Hunger response decreases as we age
It’s no secret that as people age, their appetites evolve. Just like a child who dislikes their veggies and then grows up to find themselves craving them, seniors may find both their taste for food and their ability to eat as much as they once did change. If the senior in your life is struggling with a loss of appetite, it is important to first rule out any medical conditions by speaking with a doctor. Once you’ve talked to a doctor try these tips for helping a senior with loss of appetite
Set regular meal and snack times
Hunger response decreases as we age, so you can’t always trust a senior to let you know when they are hungry. Establishing a regular meal and snack schedule will help to trigger hunger responses in seniors who have trouble recognizing when they are hungry.
Stay well hydrated
Dehydration can affect appetite by suppressing the hunger response. By ensuring that the senior in your life stay well hydrated, you can help increase their desire to eat. Limiting beverages during meals also helps ensure they are getting the right nutrients and not filling up on empty beverage calories.
Eat nutrient-dense foods
If you are dealing with a limited appetite, malnutrition may become a concern. To ensure that the body gets enough nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, serve nutrient-dense foods such as nuts and nut butters, avocado, whole milk instead of nonfat, olive oil, and proteins such as cheese, eggs, and meat.
Keep easy to prepare snacks on hand
For seniors who struggle to cook, keep easy to eat snacks on hand. Things like string cheese, yogurts, fruit, and nuts are easy for seniors to grab when they want something to eat but require little effort to prepare. Having snacks around for seniors with loss of appetite is easy and could prove beneficial.
Try softer foods if pain is a contributing factor to appetite loss
Recognize that many seniors deal with tooth and mouth pain as they age. Especially if the senior in your life uses dentures, it may not be as easy for them to eat the way they once did. Serving smoothies, yogurts, milkshakes, applesauce, and other soft foods may make it easier for your senior to get the calories they need.
Utilize spices to add flavor
Taste Buds change as we age and many seniors find it more difficult to taste their food. Utilizing spices can help add flavor to meals, which may make it more palatable for a senior with loss of appetite
Consider senior food services
If cooking has become difficult, or it is hard for the senior in your life to get proper nutrients, consider food services such as Meals on Wheels, Feeding America and SNAP. All of these programs emphasize senior nutrition and are available in most communities.
Pay attention to what works
Every person is different, so it is essential to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. Experimentation and patience are both keys to getting a senior with a lack of appetite to eat. To learn more about senior nutrition read, “Eating a Well Balanced Diet".