November 15, 2022
How to Help Seniors with No Appetite Improve Eating Habits
As we age, appetite and hunger sensations begin to decline. It can be harder to tell when we’re hungry, and eating may become a second thought. Seeing loved ones go through this experience can be overwhelming and alarming, especially when it starts to lead to significant weight loss or nutritional deficiencies.
One of the most important things to remember is that frustration doesn’t help anyone. Don’t show anger or frustration if your loved one doesn’t want to eat. Instead, find an alternative food choice or reason behind not wanting food. Consider the following steps to help seniors with no appetite improve their eating habits.
CONSULT A PHYSICIAN
The first step to helping seniors improve their eating habits is to consult a physician. Medical conditions or medication side effects could be reasons behind your loved one’s lost appetite. If you’ve noticed frequent poor eating habits or lack of interest in food, consult the senior’s physician about possible causes. Treatment, a change in medication, swallowing assessments, or supplemental assistance could be necessary to improve their desire to eat. If you’ve talked with a doctor and normal aging is the root behind a poor appetite, try the following steps.
GIVE SMALLER PORTIONS
When your senior loved one doesn’t eat enough food, you may be tempted to give larger portions in an attempt to persuade them to eat more. Doing this can actually have the opposite effect, making the large amount of food overwhelming or undesirable. Smaller portions help food appear more manageable.
Vitamins and nutrients are vital for a healthy lifestyle. Choose foods that are packed with nutritional value so smaller portions are enough to provide sustenance. Quality outweighs quantity.
TRY COLORFUL FOODS
Color could play a role in making food more enjoyable to eat. Vegetables with vibrant colors, like tomatoes or sweet potatoes, may appear more appealing to eat than foods with bland colors. Fruits and vegetables are great options for colorful foods that are high in nutrition but low in fat. Just ensure food is prepared in a way that is less likely to pose a choking hazard, such as mashed or steamed. Dietary restrictions should also be taken into consideration when serving fruits that are high in sugar.
CHOOSE FOODS THAT DON’T NEED UTENSILS
Utensils can be cumbersome and frustrating for some seniors to use. Finger foods are easier to pick up and eat without having to worry about utensils getting in the way. As we mentioned above, colorful vegetables and fruits are enticing, and they can be served as finger foods. Small sandwiches, cheese cubes, and chicken tenders are additional options.
INTRODUCE LIQUIFIED FOOD OR SHAKES
Chewing solid food is difficult for some seniors. Liquified soups, meal replacements, or shakes are easier to consume and can still be nutritious. Choose a high-quality blender to finely blend food without chunks or choking hazards. Include foods your loved one enjoys to create a tasty alternative to completely solid foods. If you notice a problem with swallowing either solid or liquid foods, consult a doctor as blended foods are not a solution to swallowing issues.
MAKE SNACKS EASY TO ACCESS
If your loved one becomes irritable during normal eating times or prefers to eat smaller foods throughout the day, encourage them to choose healthy snacks. Make snacks easy to access and available at their convenience. Quick and simple choices that don’t require preparation are easier to serve and eat. Snack choices include: greek yogurt with fruit, dried fruit, nuts, veggie sticks, healthy granola bars, baked fruit chips, and deli meat with cheese.
SET A SCHEDULE
An eating schedule creates a routine that people become familiar with. Set certain times for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to help your loved one’s body adjust to the expectation of food at those times. Weekly meal plans ensure seniors are eating food they enjoy while also leaving plenty of time for preparation. A schedule is a great way to provide control over food choices and make sure everyone is on the same page about when it’s time to eat, especially when hunger sensations have declined.
Everyone is unique, and managing a loss of appetite requires personalized steps to help individuals succeed in their own way. At Sunset Senior Living, we prepare customized meal plans for residents within our facility. Our dietary staff ensures nutritional requirements are met and seniors are provided with food options they enjoy.
If your mom, dad, or loved one has eating requirements or needs that can no longer be met at home, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We will work with you to discuss the best possible option for your loved one’s comfort and care.