Submitted by Carriage Crossing of Bloomington
Everyone knows that it’s important to eat healthy foods. Healthy eating can help you lose or maintain weight, feel better overall, and possibly decrease your chances of getting certain diseases. Making smart food choices is important at any age. But eating healthy can often be difficult, especially for older adults. Here are suggestions for dealing with common problems that can make it harder for older adults to follow through on smart food choices.
Problems Chewing or Swallowing Food
Do you avoid some foods because they are hard to chew? People who have problems with their teeth or dentures often avoid eating meat, fruits, or vegetables and might miss out on important nutrients. If you are having trouble chewing, see your dentist to check for problems. If you wear dentures, the dentist can check the fit. If food seems to get stuck in your throat or is hard to swallow, it might be that you don’t have enough saliva in your mouth. Or, there may be other reasons, including problems with the muscles or nerves in your throat, problems with your esophagus, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Talk to your doctor about what might be causing your swallowing issues.
Physical Problems Making It Hard to Eat
Sometimes illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, or arthritis can make it harder to feed yourself. Your doctor might recommend an occupational therapist. The therapist might make a custom splint for your hand, give you special exercises to strengthen your muscles or suggest rearranging things in your kitchen. Special utensils and plates might make mealtimes easier or help with food preparation.
Food Tastes Different
Are foods not as tasty as you remember? It might not be the cook’s fault! Maybe your sense of taste, smell, or both have changed. Growing older, having dental problems, and having medication side effects can cause your senses to change. Taste and smell are important for a healthy appetite and eating. Smoking and drinking alcohol can also affect your sense of taste. If you smoke, quitting may not only improve your sense of taste and smell, but also your health in many other ways. If you drink alcohol, consider stopping or cutting back.
Some medicines can change how food tastes, make your mouth dry, or reduce your appetite. In turn, some foods can change how certain medicines work. You might have heard that grapefruit juice is a common culprit when used with any of several drugs. Chocolate, licorice, and alcohol are some others. Whenever your doctor prescribes a new drug for you, be sure to ask about any food-drug interactions.
Just Not Hungry
Changes to your body as you age can cause some people to feel full sooner than they did when they were younger. Lack of appetite can also be a side effect of a medicine you are taking. Talk with your doctor about any side-effects you may be experiencing. Your doctor may be able to suggest a different drug.
Try to be more active. In addition to all the other benefits of exercise and physical activity, these may make you hungrier. If you aren’t hungry because food just isn’t appealing, there are ways to make it more interesting. Make sure your foods are seasoned well, but not by adding extra salt. Try using lemon juice, vinegar, or herbs to boost the flavor. Vary the shape, color, and texture of the foods you eat. Try eating a food that you haven’t tried before or one you haven’t eaten in a while.
Food Allergies or Dietary Restrictions
Some older adults have allergies to certain foods, such as wheat, nuts, or dairy. Others may have dietary restrictions for religious, ethical, or personal reasons. Whatever your dietary needs are, it is still possible to choose healthy foods.
Avoiding dairy? Talk to your healthcare provider about how to get enough calcium and vitamin D. Even lactose-intolerant people might be able to have small amounts of milk when taken with food. There are also non-dairy food sources of calcium, lactose-free milk and milk products, calcium- and vitamin D-fortified foods, and supplements.
One benefit of a senior living community is that chef-cooked meals can be customized to allow for any special dietary needs. In addition, there are many choices of different foods, prepared for maximum taste and nutrition. It’s much easier to eat healthy when you don’t have to worry about preparing and cooking food yourself.
Carriage Crossing Senior Living at Bloomington proudly offers exceptional care in Assisted Living and Memory Care to older adults in their welcoming community at 1402 Leslie Drive, Bloomington, IL 61704. “Live the Life You Love” while having enrichment opportunities, supportive services, and the security you need to feel confident in your new home. For information or to schedule a tour, please call Kaleigh Newsome, Community Relations Director, at 309-603-2500 or visit carriagecrossingsl.com to learn more about their communities across central Illinois in Bloomington, Champaign, Arcola, Rochester, Decatur, Taylorville, and Paris.