Eating Well As You Age: Overcoming Common Hurdles
Is it hard for you to get to a store? Are you on a strict budget? Seniors may face obstacles when it comes to eating well. These tips may help.
Many older adults who would never neglect to see a doctor regularly pay little attention to what they eat. In general, older people are less hungry, get fuller faster, and eat less than younger people. This can be due to factors including a waning sense of taste and smell, slower digestion and other functions of aging. But making sure you get good nutrition in your later years can go a long way toward cutting your risk for many diseases. A good diet can even help you recover faster if you do become ill.
Following are some everyday obstacles seniors may face when it comes to eating well – and how to get past them.
“It’s hard for me to shop.”
You’re not homebound, but you don’t drive anymore. Maybe you have trouble walking or carrying groceries. Here are some options when you don’t have nearby family and friends to help:
- Some grocery stores offer home delivery service for a fee. You may even be able to browse and order your items online if the store has a Web site.
- Find out if your place of worship or a local volunteer group can help you with shopping.
- Hire a home health worker for a few hours each week to take care of errands such as shopping.
“Cooking everyday is so much trouble.”
Conserve your cooking time with these tips:
- Buy enough ingredients to cook extra servings of each meal. Then, wrap and freeze individual-sized portions of the leftovers. Soups, casseroles, fish and meats freeze well for later use.
- Plan potluck dinners with friends and neighbors. This is a fun way to share costs and the work of preparing a meal.
- Always have a supply of nonperishable foods on hand for when you don’t feel like cooking. This could be frozen vegetables or dry goods like cereal, pasta, tuna or soup on the shelf.
- Don’t have the right ingredient when you need it? Start a network of people who take turns making quick grocery runs during the week.
“I can’t afford to eat well.”
Planning ahead can help you get the most for your money.
- Prepare a shopping list and stick to it. Avoid impulse buys.
- Check store flyers and newspapers for sales and coupons. Plan meals around the foods that are marked down.
- Get healthy, low-cost foods like dried beans and peas, rice and pasta. Buy store-brand foods when available.
- Buy fresh fruits and vegetables when they are in season, and frozen produce when out of season.
- Stock up on staples when they are on sale.
- Shop with a friend so you can buy in bulk at lower cost, and then split the item.
- Look for economy-size packs of meat, poultry and fish. Wrap pieces in single-sized servings and freeze.
- Contact your Area Agency on Aging about food assistance programs for seniors with limited budgets. In addition to food stamps, ask about coupons for local produce offered through the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program.
“I’m not sure what a healthy diet is.”
Remember that nutrition-packed foods give you more for your dollar in the long run.
- Some low-fat, nutritious items include fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish, whole-grain cereals and breads, low-fat milk, eggs, dried beans and nuts.
- Avoid convenience foods, sweets and snack foods. They are usually not healthy and have fewer nutrients for the calories you consume.
- Read labels. Look for foods that are low in fat, cholesterol, sugar and salt, and high in fiber.
“My elderly mother doesn’t eat enough to get good nutrition.”
If you are the caregiver, it can be quite alarming to see someone’s appetite wane. But many times a few changes can make a big difference in improving appetite and nutrition. For example, try
- Offering nutritious foods between meals. Encouraging small meals throughout the day can increase food intake.
- Improve mealtimes by making sure the elder does not eat alone. Make sure your loved one is seated next to someone he or she enjoys and gets along with if it’s a community setting.
- Talk to your doctor about adding nutritional supplements if your loved one is losing weight or not getting enough nutrition in his/her regular diet.
Don’t shortchange a loved one or yourself when it comes to nourishment. Contact Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 to find out about food assistance and nutritional counseling resources for seniors.