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Eating well plays a key role in everyone’s health, but for seniors, getting enough of the right foods can become a greater challenge than it once was. Mobility issues and medications that lower appetite can often times interfere with good nutrition for seniors. Others cope with chronic health issues or depression and find that regular meals no longer feel like a priority. If you’re an adult child who has concerns about your parent’s eating habits, the below tips can help make meals more appealing for your loved one.

Nutrition For Seniors Four Nutrition Tips For Seniors

Variety Matters

According to the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) senior health site, as seniors become less physically active as they age, their body usually requires less calories to maintain the same weight as when they were young.

Less calories means smaller plates, so it’s especially important that the meals contain nutrient-dense food. High-sugar, high-fat foods, which provide few vitamins and minerals, can be occasional treats but shouldn’t make up the bulk of any meal.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), healthy plates are varied plates. In the MyPlate program, the USDA recommends fruits and vegetables take up half the plate. The other half should be evenly split between a healthful whole grain or other carbohydrate-rich side and a lean protein. These proportions ensure a balanced meal, and it also provides the variety that makes eating worthwhile.

Always check with a healthcare professional before making any major changes to your parent’s meals. They will know what is best for your parent – especially if he or she has a chronic condition that could call for a specific diet.

Swap Bad Habits for Good Ones

Younger bodies tolerate junk food and hasty eating better than older ones, according to, and many seniors find habits that used to make little impact now cause heartburn or problems with blood sugar.

“As you grow older, your body becomes less forgiving, and you will have to make more of an effort to eat well and stay fit,” the website states. “Ideally, you’ve been practicing healthy eating habits throughout your life. But most of us don’t live in an ideal world.”

Changing a lifetime’s worth of habits can be tough, but slowly switching your loved one’s less healthy habits for wiser choices keeps people from feeling deprived by their new routines.

According to the NIH website, to help ease the transition to a healthier lifestyle, try to make changes one at a time. For example, taking the salt shaker off the table will help decrease sodium intake, and replacing baked goods with a piece of fresh fruit will provide a sweet treat with nutritional benefits instead of empty calories. Also, eating at a dinner table with the television off encourages more mindful eating.

If you really want to tackle unhealthy eating habits, help your loved one shop for groceries. Many of these nutrition choices are made at the point of purchase, so assisting your parent with smart purchases can encourage healthy decisions.

Eat Together

If you live with your parent, you may already know how much or how often they are eating. But if you live separately and buy the groceries, it can be easy to assume your parent is eating the provided food.

But according to Dr. Miriam Rodin, MD and Ph.D. and associate professor of geriatrics at the University of St. Louis, this is not always the case.

“You have to ask yourself where the food is going,” she said in Does Your Parent Need Nutritional Help?Simple Tips for Identifying and Solving Nutritional Issues. “If you buy things that require a lot of cooking and (he or) she is not eating it, then you have to make changes.”

Good conversation goes with good food, so make time for shared meals. Breaking bread with your loved one is a critical component to helping him or her stay connected to the outside world. According to, a social atmosphere stimulates the mind and helps homebound seniors enjoy meals more.

Eating together also gives you a chance to see a senior’s eating habits unobtrusively. It’s sometimes hard to gauge seniors’ nutrition, but frequent shared meals can establish a baseline and help you see changes in appetite.

If shared meals are not always an option, a home healthcare agency can help. While each company is different, a reputable one will help your parent shop for groceries and prepare nutritious meals. If proper nutrition is an issue for your parent, this can help him or her stay independent.

Plan for Medications

Due to the fact that many medications have side effects, you should be especially cognizant how the prescriptions impact your parent’s nutrition. A drug that causes mouth dryness, for example, makes nutritious whole-grain foods less appetizing. Medicines can also cause stomach upset, limiting a senior’s desire to eat. Add in medicines that must be taken on an empty stomach or with food and it’s easy to see why a medicine schedule is essential.

Supplements can boost vitamin and mineral intake, but they must also be accounted for when drawing up a medicine schedule. Be aware that some nutrients interact with medications in serious ways; vitamin K, for example, interferes with warfarin and other blood thinners. The best practice is to receive a medical review once a year to find out exactly what problematic interactions can occur by taking various medications, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. A healthcare provider, nurse or a home care agency can provide a medication review for your loved one.

If you have concerns about your parent’s eating habits, follow the above tips to help encourage a healthy lifestyle. But remember: Everyone needs help from time to time, so don’t hesitate to reach out to a spouse, relative or home healthcare agency for an extra hand.

About Author : Kate Reusink, an experienced caregiver and writer for Homewatch Caregivers, enjoys writing topics related to senior health and travel.
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