Seniors & Malnutrition: 5 Ways to Help Them Get Proper Nutrition

 As we age, our bodies require fewer calories, but more protein, calcium, B vitamins and other nutrients. In fact, there are 3.7 million malnourished seniors in the U.S. equal to 1 in 4 older Americans.

“Seniors are particularly susceptible to malnutrition, because they have different nutritional needs than younger adults, take more medications, and have higher rates of chronic medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease,” says Leslie Van Pelt, owner of Comfort Keepers Santa Fe. “Their taste buds may also have changed, may have lost their appetite or be depressed. Or they may have lost interest in cooking because they live alone and are eating for one.”

Here are 5 ways you can help seniors get the proper nutrition:

  1. Talk to the senior’s doctor. If a senior is losing weight, work with his/her doctor to identify and address contributing factors like medications that affect, change or eliminate appetite. You could also request a referral to a registered dietician.
  2. Encourage your senior to eat nutritious foods. Spread peanut butter or other healthy spreads on toast, fresh fruits and vegetables. Sprinkle finely chopped nuts, wheat germ or chia seeds on yogurt, fruit or cereal. Add extra egg whites to scrambled eggs and omelets. Use whole milks and full fat cheese.
  3. Liven up bland foods. Add lemon juice, herbs and spices. Try new seasonings and recipes.
  4. Make meals social events. Visit at mealtimes, arrange for friends to eat meals with seniors, and invite them out to lunch or dinner. Encourage seniors to join programs at senior centers where they can dine with others.
  5. Consider outside help. If necessary, hire a caregiver to shop for groceries and/or prepare meals. Services like Meals on Wheels, Kitchen Angels and the local agency on aging might also be helpful.