Appetite loss can be a problem, especially for the elderly who live alone and lack interest in cooking. Appetite loss is common for people facing illness, cancer, depression – and medication side effects they come with – are also at risk of poor nutrition.
“I wish I had THAT problem!” you’re probably laughing. But appetite loss is no laughing matter when you’re worried about a loved one’s appetite. Not eating right leads to low energy, which reduces appetite further.
Top 10 helpful tips
Make your loved one’s FAVORITE foods. Try new recipes featuring favorite ingredients. If they like cheese, consider melting it on a cracker with a slice of tomato on top.
- Make the eating environment lovely: tidy up, use beautiful colors for dishes and tableware, play calming music, turn off the TV, have flowers or another beautiful center piece.
- Eat together at routine times, and have good conversation. Feeling loved and listened to can stimulate an appetite … or at least make them feel “guilty” enough to eat a little just to please you, which lights up their tastebuds and leads to more bites.
- Keep the meal sizes small. When they see a large meal on the table, they might feel overwhelmed because they can’t finish it.
- Consider smells that can stimulate the appetite, like sautéing a little garlic with vegetables in butter or oil.
- Leave enough room between meals and snacks for your loved one to get hungry again. A food tradition from Panama says that if you eat an apple before a meal, it makes you hungrier and prepares your stomach for food.
- Keep them hydrated by helping them drink enough water throughout the day. This can facilitate faster digestion and will make them feel hungry more often.
- Physical activity as appropriate can stimulate the digestive system and may improve appetite. Take a short walk before a meal.
- Sometimes chewing might be difficult, so consider liquid or semi-solid foods, such as a protein smoothie. Smoothies can pack a lot of nutrients and calories; choose a good protein powder, veggies like kale or spinach and carrots, plus fruits.
- Snack! Prepare snack-sized bags with berries, nuts and chopped veggies.
Generally, women over 50 need about 1,600 to 2,200 calories a day; men need 2,000 to 2,800. Resist the urge to fill up on empty calories like baked goods, chips and soda. As you age, you don’t need as many calories, but you need more nutrients. Choose from fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein.
When you cook for yourself, make extra—like stew or hearty soups. Freeze left-overs in handy one-serving containers to leave behind in the freezer. Prepared food is easy to heat … and easier to eat!