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Healthy Eating and Older Adults

Overview

Good nutrition is important for older adults to help them stay strong and reduce the risk of disease. But as you get older, it can be harder to eat in healthy ways. If you have health problems or can't be active, you may not feel as hungry as you used to. You may not plan and make meals as often.

Here are common problems older adults have with healthy eating, along with some ideas for how to solve them.

Solutions to eating problems that older adults may have

If you have this problem:

Try these ideas:

You have a health problem that makes it hard to chew.

  • Choose canned or cooked fruit and vegetables, which tend to be softer than fresh ones.
  • Chop or shred meat, poultry, and fish. Try adding sauce or gravy to the meat to help keep it moist.
  • Choose other protein foods that are naturally soft, such as peanut butter, cooked dried beans, and eggs.

You have trouble shopping for yourself.

  • Find a grocery store that offers online ordering or home delivery service.
  • Ask a family member or neighbor to help you.
  • Contact a volunteer center and ask for help.
  • Pay someone to help you.

You have trouble preparing meals.

  • Use easy cooking methods, such as a microwave oven to cook TV dinners, other frozen foods, and prepared foods.
  • Take part in group meal programs offered through senior citizen programs.
  • Check for community programs that deliver meals to your home, such as Meals on Wheels.
  • Ask a friend or family member to help you.

You don't feel very hungry.

  • Try eating smaller amounts of food more often. For example, try having 4 or 5 small meals a day instead of 1 or 2 large meals.
  • Eat with family and friends, or take part in group meal programs offered in your community. Eating with others provides social interaction and may help your appetite.
  • Ask your doctor if your medicines could be causing appetite or taste problems. If so, ask about changing medicines. Or ask your doctor about medicines that may improve your appetite.
  • Increase the flavor of food by adding spices and herbs.
  • If you think you are depressed, ask your doctor for help. Depression can make you less hungry and can make it hard to do everyday activities like grocery shopping and preparing meals.

You are worried about the cost of food.

  • Find out if there are programs in your community that offer free or low-cost meals.
  • Find out if you can get food assistance benefits. Contact the National Council on Aging to find out what food benefit programs are available in your area.
  • Look into the U.S. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.
  • Buy low-cost nutritious foods, like dried beans, rice, and pasta. Or buy foods that contain these items, like split pea soup or canned beans.
  • Use coupons for discounts on foods.
  • Buy foods on sale and store-brand foods, which often cost less.
  • Buy shelf-stable foods in bulk or in large quantities.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

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