As we age, many of us will develop some form of eating difficulty which can interfere with nutrition. Even though eating the right foods is crucial at any age, it truly becomes more important as we reach midlife and beyond. Consuming the right foods can boost energy, help to combat illness, and keep you emotionally balanced. Even though you can expect physical changes that can definitely affect how you enjoy foods, here’s how to cope with a few of the changes.
Metabolism: Your metabolism refers to a series of chemical processes in each cell that turns the calories you eat into fuel to keep you alive. Every single year over age 40 our metabolism slows down, we tend to become less active which is why we have to fight this every step of the way by moving. Hit the gym, walk, run, find the right exercise plan that will work for you and your schedule but just don’t sit there and do nothing!
Weakened senses: Folks who are older tend not to taste things like they used to when they were younger. A loss of sensitivity to salt and things that are bitter will kick in at some point. So what happens is that older adults will tend to use more salt in their foods which can be detrimental especially if high blood pressure is involved. If you’re finding that your taste buds are leading you in the wrong direction salt-wise, try using more herbs and spices to replace the need for sodium.
Medications: There are many medications on the market that can affect appetite and taste which can result in the use of too much sugar or salt. If you are finding that your taste buds have been altered, bring this up with your doctor who can perhaps tweak your meds to remedy the problem.
Digestion: When digestion slows as you age, there is less saliva and stomach acid, and when this happens, the body has difficulty processing certain vitamins and minerals like B6, B12, and folic acid. A sluggish digestion can cause bloating, gas and constipation. You can aid digestion by drinking more water, eating rich sources of fiber like whole grains, nuts, berries, oats and crunchy veggies like carrots and celery. And don’t forget to exercise; even 15 minutes of walking can speed up digestion. Speeding up digestion will relieve the uncomfortable feeling of fullness and other undesirable symptoms.
Low appetite: If your appetite has changed, medication could be the culprit. Talk with your doctor about your loss of appetite. Try experimenting with different spices to jazz up your usual fare.
Chewing issues: If your dentures give you the blues every time you eat, speak with your dentist as they might need to be readjusted for a proper fit. If crunching bothers you, try steaming veggies, boiling pasta a little longer and eating soft foods like rice, couscous, potatoes, yams, and yogurt. Try drinking smoothies that are healthy and made with fresh veggies, fruits and protein powder.
Dry mouth: Reduced saliva flow is common among older folks. Sometimes dry mouth is brought on by a range of causes and the condition can range from it being a small annoyance to it having a major impact on your general health. Speak with your doctor if you are experiencing dry mouth and they can work with you towards a solution. There are prescription mouthwashes, artificial saliva or moisturizers that actually lubricate your mouth. A doctor might also prescribe a medicine that stimulates saliva. In addition to a doctor’s recommendations to help remedy dry mouth, you can also try sipping water or sucking on ice chips, chewing sugar-free gum, sucking on hard candies, or adding a room humidifer to moisten the air.
Change your food routine: Eating difficulties can sometimes also be the result of just plain boredom with your diet. Try new foods and get inspiration by visiting a farmer’s market, watching a cooking show, buying spices you’ve never tried before or getting recipe ideas from your circle of friends. Try a home food delivery service like Hello Fresh or Home Chef. Meals on Wheels also provide nutritious meals to people who are homebound and/or disabled.
You might also want to try taking leftovers and using them to create yet another meal, like in soups, stews, or stir-fries. Whip up a base with broth or by sautéing onion and garlic, then add any leftovers you have. Throw in some meat or veggies to give the dish more substance. Try putting your new creation into a tortilla shell or a burrito, then add some cheese, sour cream or salsa and you’ve got a Mexican dish–Ole!