People in the U.S. are living longer than ever before. Many older adults live active and healthy lives. But there’s no getting around one thing: as we age, our bodies and minds change. Having a healthy lifestyle can help you to deal with normal aging changes and make the most of your life. This includes healthy eating, regular physical activity, and making mental health a priority. We are focusing today on healthy eating and why nutrition and good eating habits will help seniors age well.
Healthy eating is something we take seriously and we find that one of the great benefits of moving to a rest home is that we serve three home-cooked meals per day prepared by Chef Denis Cox and his team and served in the dining room each day by our Brookhouse Home food servers.
According to an article by the National Institute of Aging, there are factors that hinder many seniors from maintaining a good diet when they live on their own and this can affect our overall health as we age.
Some factors to look for if concerned about an elder when it comes to nutritional and healthy eating may include the following components.:
Problems with Teeth or Dentures
Older people avoid some foods because they are hard to chew and those with teeth or denture restraints might avoid eating meat, fruits, or vegetables which in turn means they miss out on important nutrients. A visit to the dentist can help check for problems or adjust/fix dentures. At the Brookhouse Home, softer foods are always included in our meals.
Food Tastes Different?
Unfortunately, as we age our sense of taste, smell, or both have changed. Growing older, having dental problems, and medication side effects can cause your senses to change. Taste and smell are important for a healthy appetite and eating. Try adding fresh herbs, spices, or lemon juice to your plate. If you drink alcohol or smoke, cutting back can improve your sense of taste. At the Brookhouse Home, we do offer some dietary variety and our Chef Denis Cox is very attentive to making sure that delicious flavors are a big part of the dining experience.
Feeling Sad and Don’t Want to Eat?
Being unhappy can cause a loss of appetite. Feeling blue now and then is normal, but if you continue to feel sad, it is important not to become malnourished, according to a Mayo Clinic article. The Brookhouse Home offers other options through our social worker and staff members as well as our Sharing and Caring Group, our weekly meditation group, walking group, or book club.
Just Not Hungry?
Maybe you are not sad but just can’t eat very much. Changes to your body as you age can cause some people to feel full sooner than they did when younger. Or lack of appetite might be the side effect of a medicine you are taking. At the Brookhouse Home, we try to anticipate this by making sure that we have alternative portions and choices that are not as filling. Because we now have classes like Tai Chi, meditation, walking, and other kinds of exercise options, we find that helps with appetite.
Variety is the Spice of Life
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 with extra salt. Try using lemon juice, vinegar, or herbs to boost the flavor of your food.
At Brookhouse Home, our chef varies the shape, color, and texture of foods and we also try to vary vegetables, fruits, and kinds of seafood to the menu. Making sure that vegetables are not overcooked and retain that little crunch or serving food fresh out of the oven are all the signs of not only a good chef but a happy dining room.
Trouble Getting Enough Calories?
If you aren’t eating enough, add snacks throughout the day to help you get more nutrients and calories. Raw vegetables with hummus, low-fat cheese and whole-grain crackers, a piece of fruit, unsalted nuts, or peanut butter are good examples. You can try putting shredded low-fat cheese on your soup or popcorn or sprinkling nuts or wheat germ on yogurt or cereal.
If you are eating so little that you are losing weight but don’t need to, your doctor might suggest a protein nutrition supplement. Sometimes these supplements help undernourished people gain a little weight. If so, they should be used as snacks between meals or after dinner, not in place of a meal and not right before one. Ask your doctor how to choose a supplement.
At the Brookhouse Home, we also have patio time with iced coffee and or an afternoon that gives us the opportunity to provide some between meal refreshment and sustenance.
Physical Problems Making It Hard to Eat?
Sometimes illnesses like Parkinson’s disease, stroke, or arthritis can make it harder for you to cook or feed yourself. Your doctor might recommend an occupational therapist. He or she might suggest rearranging things in your kitchen, make a custom splint for your hand, or give you special exercises to strengthen your muscles. Devices like special utensils and plates might make mealtime easier or help with food preparation.
Some older people have uncomfortable stomach and intestinal symptoms after they have dairy products. Your doctor can do tests to learn whether or not you do indeed need to limit or avoid foods with lactose when you eat. If so, talk to your healthcare provider about how to meet your calcium and vitamin D needs. Even lactose-intolerant people might be able to have small amounts of milk when taken with food. There are non-dairy food sources of calcium, lactose-free milk and milk products, calcium- and vitamin D-fortified foods, and supplements.
We feel fortunate that at the Brookhouse Home we not only have an excellent chef but our nursing staff ensures that all our ladies have their meals together in our beautiful dining room. Sometimes just eating together helps to encourage healthy habits and maintains good nutrition for our senior residents.