Having good nutrition is important at any age. But it is
especially important for older adults. Eating a healthy diet can help keep your
body strong and can help lower your risk for 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.
The following is a list of common
nutrition problems older adults have, plus some ideas for solutions.
Solutions to eating problems older adults may have
Ideas for solutions
You have health problems that make it hard to
Pick canned or cooked fruit and vegetables,
which tend to be softer.
Chop or shred meat, poultry, and fish. Try
adding sauce or gravy to the meat to help keep it moist.
protein foods that are naturally soft, such as peanut butter, cooked dried
beans, and eggs.
You have trouble shopping for
Find a local grocery store that offers home
Contact a volunteer center and ask for
Ask a family member or neighbor to help you.
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
Take part in group meal programs offered through senior
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 throughout the day instead of 1 or 2 large
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
Increase the flavor of food by adding spices and
If you think you are depressed and it is affecting your
appetite, 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
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 stamps. Call the food stamp
office listed in the state government section of the phone
Look into the U.S. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Buy low-cost nutritious foods, like dried beans, rice, and
pasta. Or buy foods that contain these items, like split pea soup or canned
Use coupons for discounts on foods.
on sale and store-brand foods, which often cost less.
shelf-stable foods in bulk or in large quantities.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2012). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Food and nutrition for older adults: Promoting health and wellness. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 112(8): 1255–1277. Also available online: http://www.eatright.org/About/Content.aspx?id=8374.
Barberger-Gateau P, et al. (2007). Dietary patterns
and risk of dementia: The three-city cohort study. Neurology, 69(20): 1921–1930.
Katz DL (2008). Dietary recommendations for health
promotion and disease prevention. In Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 2nd ed., pp. 434–447. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S.
Department of Agriculture (2010). Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, 7th ed. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing
Office. Also available online:
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerRhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.