By Lauren Dimitrov, RDN, MPH, LDN
Did you know that health issues and physical limitations can sometimes make it difficult for seniors to get the right nutrition? Possible causes of poor nutrition include a decreased appetite, side effects of medication, lack of transportation, mobility impairments, and forgetfulness.
As we age, our lean body mass slightly declines through the years. The energy requirements needed from food decreases by about 100 calories a day per decade, for those over the age of 60. Although nutritional needs will vary based on each individual’s health and lifestyle, an overall decrease in caloric intake does make it more difficult to meet the Recommended Dietary Allowance of vitamins and minerals.
Taking a daily multivitamin may help you meet any nutritional deficiencies. However, it’s important to discuss this first with your healthcare provider to ensure that adding any supplements to your diet won’t interfere with your current medications or lifestyle habits.
If taking a daily multivitamin is out of the question because of personal or health reasons, there are other options to consider optimizing one’s dietary needs:
- Offer foods that are nutritionally dense. For seniors who may not be able to eat as much as they should, it’s important that the foods they can eat are loaded with nutrition. Offer foods with healthy fats such as olive oil or nut butters, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and protein rich foods. It may also be helpful to offer smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day.
- Increase aromas and flavors. The sense of taste diminishes as we age. Intensifying flavors and smells with herbs, spices, and sauces can help make them more appealing and appetizing during mealtimes.
- Consider getting help. There are many services such as home-delivered meals or personal grocery shoppers that are gaining in popularity. Nutrition education seminars and financial assistance programs are also available to ensure you are meeting your dietary needs.
- Set daily reminders. If forgetfulness is interfering with your daily meal planning, try setting an alarm for the same time each day to help you stay on track.
- Stay active to the best of your ability. Maintaining some sort of physical activity can help maintain your appetite. It’s also important for overall physical and mental well-being. Again, be sure to consult your healthcare provider to determine the level of activity that best suits your needs.