Take a quick peek into the fridge and cupboards in your aging parent’s kitchen. What do you see? If you’re hoping to find a variety of healthy food options, you may be surprised. Senior nutrition is a common struggle, due to issues such as:
- A spouse who used to prepare meals passing away
- Lack of interest in preparing healthy meals for just one person
- Loss of taste or smell
- Issues with chewing or swallowing
- Difficulty with getting out to get groceries
- Side effects from medication causing a loss of appetite
Good senior nutrition is vital to physical and mental health. There are steps you can take to help your aging parent turn around unhealthy eating habits and enjoy a better quality of life.
First, it’s a good idea to schedule a routine checkup for the senior. The doctor can help with any medical-related problems and offer nutritional advice as well. Check to make sure there aren’t any contraindications between medications and certain foods, too.
Then talk with your parent about the need to eat healthier. Skip the judgment and condescension. Simply let your parent know you are concerned and have ideas to help.
Loneliness is a major obstacle to healthy eating. If your parent is often alone, a companion to share mealtimes can make a world of difference. Coordinate with your siblings and other family members and friends to take turns spending time with your parent for meals. A professional caregiver can be a great resource here as well.
Dental problems are another common hurdle. A trip to the dentist to refit dentures or correct any other issues may be all it takes to improve eating habits.
Even before the pandemic, going to the grocery store has often been difficult for older adults. Check into grocery delivery options available in your parent’s area, or arrange for someone to help take care of this chore on a regular basis.
It may even be that it’s just easier to open up a bag of chips or can of soup than to fix a healthy meal. The key is to make nutritious eating as easy as possible, while addressing any of the concerns listed above. Try suggesting these junk food substitutions that can be ready to eat in a snap:
- Individual packs of instant oatmeal
- Pre-cut and cleaned fresh veggies and bagged salads
- Pre-cooked rotisserie chicken
- Individual cups of low-sugar fruit
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grain rolls
- Hummus and pita bread
Staying hydrated is equally important. Plain water is always a better choice than soda, alcoholic beverages, or juices that are loaded with sugar. Try keeping a pitcher of ice water within reach of the senior throughout the day. Adding sliced citrus fruit or cucumber to the water can enhance the flavor.