The National Institute on Aging recommends older adults follow the USDA Dietary Guidelines which emphasizes a variety fruits and vegetables, focusing on dark green, red and orange vegetables, whole grains, seafood and fat free dairy products.
Unfortunately, older adults are often faced with many barriers to heathy eating. Age-related changes result in diminished sense of smell and taste, difficulties with chewing and swallowing, digestive disorders and other chronic conditions which can influence eating habits. One of the most concerning change is the loss of appetite which results in decreased hunger and increased satiety (feeling full). This if often referred to as “anorexia of aging”.
Medications may also represent a barrier to healthy eating. Medications can alter taste perception which decreases interest in eating. Medications may also have interactions with foods, have diet altering side effects, impair digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Lifestyle factors such as changes in physical activity, changes in cognitive function, economic status and social isolation can also have a negative impact on dietary choices. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration provides the following recommendations to help older adults overcome barriers to
• Shopping on a budget: buy foods on sale – buy store brands – use coupons
• Options for people with difficulties with chewing, swallowing or digestion: fruit juices, soft canned fruits, vegetable juices, creamed or mashed cooked vegetables, ground meat, eggs, milk, yogurt, cooked cereals and rice
• Unable to shop – requesting assistance from family members or friends or use a delivery service
• Unable to cook: buy low sodium, pre-package meals
• Limitations with taste or smell: use herbs and spices to flavor food
• Decrease interest in eating: sharing meals with family and friends
• Check with Health Care Professional to see if medications may be affecting eating habits
Kimberly Huff is the Fitness Director of Heron Point in Chestertown MD.