Aging has many effects on the human body — bone density decreases, vision can become impaired (or more impaired) and staying active can become more difficult with time. But one change that can be a surprise to both seniors and their caregivers is the impaired ability to smell and taste. This can lead to a loss of appetite and the risk of dietary deficiencies. Here’s how to make meals more appealing to seniors to ensure they eat well.
Loss of taste in seniors
For many seniors, this loss of taste can be a detriment to their psychological and physical health. Beginning around the age of 40 to 50, our taste buds begin to decrease. For those that do stick around, they begin to lose mass — or atrophy, like muscles that aren’t being used. This diminishing of the taste buds results in loss of taste sensations, usually starting with sweet and salty flavors, then progressing to bitter and sour flavors. While this may seem to be more of a loss of enjoyment of eating, it can seriously affect the diets of seniors.
4 Food tips to improve eating habits of the elderly
If a lack of taste receptors is creating a barrier for your senior parent or loved one, a course of action should be taken to ensure that a healthy diet is maintained despite the loss of flavor.
Experiment with new flavors
Salt is bad for healthy cholesterol levels, so experimenting with other flavors can be beneficial in making healthier eating decisions. Instead of salt- or sodium-laden condiments, try substituting lemon juice, curry, dill or other low-sodium seasonings.
Add color to meals
Preparing fruits, vegetables and grains that have a vibrant color can make food look more appealing on the plate. As a bonus, the more richly colored foods are higher in nutrients. In addition, substitute more common, less-seasoned vegetables with ethnic foods or regional dishes.
Use a variety of textures
Combining textures — crunchy and smooth, for example — during each meal can also make a meal seem more interesting and visually appealing. Pairings like meat with a rice dish or yogurt and granola can create a more appetizing plate for many seniors.
Strategically and creatively arrange foods
Food presentation plays a big role in whether a meal is appealing. Spread food out and use the entire plate to lay out meal items. Use the middle of the plate more — don’t push food to the sides.
Mealtime doesn’t have to be a chore for seniors. By making small enhancements to meals and presentation, food can be made more appealing to the senses — it just requires a little more thought and creativity than before.