Changing your diet as seniors and how caregivers can help
by Megan Marolf | Nov 04, 2021 | healthy eating | 0 Comments
Healthy eating is more than trying to figure out what foods are good and bad for you, or just following instructions from your doctor.
It’s about listening to what your body is telling you.
It’s your energy levels…
The quality of sleep you’re getting….
And whether or not you're hungry, or if you even want dessert.
Most of us get used to eating a certain way, particular foods in the usual amounts. It can be hard to break the routine.
But what you eat as you age can make all the difference in leading a vibrant life and avoiding chronic illnesses and disease.
Here’s how seniors and their caregivers can switch things up if need be, and stay on the right track.
Assessing your health status
As people age, their tastes and appetite evolve.
We become less active and can get stuck in the routine of making the same meat-and-potatoes dinner, or eating ice cream for dessert every night.
Most nutritionists agree that there’s nothing wrong with indulging once in a while, but there’s a difference between that and regularly eating foods that don’t help and can even harm your health.
Of course, a good place to start is with your healthcare provider. But we know our own bodies the best, so take some time to pay attention to your energy levels, what meals you eat throughout the day and what you don’t eat.
You could really dive deep with blood tests, assessing the effectiveness of your medication and counting calories. That’s what doctors, nutritionists and health experts are for! (And I personally believe that counting calories doesn’t do anyone any good.)
For now, we’ll focus on the small changes and steps to set you in the right direction.
Recognize your nutritional needs change with age
As we age, we lose muscle mass and our metabolism slows down.
Other life changes can contribute to how much or little a person eats, along with a loss of appetite that’s normal for older adults.
Your loved one might not feel motivated to cook, especially if they just lost a spouse or a close friend and are grieving. And for most, it's just not motivating to cook for one.
Eating healthy may have to be a total lifestyle change for some. For others, it will take a few adjustments here or there. The consensus seems to be that the more you let change sink it, the longer it sticks around.
One strategy of forming new habits is replacing a so-called bad habit with a good one. For instance, if you usually reach for a bag of chips at the end of the day, how about walking around the neighborhood instead?
In a recent blog, we covered how healthy walking is and how it can curb your cravings.
How caregivers can help seniors adjust or change their diets
Hiring a caregiver or serving as a caregiver yourself can make all the difference in a senior’s diet and overall health.
When my grandfather died years ago, my grandmother stopped cooking and switched her diet to a staple of Campbell's soup. When dementia set in, she stopped cleaning too, and her living environment became unsafe.
No one wants to eat alone, night after night, or cook a meal for one day in and day out. And some seniors don’t have the option to do this in the first place, due to a disability or living situation.
Here’s are some ways a caregiver can help seniors eat healthier:
- Help them with grocery shopping- A caregiver can help your loved one stick to healthy eating habits by discouraging them from buying things like processed and sugary snacks.
- Cooking- Caregivers can bring a much-needed liveliness to your kitchen, and make sure your senior is eating regular meals and staying safe around sharp objects and gas stoves.
- Keeping a kitchen clean can make all the difference in having the motivation to cook, whoever ends up making the meal. If your loved one has memory problems, then they might need help clearing out the fridge from expired food.
- Meal planning is essential to keeping someone on track with healthy eating habits. A caregiver can help with this.
- Having company during meals makes eating more enjoyable, no matter what age you are.
Make it easy to eat healthy
With some planning and preparation, it doesn’t have to be a slog to eat healthy.
Here are a few ideas to keep seniors on the healthy eating track:
- Sit down with your senior and/or their caregiver and ask if there’s anything in particular that sounds good to them for their meals that week. Make suggestions based on what their doctor recommends as far as healthy eating goes.
- While you or their caregiver is around, prep for a couple meals for the week. Can you chop onions and freeze? Or make soup and another dish on Sunday night that will last throughout the week?
- Check out your seniors' Tupperware situation. I like to use glass Tupperware for soups and other hot dishes, so that you’re not storing hot liquid in a plastic container. If they don’t have much to offer, then you might consider going on a small shopping spree to make sure they can take advantage of any leftovers.
The more you or a caregiver can plan ahead, the easier cooking healthy will seem.
We train our caregivers to be companions and cheerleaders of healthy living for the seniors in our community. Do you think your loved one could benefit from a caregiving relationship?
Contact us today.
Megan Marolf writes about senior topics and outdoor recreation from her home base in Seattle. You can read more about her here.
If you or a loved one you know are looking for additional support during this time and are interested in scheduling a free in-home assessment, please contact SeaCare In-Home Care Services today! A SeaCare family member is standing by. 425-559-4339.