Preventing Malnutrition in Senior Citizens
As the body ages, it may not deliver the same hunger signals that it used to. Seniors often take more medications, have higher rates of conditions like diabetes, or have been relegated to more restricted diets by their doctors.
Some seniors may lose interest in cooking for one, or simply not feel that food tastes the way it used to. These factors can combine to create unsafe conditions for seniors, especially when they may not know they are neglecting their nutrition.
Here are five ways to help prevent malnutrition while promoting healthful eating habits.
- Stay Hydrated
Dehydration is a leading cause of hospitalization for seniors. Often, they no longer feel the same thirst signals as they did before, and may not be getting enough liquids in their diets. While lots of water is best (ask a doctor what they recommend), eating foods with a high water content also helps.Try soups, smoothies or coconut water as a way to add more liquid to your diet. Bonus: these foods can be packed with great vitamins and nutrients that we all need.
- Make Meals Social Events
One of the main reasons many seniors don’t get adequate nutrition is that it can be difficult to cook for one. Many others simply lose interest in cooking and may eat poorly or not at all rather than try to cook a larger, nutritious meal. People who make meal times a social event will have reason to cook a more nutritious meal, or have a more nutritious meal brought to them. Plus, it’s a great way to increase interaction with friends and family, and maybe get a few days of leftovers from that meal.
- Encourage Healthy Snacking
Since appetites can decrease as the body ages, it can be beneficial to encourage seniors to snack. Stock the fridge and pantry with healthy, nutritious foods that can be grabbed easily any time during the day or evening.Nuts, trail mix, sealed individual tuna snack packs and dried fruit are all easy, delicious foods to grab and eat on the go. They also have a longer shelf life, decreasing the worry these foods will spoil.
- Take Vitamins and Nutrients
Seniors should get plenty of folic acid (found in foods like spinach and asparagus), B-12 (salmon, turkey, chicken, beef, milk), Vitamin C (oranges, strawberries, broccoli), Vitamin D (instant oatmeal, eggs, soy milk), and essential fatty acids (flaxseed oil, oysters, salmon, trout, crab). Many of these foods already have lots of flavor, but feel free to flavor them in new and interesting ways.Some seniors may still need to add vitamin supplements to their daily medication regimen. Be sure to check with a doctor, specialist or pharmacist first to find out if any new vitamins could interact negatively with other medications.
- Monitor Alcohol Intake
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with drinking alcohol in moderation, but for seniors who may already be dehydrated or not getting enough nutritious food, alcohol can be a real deterrent to good health. It can also have adverse interactions with some medications, or cause unsteadiness or falls.Seniors who want to consume alcohol should consider regulating intake to one or two drinks per week, and should of course make sure to get plenty of water and eat other nutritious snacks in the meantime. Also, make sure to check with a doctor or pharmacist about how alcohol may effect current medications.