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Roadblocks to healthy eating

Suggestions for overcoming common problems older individuals face when trying to make better eating decisions for their health.

August 26, 2021

Roadblocks to healthy eating

We all know the importance of healthy eating. We may resolve to “eat better,” but sometimes it’s not so easy. Maybe shopping or cooking has become difficult, or you don’t have an appetite, or food does not taste the same as it used to. 

Information on these and other common problems, along with possible solutions were retrieved from “Overcoming Roadblocks to Healthy Eating,” published by the National Institute on Aging/National Institutes of Health. 

Are you tired of cooking or eating alone? 

Consider sharing potluck meals with neighbors or friends. If everyone brings one part of the meal, cooking is easier, and variety can make eating fun. Or cook with a friend to prepare a meal together. Or check into having a meal at a nearby senior center, community center, or religious facility. Often “the price is right,” and there are opportunities for companionship. Home-delivered meals are another excellent option to receive meals that require minimal preparation.

Do you have problems chewing food? 

Are you avoiding certain foods because they are difficult to chew? People with problems with their teeth or dentures often avoid eating meat, fruits, vegetables, or other food difficult to chew, meaning missing out on important nutrients. Check with your dentist if you are experiencing teeth affecting your ability to chew. Home-delivered meals can often feature foods that are easier to chew. Customer Care representatives can offer meal suggestions.

Is food difficult to swallow? 

If the food seems to get stuck in your throat, perhaps it is because less saliva makes it hard to swallow. Try drinking plenty of liquids with your meal. If problems continue, there may be other reasons causing swallowing difficulties, so visit your doctor to be checked out.

Does food taste different than it used to? 

In time, abilities to taste and smell can change. In addition, medications can affect how food tastes, as well as dental problems. Certainly how foods smell and taste affect appetite and healthy eating, so talk to your health care professional if food tastes different.

Are you just not hungry? 

Maybe you don’t eat as much as you used to. Sometimes lack of appetite is a side effect of a medication, so your doctor may recommend a different drug. Consider becoming more physically active. Exercise can help improve your appetite. Being unhappy can also affect appetite, so consider talking to someone trained to work with people who are depressed. Maybe your food is not appealing, so consider ways to add seasoning without extra salt - try lemon juice, flavored vinegars, and herbs to boost flavor. Or try something new — you may find a new favorite dish! Home-delivered meals can offer a variety — order your favorite or try a new meal on the menu!

Is it becoming physically difficult to eat? 

Conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and arthritis can make cooking or feeding yourself difficult. Your physician may refer you to an occupational therapist who can suggest ways to rearrange your kitchen, special utensils or plates, or exercises to strengthen muscles. Home-delivered meals make food preparation easy – just heat and eat at your convenience. 

Is it difficult to consume enough calories? 

If you are just not eating enough meals, try including healthy snacks during the day — apple or celery with peanut butter, low-fat cheese and whole-grain crackers, fresh fruit, and yogurt are all nutrient-dense snacks that provide protein. These would be excellent snacks before bedtime. If you are eating so little that unintended weight loss occurs, talk to your physician about a supplement. These products can provide extra calories and nutrients so that they can be useful between meals. They do not replace meals, so don’t consume just before a meal. Talk to your physician if you are concerned about choosing the appropriate supplement.

There can be challenges to healthy eating for seniors, but there can be solutions too. Talk to your health care providers to remove those roadblocks so you remain healthy, active and feeling your best.

Source materials retrieved from “Overcoming Roadblocks to Healthy Eating” (National Institute on Aging/National Institutes of Health at content reviewed May 11, 2017.