in food can decline as a natural part of the aging process. Making sure they get enough calories from a reduced diet can be challenging, as the quantity of food seniors can eat often comprises fewer calories than they burn in a day.
It is important to choose energy-dense foods, such as nut butter, avocado, whole milk, olive and sesame oil, and full-fat cheese, as a small portion of any of these can significantly add the calorie count of a meal. These can be added to salads, stirred into smoothies, and drizzled over cooked vegetables to boost their calorie content and increase the amount of nourishment your loved ones are consuming, without any need for larger portions.
Fatty foods can also add flavor to a meal, making it more appealing and encouraging your loved ones to eat more. These foods not only contain many calories but also have a healthy dose of essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, all of which can help to improve overall health and well-being.
A lack of appetite can make meal times daunting, and being faced with a large portion of unwanted food can be the quickest way to kill off any desire to eat. Rather than adhering to the traditional “three meals a day,” a more effective way of increasing food intake in elderly people is to plan six small meals a day.
Eating little and often is a great way to encourage healthy eating habits, as a smaller portion is less likely to overwhelm someone with a reduced appetite. What’s more, eating small amounts of food regularly can help to boost the metabolism, increasing hunger and potentially motivation to eat more.
There are many ways in which you can help your elderly friends and family members maintain a healthy weight without insisting they eat more, which can be alienating to those with small appetites. Small changes to dietary habits, the addition of more calorie and nutrient rich foods and the introduction of dietary supplements can all go a long way towards preventing weight loss. A healthy, nutritionally balanced diet can help to prevent the onset of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and dementia, as well as promoting general good health and mobility.
This diet can help older adults to maintain their independence and enjoy an improved quality of life which, in turn, promotes mental well-being in seniors. If you are concerned about the health of one or more loved ones, speak with a doctor to discuss what measures you can take to improve their diet and help them to maintain a good quality of life.
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