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How to Improve Appetite: Tips and Advice for Seniors

Do you increasingly struggle finding your appetite with age? A healthy diet is essential as you age, but what can you do when food starts losing its appeal?

Appetite loss with age is normal; it’s so common, in fact, that in the 1980s, Canadian researchers coined the term “anorexia of aging.” While the occasional poor appetite is harmless, a persistent disinterest in food can lead to long-term consequences, such as insufficient nutrient intake, bone density issues, and skin problems. Weakened immunity and an increased risk for longer hospital stays are also attributed to appetite issues.

The good news is there are ways to reinvigorate your appetite. Here are six things to try.

Six ways to improve your appetite

  1. 1. Rule out health issues

If your appetite loss is sudden, start by ruling out any possible health problems, dental issues or medication side effects. Visit your doctor and tell them about your new situation. Sometimes, adjusting medications is enough to restore your appetite.

  1. 2. Establish a meal schedule

The aging process can mess with a person’s natural ability to detect their own hunger. This can cause seniors to miss meals and develop blood sugar imbalances. A regular meal schedule trains your body to know when it’s time to eat. If you live alone, make it a habit to sit down and have meals and snacks at the same time every day for a few weeks and see if this helps you get your appetite back.

If you live in a senior community, plan your eating around their meal schedule. Show up regularly, even if you’re not hungry, and try to eat something.

  1. 3. Eat smaller portions of highly nutritious foods

Many older adults find that portions are too big and that the food is often too greasy, starchy or heavy. To avoid feeling overly full, they stop eating altogether. If you’re in the same boat, try eating smaller portions of more nutritious foods, such as nuts, soft cheeses and small bite-sized pieces of high-quality meats. Store these small meals in containers and eat them on a schedule each day.

  1. 4. Eat finger foods

Some seniors have mobility issues that make it challenging to hold utensils. Their frustration can cause them to lose interest in eating because the effort doesn’t feel worth it. To combat this, consider sticking with finger foods like raw vegetables, chicken fingers or sandwiches.

  1. 5. Grazing is eating, too

You might think the only way to get the nutrients you need is to eat three full meals a day, but as you get older, that’s not always the best approach. Many seniors prefer to graze throughout the day, eating small, healthy snacks that keep their energy levels up and provide ample nutrition. Cheese, crackers, yogurt, fruit cups, whole fruit, and carrot sticks are perfect foods for grazing.

  1. 6. Drink your meals

Smoothies are an excellent option if you have dental problems or swallowing issues. When preparing them, choose high-quality ingredients, such as antioxidant-rich cacao, flax meal, turmeric, and nut butters. Make sure to also include leafy greens. According to WebMD, “the B vitamins found in leafy greens, like folate, vitamin B6 and niacin, help your body release energy from food and can promote a healthy nervous system.”

The bottom line

It’s important for seniors to pay attention to their diet in order to ensure that they are getting the nutrients they need without over-eating. By taking advantage of nutrition supplements, meal plan adjustments, social interaction, and healthy snacking, seniors can make sure they are getting the nourishment their bodies need.

It’s also important for seniors to focus on eating nutritious foods that are high in fiber and vitamins while low in fat and sugar. Due to the risk of nutrient deficiency that comes with consuming fewer calories, some seniors may need to take dietary supplements or fortified foods.

If you try the above tips and still can’t get your appetite back, speak with your doctor. A poor appetite doesn’t have to be a hallmark of age.

As a Life Plan Community, The Oaks at Denville makes it easy to live life on your terms, with a lifestyle that includes a maintenance-free residence, dining, wellness programs, recreational, social and cultural activities, and more.

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