By Phoebe LaMont

As we age, it becomes even more important to be aware of what we eat in order to support our bodies. It is a basic step in keeping healthy and allowing the body to function as well as possible. However, it can be difficult to maintain a balanced diet, which can lead to malnutrition.

Malnutrition happens when the body doesn’t get enough fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals to function properly. Oftentimes, this shows in difficult-to-notice ways: slight memory loss, weakness, tiredness, and getting sick more easily – symptoms which we often attribute purely to aging. Malnutrition can also show up with more obvious symptoms, such as anemia, weight loss, and dental issues.

The solution to malnutrition may seem simple – eat right. However, the underlying causes are numerous and complicated. Many seniors have limited access to food, either because of tight budgets or inability to get to a grocery store. Additionally, restricted mobility can make preparing a meal difficult for many seniors.

Health issues can also lead to malnutrition. Some medications limit the bodies ability to absorb certain nutrients, or else affect how foods smell or taste. A repressed appetite is a common side-effect of important medications and depression. Some health conditions require a strict diet, which is often bland and unappetizing. Additionally, dental issues can make chewing painful.

Making nutritious choices need not be complicated. Try to fill your kitchen with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. Many grocery stores offer senior discounts to help with your food bill. Talk to your doctor about what your diet should look like, taking into account any health conditions and activity level.

When you’re cooking, use herbs and spices to improve flavor and make your food more interesting. Snack frequently on fruits, cheeses, smoothies, and healthy fats like peanut butter.

Try to stay active to improve your appetite. Try to make eating a social activity – have family, friends, or neighbors come over for meal. Many community centers offer lunches daily in a warm, inviting setting.

If preparing meals is a challenge, there are services that can deliver meals to your home or grocery shop for you. One of the most well-know is Meals on Wheels – find more information here.

For more information on nutrition and food access for older adults, follow the links below:

https://www.after55.com/blog/grocery-store-senior-discounts/

http://www.pcacares.org/services-for-seniors/food-meals/

https://familydoctor.org/preventing-malnutrition-in-older-adults/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/caregivers/in-depth/senior-health/art-20044699