We talked about what’s a healthy weight in our last “Age Friendly” series post. In this post, we’ll discuss roadblocks or hurdles that might get in the way of eating healthy.
Shifting behavior toward eating healthier is not always easy. Change is difficult, but small changes can add up to feeling better and being healthier. Let’s take a look at common roadblocks, as noted by the National Institute of Aging (NIA), that might prevent you from taking even the first steps towards changing your eating pattern.
Tired of cooking or eating alone
Planning, shopping, preparing, cooking and cleanup can be tiresome. And if you are eating alone, you might not be as motivated to cook for yourself. So, NIA suggests looking for ways to get together with others for meals, including: potluck meals with friends or neighbors; cooking with a friend; food delivery services; or going to a nearby senior center, community center or perhaps your place of worship for community meals. By taking part in community events, you can save money and enjoy fellowship with others living in your community.
Problems chewing or swallowing food
If you are avoiding some foods because they are difficult to chew or swallow, talk with your healthcare provider about what might be causing the problem. We also offer an “Age Friendly: Swallowing Problems and Texture Modification” class (and other related classes) that can help you. Find a date and location that suits you at eventbrite.com/cc/109079.
Physical problems can make it difficult to eat
Certain conditions and illnesses, such as a stroke or Parkinson’s disease, can present challenges in cooking and feeding yourself. Talk with your doctor about options, including obtaining the services of an occupational therapist. The therapist can give you exercises to strengthen your muscles, along with ideas on special utensils and plates to help make food preparation and mealtime easier.
Food tastes different
Taste and smell are important for a healthy appetite. But, if the foods you used to enjoy no longer appeal to you, it might not be the cook. As we age, our senses can (and often do) change. You might have dental problems that affect your sense of taste. Sometimes, certain medications can affect how food tastes. Try adding fresh herbs and spices to your dish to perk up the flavor. But, avoid the temptation to add more salt to your food.
As we age, our body goes through changes that can cause people to feel fuller sooner. Lack of appetite can also be a side effect of certain medications. Talk with your healthcare professional about your situation. Also, try to increase your activity level to increase your appetite. And, make your meals more appealing by adding variety and color to your plate. Try something new, whether a new fruit, vegetable, seafood, seasoning or a new recipe.
Too sad to eat
Feeling unhappy and depressed can cause a lack of appetite. Having feelings of sadness once in a while is normal. But, if these feelings persist, talk to your doctor. For more information, read NIA’s “Depression and Older Adults.”
Food allergies or dietary restrictions
You might be allergic to nuts/peanuts, dairy or wheat, just to name a few. Or, you might have dietary restrictions for religious, ethical or personal reasons. It is still possible to make healthier food choices. Here some resources to help:
- Gluten sensitivity/allergy: medlineplus.gov/glutensensitivity.html
- Vegetarian/vegan: www.nutrition.gov/topics/basic-nutrition/eating-vegetarian
Remember, small steps can add up. You are never too old to begin making those changes to your daily lifestyle. Incorporate those smart food choices in your life, and begin to see the benefits those changes make.
Next in our Age Friendly series, we will be putting it all together.