Better Eating Makes for Better Aging
Have you noticed changes in eating patterns as you are getting older? Have you had any problems chewing food? Are you losing your desire to eat? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. Changes like these are part of the normal aging process and are common. There are some things you can do to enjoy healthy food and improve your eating habits.
This handout lists some problems you may have with eating and gives ideas to help you fix those problems.
If you have lost your teeth, have sore gums or mouth, gum diseases, cavities, broken teeth, or if your dentures do not fit, you may have trouble with chewing. The first thing you should do is visit a dentist to correct these problems. You can also make some eating changes. Here are some ideas.
- Eat soft foods such as fish, oatmeal, yogurt, creamy peanut butter, eggs, and applesauce.
- Slice or mash food into small pieces.
- Try canned fruits or soft fruits such as peaches and bananas.
- Eat well cooked vegetables.
As you get older, your taste buds become dull, and you may not be able to smell your food as well. If food doesn’t taste or smell good to you, try adding flavor. You can use herbs, spices, sugar, salt or salt substitutes, butter flavoring, or some wines.
If you live alone, you may feel lonely at mealtime. Loneliness can make you lose your appetite, and you may not feel like making full meals for yourself. If you make a small, easy meal, you may not be eating a balanced diet. Find other people to eat with and make a complete meal.
- Eat with family or friends.
- Get involved in church and local public programs.
If you can’t cook or buy groceries on your own, there might be local programs that can help you.
- Use home delivered meal programs like “Meals on Wheels”.
- Use food delivery programs provided by some grocery stores.
- Ask local church groups, volunteers, family members or neighbors for help.
- Use frozen or canned foods that can be cooked in a microwave. They are easy to prepare and can be stored for a long time in your cupboard or freezer.
- Eat at local public meal programs such as senior centers.
If you have problems with your bowels, you can try these things.
- Eat foods high in fiber such as whole grain breads, cereals, bran, dried fruits such as prunes and apricots.
- Drink lots of water (1 to 2 quarts a day) to prevent dehydration. If you have heart or kidney problems, talk to your doctor for other ideas.
- Don’t take laxatives too often. This can cause more problems.
- Note any changes in bowel patterns, and tell your doctor or nurse about them.
Some drugs can affect your appetite and the way your body absorbs food. Tell your doctor about all the drugs you are taking, making sure to include over-the-counter, laxatives, vitamins, and other supplements. These are some drugs that can affect your eating:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDS) such as aspirin or ibuprofen
- Blood pressure pills
- Drugs to treat heart problems
- Potassium supplements
When choosing a snack, be sure to use foods that are low in salt and fat, but high in fiber and calcium. Keep in mind, drink plenty of water as well. Try to include lots of fruits and vegetables when you can. Here are a few ideas for healthy snacks.
- Low-fat yogurt with fresh fruits
- Unsalted pretzels dipped in peanut butter
- Dried fruit
- A two-ounce piece of cold chicken, a slice of rye bread, a teaspoon of margarine, and a half cup of mixed vegetables
- One cup whole-grain cereal with a half cup of low-fat milk, a teaspoon of sugar, and fruits
- Shakes: mix one cup of low-fat, skim, or soy milk and fruits such as banana or strawberries in a blender. Add a spoonful of honey or creamy peanut butter to add flavor.
- Add a spoonful of powdered, non-fat dry milk to shakes or yogurt to get extra calcium.
If you have any other concerns or questions about your desire for food and diet, talk to your doctor or nurse. A Registered Dietitian is also available at our East, West and U-Station clinics. They can give you some advice and information that can help improve your eating habits. Making just a few of these changes to your eating should result in a diet better for your health. Enjoy your food!
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 10/28/2013
Copyright © 04/26/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5622
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