You may or may not know this, but our appetite is one thing that can shift as we get older. Physical changes such as a slower metabolism, side effects from medication, or sensory changes can decrease our appetite.
While the loss of appetite in older adults is a normal part of aging, it can often lead to unnecessary weight loss or nutritional deficiencies. If you are a caregiver for a parent or loved one, and their lack of appetite is a concern, there are ways to increase appetite and ensure the senior in your life maintains a healthy diet. HarborChase Senior Living would like to provide you with seven tips and tricks to help!
Tip #1: Make it Count
If your loved one’s appetite has decreased, it may not be about increasing the size or frequency of meals but the meals themselves. Prepare meals that are rich in nutrients and have the calories and vitamins your loved one needs.
It can be easy to eat sweets or unhealthy foods - especially when our appetite is low, and most foods aren’t appealing. According to Katherine Tucker, RD, Ph.D., chair of the department of health sciences at Northeastern University in Boston, "as we get older, the body becomes less efficient at absorbing some key nutrients." Decrease your loved one’s intake of empty calories and instead replace them with meaningful and rich foods.
Tip #2: Scheduling Meals
People tend to eat when they are hungry, but with the loss of appetite in an older adult, it can be difficult if they never “feel” hungry. Scheduling meals can assist as it is a reminder to eat. Getting into a routine by setting mealtimes can help stimulate your loved one’s appetite as their body will start to expect meals at these times.
Tip #3: Eat Breakfast
As they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day! This statement rings true for multiple reasons. According to Loughborough University, eating breakfast can help increase our appetite throughout the day. When we eat breakfast, we are telling our bodies that there are plenty of calories to be had for the day. When we skip this meal, our body assumes that it needs to conserve rather than burn any incoming calories.
Tip #4: Less Fiber
Many older adults have high-fiber diets, and while fiber is beneficial for seniors, it doesn’t help caloric intake or appetite. Many studies show that a high-fiber diet helps you feel full with less consumption. If you’re looking to boost your parent or loved one’s appetite, it is recommended to keep their fiber in-take moderate, as it is still part of a balanced diet.
Tip #5: Make the Meal a Drink
One of the reasons why some older adults have a lack of appetite or avoid meals is due to difficulty chewing. Meal options such as smoothies, whole-fat milk, and soup offer nutritional value while being easier for the senior to consume. Bottled nutritional drinks such as Ensure, can also be healthy, easy meal options.
Tip #6: Make Meals a Social Gathering
At any age, eating alone can reduce our appetite. Many cultures consider meals a social event, so it’s
important to encourage your parent or loved one to not eat alone. Check out dining options at local senior or community centers, as well as plan regular meals with friends, family, or neighbors.
HarborChase Senior Living prides itself on our first-class dining services. Through our farm-to-fork approach, seasonal and regional ingredients, wine pairings, and chef-led experiences, our residents have the opportunity to discover dining beyond breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In addition, we truly understand the benefits of socialization, especially for older adults. We always encourage our residents to socialize and connect over a wonderful meal at one of our dining destinations!
Tip #7: Exercise and Appetite
While age and appetite are tied closely together, so are exercise and appetite. Certain exercises can help stimulate appetite, while others may suppress it. Fast-paced, more strenuous workouts tend to decrease our appetite. However, exercise such as walking can often lead to a temporarily increased appetite.
The loss of appetite in older adults is a normal part of aging that should be monitored and addressed. If you have a tip or trick that we didn’t list, feel free to post it in the comments!
If you would like to learn more about the senior living dining options we have available at our communities, we invite you to find a HarborChase Senior Living community near you and schedule a visit!