National Family Caregiver Month
When caring for a loved one, there are many tasks that need to be juggled, including preparing meals and being sure they are getting adequate nutrition.
Older adults are at risk of not eating enough. 15% of people over 65 may unintentionally lose weight. Some factors that may lead to a decrease in food intake are fatigue, health issues, medications, limited income, age related taste changes, safety concerns with the stove/oven, depression, or psychological factors.
Here are some signs that a loved one isn’t eating enough:
• Smaller portion sizes or eating fewer meals per day
• Changing weight trends that happen quickly or weight loss that is unintentional
• Loss of muscle, often seen in the arms, face, or around the collarbone
• Weakness and/or fatigue
Ways to encourage them to eat more:
- Keep protein foods readily available such as peanut butter, tuna, cheese, yogurt, and hard boiled eggs. Other sources that contain high amounts of protein are fish, chicken, and beans. Getting enough protein in the diet is important to maintain muscle mass and promote wound healing.
• Try to make protein 1/4 of the plate for each meal. For example, 6 oz of Greek yogurt with breakfast, half cup beans with lunch, 3 oz of chicken with dinner.
- Have fruits and veggies ready to eat. They are packed with vitamins and minerals that help lower the risk for diseases. Steam veggies so they are softer and easier to eat. An easy way to do this is with the microwave!
• Fruits and veggies should be 1/2 of the plate for each meal, so about two cups of fruit and three cups of veggies each day. They are easy to incorporate into main dishes or as a simple snack!
- Whole grains are a good source of fiber which helps protect the heart and keeps us regular. Try to include brown rice, oatmeal, and whole grain crackers, cereals, pastas, and breads.
• Whole grains should be 1/4 of the plate for each meal. For example, have oatmeal with breakfast, whole grain bread in a sandwich for lunch, and whole grain pasta with dinner.
- Recognize food preferences your loved one has. If they are able to eat what they prefer, they will be more likely to eat. Doctors recommend serving smaller portions as large portions of food can be discouraging.
- Make meal time a time to socialize. Try eating together and have a conversation. Your loved one is more likely to eat more when eating with others than when eating alone. Avoid disagreements about eating. Arguing about food will only discourage them from wanting to eat.
- Find supports such as Food Share benefits, Homebound Meals, or other options that provide meal prep and other care in the home.