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COMMON NUTRITION PROBLEMS FOR OLDER PERSONS

As we age, our food and nutrition needs change. Older persons can avoid many health problems through a proper, well-balanced diet. Without good eating habits, you are more likely to become sick. The clinical nutrition team at Magee has some information that can help, outlined under the following headings:

Loss of Taste and Smell

Sometimes, older persons lose some of their sense of taste and smell. This loss can lead to a loss of appetite. And when you have lost your appetite, you may not eat enough to meet your nutrition needs.

To spice up your appetite, prepare foods with more herbs and spices, but not more salt. Serve foods warm (not too hot or cold). Also, smoking can lessen your senses of taste and smell.

Chewing Problems

Many older persons have diets which are low in protein, because they have trouble chewing meats. Protein is important in keeping the body strong, and it is used in healing damaged body tissue.

To make meat tender and easier to chew, cook it in water or broth (a pot roast). Try foods that are high in protein, such as ground turkey, tuna fish, cheese, and peanut butter.

Irregularity

Constipation is a common health concern among older persons. To avoid this problem, try eating whole-grain breads, low-sugar cereals, and pasta. Include a fruit or vegetable with all of your meals and snacks. Also, drink plenty of fluids (6-8 cups per day - water is best).

Obesity/ Weight Control

Being overweight is a serious health concern for everyone, including older persons. Too much body fat is linked to heart problems, breathing problems, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers.

To control your weight, try cutting down on the size of portions that you eat at meals. As an older person, your body does not need as much fuel.

  • Avoid fatty meats, such as sausage, bacon, and lunch meats.
  • Avoid gravy and mayonnaise. Flavor your meats with ketchup or mustard. Limit the amount you eat of butter, margarine, cream cheese, sour cream, and salad dressing.
  • Switch to new, low-fat versions of high-fat foods.
  • For dessert, try your favorite fruits of a low-fat yogurt.

Buying Good Foods

Many healthy foods may seem expensive. Thus, if you are living on a "fixed income," healthy foods may not seem to fit in your food budget.

To get a handle on these costs, try shopping with family, friends, or neighbors. That way you can trade coupons and point-out sale items to each other. You may want to buy bulk products and split them with your shopping partners. Shopping as a group can save you money.

Also, many older persons are eligible for food stamps and programs like Meals on Wheels. For more information about food programs, contact your local aging agency or senior center. In Philadelphia, you can call the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging's Senior Help Line at 215-765-9040.

If preparing complete and balances meals is difficult, try sharing your cooking chores with a friend or neighbor. Occasionally, you can substitute a meal with easier foods such as:

  • Cereal and banana in skim milk
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Tuna sandwich with lettuce and tomato
  • A low-fat cheese and fruit platter