The loss of appetite in older adults is often a topic brushed under the rug. To some extent, our loved ones may experience changes in tastes and preferences for food as they age. However, experiencing a loss of appetite over a long period is not part of the natural aging process. One major myth we should dispel is that older adults eat less because their metabolism has slowed down and so, weight loss and frailty are ‘natural’ occurrences. This is not true! A prolonged loss of appetite in our loved ones should not be ignored as it can result in malnutrition.
Appetite loss could be a warning signal for underlying health conditions that require immediate medical attention. Conditions like congestive heart failure, diabetes, depression, and gastrointestinal problems such as a stomach ulcer or bowel obstruction, are just several causes of a decreased appetite. If appetite loss is not dealt with, malnutrition can adversely affect the immune system and mortality rate in the long run. Combat the loss of appetite in your loved one by following these tips!
Serve Healthy Snacks
Having five or six smaller meals a day may benefit your loved ones and increase their calorie consumption. Taking in calories is essential for maintaining weight and nutrition. Serve healthy and nutritional snacks between meals and provide your loved ones with enough protein, carbohydrates, and fat to boost their metabolism.
Eat Colorful Foods
Did you know that colorful foods can help you live a longer, healthier life? Figuratively, by eating the colors of the rainbow, you can boost brain health and reduce the occurrence of heart disease! Blue and purple fruits and vegetables have high anthocyanin content, which is known to lower the risk of heart disease and type two diabetes. Flavones in yellow-colored food items can lower the risk of heart disease too. It can also improve brain health by preventing brain neurotoxicity, the cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
Improve Flavors with Herbs and Spices
Don’t shy away from bitter foods like kale, celery, rocket and green tea. You can use variations of spices and herbs to liven up the flavors of these foods for your loved ones, especially those who are on bland, restrictive diets. Spices and herbs are healthy alternatives for adding flavors to your dishes and making them more palatable. To add different benefits and textures to your loved one’s meal, you can also add parts of the plant like the leaves, fruit or root. It may also be a good idea to use favorite childhood snacks or comfort foods to appeal to those who are struggling with poor appetites.
Socialize during Meals
Boredom, loneliness, and social isolation may cause your loved ones to lose their appetites. Whenever possible, join your parents or grandparents during mealtimes! Invite them over for dinner or dine out with them. You can even explore new places to eat together once in a while! Alternatively, your loved ones can invite their friends over for a meal. By getting together during mealtimes, your loved ones will be given opportunities to socialize.
Laughter Is the Best Medicine
Whoever said that laughter is the best medicine is right! When we laugh more, our blood pressure falls and our immune system grows stronger. At the same time, laughter does wonders for our emotional wellness. When we laugh, our bodies also produce the appetite-stimulant hormone, ghrelin. As such, let your loved ones have fun during mealtimes! Watch a comedy, reminisce about amusing fond memories or share some tummy-tickling jokes with them. Sometimes, that is all it takes to lift their spirits and improve their appetites.