Over a lifetime the average American spends about three years eating. That's a lot of meals. By the time you've reached late life, food may have lost some of its appeal. There are a variety of reasons why people lose their appetites as they age:
- Badly fitting dentures, gum disease, or dry mouth can make chewing difficult.
- Taste and smell senses diminish with age. Food doesn't taste as good as it used to.
- Side effects of medications for heart disease, constipation, depression, and other disorders affect appetite.
- People living alone don't like to fix meals just for themselves.
- Loneliness, sadness, depression, grief, bereavement can all affect appetite.
- Food shopping and preparing meals are increasingly hard to do.
- Lack of physical activity.
Many older people can't eat much at one time and prefer snacking throughout the day instead of eating three meals. Stock the cupboard and refrigerator with lots of healthy, ready-to-eat snacks:
- Snack packs of pudding, jello, yogurt, cottage cheese, applesauce, and canned fruit.
- Single serving cans of fruit or vegetable juice.
- Cheese and crackers with fresh fruit.
- Ice cream bars and popsicles are tempting when nothing else tastes good.
- Cut up raw vegetables with low-fat dip.
Old-fashioned "comfort foods" are easy to eat and bring back fond memories of earlier meals. Use favorite family recipes or carry-out from supermarkets and restaurants.
- Grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of soup for lunch or dinner.
- Macaroni and cheese.
- Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy.
- Rice pudding with raisins.
If your family member has Alzheimer's disease or a similar memory disorder, try serving several small meals of a couple of favorite foods throughout the day instead of three big meals. Serve finger foods or sandwiches. Avoid foods that might cause choking: nuts, raw vegetables, popcorn, and small candies.
Other "non-food" ways to improve a poor appetite:
- Invite a neighbor to share a sandwich and dessert with you and your relative.
- Eat your lunch together on the back porch.
- Ask your loved one to help prepare a meal with you.
- Take a walk together before a meal.
This article is courtesy of Active Daily Living.