As we age proper nutrition becomes essential, however, getting older also can come with barriers to healthy eating habits. These barriers can include lack of appetite, decreased thirst and decreased sense of smell and taste. These barriers can be caused by a wide variety of factors, including medications and a sense of social isolation. Overcoming these barriers can be difficult, but with an open mind, positive attitude, and possibly a little bit of help, healthy eating habits can be achieved. Below you will find some tips on how to make some healthy changes to your diet. Please be sure to contact a health care provider before making any serious changes to your diet
- Choose nutrients over calories- While those chips and candy bars may seem more appealing, they have what are considered “empty calories”, meaning they contain calories but very little nutritional value and will only sustain your hunger for a small period of time. If you’re craving something salty, try grabbing a handful of nuts or seeds instead of the bag of chips. If you have a sweet tooth, instead of going for the candy bar, try going for a piece of fresh fruit or a handful of dried fruit. These alternatives will still satisfy your cravings, while also fueling your body
- Go for the H20- Remembering to drink water can be hard, especially if you have a decreased sense of thirst. A good way to help increase your water intake is to get a water bottle or a tumbler and always have it near you; that way you don’t have to get up and go to the kitchen, you can just reach over and take a swig or two. Another trick is to make it like a game- keep a tally in a notebook or on a whiteboard for how many cups/bottles of water you drink a day. Having that visual can help not only remember to drink water, but actually make it more enjoyable.
- Stimulate the senses- If you have a lack of appetite due to decreased sense of smell or taste, this tip is the one for you. One way to boost your appetite is to have your food appeal to your other senses, like sight. Studies show that using bright colored vegetables and fruits in your meals can help increase your appetite and subsequently also make your meal healthier. You can also spice things up with different flavors and seasonings to enhance your taste buds. This does include salt-while salt may make your food taste better, too much of can cause/worsen certain heart issues. Instead, try grabbing spices like cinnamon, paprika, and curry, or herbs like cilantro, oregano and basil.
- Small and steady- You may not have the appetite for three large meals a day, and that is okay! Smaller and more frequent meals and snacks can still provide you with a sufficient amount of nutrients. When doing this, you want to be sure you are getting enough calories to meet your body’s needs, but also meeting your nutritional needs. Some examples are having a small breakfast of yogurt or oatmeal with some fruit, nuts or granola on top, or a lunch of a salad with dark leafy greens, veggies and seeds.
- Get moving – If you find yourself not having much of an appetite, get up and get moving! Along with its many other benefits, physical activity can help increase your metabolism and make you hungrier. Regular physical activity is also beneficial helping with proper food digestion and preventing constipation.
Written by: Dr. Taylor Ryan