by: Nick Passarelli RI
Healthy Diets For Seniors
As we age, many things change, not just the way we look, but our sense also change. While vision and hearing are the most often discussed changes for seniors, we should also remember that our senses of smell and taste can also change! These are very important factors for staying healthy because eating well is such an integral part of good health. Changes in taste and smell, along with the struggles of buying groceries, and other factors, can lead to a decrease in appetite, which can be very dangerous if it means not getting the nutrients our bodies need to stay healthy!
A decrease in our sense of smell can make eating difficult in general, for seniors. If you’ve ever tried to eat with a head cold, you know it can be a struggle. Not being able to smell your food makes it incredibly less appealing, and can even make the food taste bland. This means eating less, or adding extra seasonings, such as sugar and salt, which can lead to many health issues for seniors. A loss in our sense of smell can also mean dangers while cooking for seniors, as they may not smell if food is becoming overcooked or burning as quickly. Our main taste sensations include, sweet, sour, bitter, salty and savory, so when a seniors sense of taste starts to diminish, it can be hard to taste salty and sweet, most commonly, leaving many foods tasting bitter or even sour for seniors. Again this can lead to over seasoning, or even loss of appetite, which can hold many risks for seniors, including malnutrition. Trying to be more aware of the foods and seasonings you’re eating can help a lot. For seniors, you may find it helpful to plan meals out in advance, making sure you’re hitting a wide variety of the required food groups throughout the week. It can also help you to be more aware of which foods are easier for you, personally, to see and smell. Try to work those foods into more meals on a regular basis.
Another issue seniors can face when it comes to keeping up good nutrition habits is problems with grocery shopping. Grocery shopping can be difficult, physically and mentally for seniors. Grocery stores and supermarkets can be daunting and confusing, keeping track of what you already have and what you need, pushing your cart, or carrying a basket, and stretching, or bending down to get certain items can all put a tax on seniors bodies. Along with loading and unloading groceries from cars. There are many risks for falling, or hurting yourself, and can feel overwhelming. Additionally, keeping track of what foods you need to buy before going to the store can difficult, and confusing. There are a few great ways to combat these problems. Programs like Peapod can do the shopping for you, and even deliver the groceries right to your door, seniors just need to call, or submit their list online, and they will take care of the rest for you. One great way to keep track of what groceries you do need is to keep a pad of paper in an accessible place, generally in the kitchen, is best. Writing down things you need, as you think of them, rather than trying to remember all at once when it’s time buy groceries, helps seniors keep track, and lessens the risk of forgetting about important items.
Another great idea for seniors to keep up a healthy appetite is eating with others! Eating in a social setting can be a great way to improve an appetite. Having a conversation during a meal makes the whole experience more pleasant, whereas, eating alone often means our attention is solely focused on our food, and can make eating feel tedious, especially if a decrease in our sense of smell and taste is a factor. Eating with a friend or loved one helps brighten seniors’ moods, and gives them more to put their focus on.