As your loved one ages, they may experience physical and psychological changes which can affect their nutrition. Some of these changes can worsen their health and wellbeing if they don't act on the signs. Fortunately, there are ways we can help the elderly age well. Join Health Food Matters, the leading brand for elder-friendly soft foods, as they explore 5 quick ways to improve nutrition in the elderly.
1. For those suffering from constipation
Constipation is common and results in a lot of discomfort, pain, and bloatedness. Here’s what you can do to tackle constipation:
- Add more fibre to your diet. Good sources of fibre are whole grain breads and cereals, oats, beans, fruits and vegetables. Add them to meals and soups.
- Drink at least 8 to 10 cups of fluids daily. Soups, milk, juices and fresh fruits and vegetables that are high in water content also count. Limit tea, coffee and colas as they can cause the body to lose more water.
- Keep physically active. Go for a walk and do some light exercises to help stimulate bowel movement.
- Use natural laxatives like prune and pear juice to help with bowel movements. Artificial laxatives often come with side effects and cause dependence in the long run.
- Try a natural dietary fiber supplement to help keep the bowels regular and maintain digestive health.
2. For those suffering from dehydration
- Drink water or other fluids regularly throughout the day.
- Some medications can cause dehydration and cause fluid imbalance in the body. Keep yourself updated on the types of medications you require, so that you can be prepared to deal with the fluid loss.
- Consider hydrating jellies which can help to replenish fluids and provide much needed electrolytes to the body.
- For those who require help with fluid and mouth care, keep lips moist with Vaseline, water-soluble gels or lip balm. Use a moist cloth, soft toothbrush or plain mouth swab to wipe the mouth. Avoid glycerine or alcohol products, which can dry the mouth further.
- If caring for someone with hydration problems, mist the mouth with water to help them hydrate. Offer ice chips or popsicles if there are no chewing or swallowing issues.
- Seek medical help for incontinence so that you are less likely to avoid fluids.
3. For those who have low appetite and are losing weight
- As we age, we end up with a weaker sense of smell and taste. Therefore, strong-tasting food can help to stimulate appetite. Use flavourful oils, vinegar, soy sauce, curry, chilli to amp up the taste.
- Eat protein at every meal ( e.g. pork, lamb, mutton, beef, chicken, fish, nuts, legumes such as baked beans, soybean curd, soy milk, red/green beans, eggs and tofu).
- Have dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt which are high in calcium and protein. If you're lactose intolerant, you can try soy milk, calcium fortified foods, tofu, sardines and other fish with edible bones and dark green, leafy vegetables like kai lan and spinach.
- Eat smaller but more frequent meals and snacks throughout the day rather than the traditional 3 large meals.
- Eat high-energy snacks throughout the day (e.g. puddings, jellies, buns and similar local snacks like yam cake or chwee kueh ) Fat and sugar are concentrated sources of calories so these energy dense foods should keep you from losing further weight.
- Add peanut butter, jam, honey or maple syrup to your morning breakfast to bulk up the calories.
- If you are unable to cook for yourself or find it difficult to manage your meals, it may be easier to engage a meal support service that reduces your risk of malnutrition and allows you to remain happily living in your home.
- Use nutrition supplements to help bulk up your calorie intake. Have them in between meals.
- Monitor your weight regularly and keep a record of your weight changes. If your clothes start to feel loose, this can also indicate weight loss.
- Get a referral to a Dietitian to assess the problem as they can recommend a meal plan that will help you recover from malnutrition.
- Make meal time a social event. Eat with your family or caregiver. Having food with company is more likely to get you to eat more.
4. For those with weakness and muscle loss
- One of the best ways to slow down age related muscle loss is get active. Resistance training with muscle-strengthening exercise slows down and reverses Sarcopenia ( age related muscle loss). Regular daily exercise such as walking, swimming, tai chi and stretching can stimulate appetite and strengthen bones and muscles. Consult your doctor before attempting any new exercises.
- Ensure you eat enough protein and iron rich foods at every meal so that your body can produce enough muscle and prevent anemia.
- Injury or inflammation to the body ( such as chronic or long-term diseases like heart disease, cancer or osteoarthritis) can speed up muscle loss. Work with your doctor on addressing the condition or disease to prevent further muscle deterioration.
- Omega- 3 fats helps to heal the body by decreasing inflammation. Aim to regularly include foods rich in omega-3 such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel and sardines), nuts and seeds and plant oils such as soybean and canola oil in your diet.
5. For those with excess weight and chronic diseases
If you are overweight or obese and have a chronic condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol problem, it’s more important to tackle the disease markers first rather than going for drastic weight loss.
Adopting healthy eating habits will help to bring down sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure levels and in turn help maintain a healthy weight.
Eat less salt to control high blood pressure
- It is important to limit food and drinks containing added salt. Excess sodium in the body (found in salt and salty foods) raises blood pressure and may put you at risk of a stroke or kidney problems.
- Foods such as salted snacks, soups and gravies and processed foods such as hot dogs, luncheon meat or stock cubes are high in sodium and should be reduced.
- When cooking at home, use whole spices, lemon juice or natural seasonings such as shallots, onions, garlic and parsley to spice up the cooking instead of adding salt.
- Minimize the number of times you eat out as most food sold outside is highly salted.
- When dining out, ask for less gravy, avoid drinking the soup and limit preserved foods such as salted egg and salted fish.
- When purchasing foods, choose foods that have the ‘Healthier Choice’ symbol or those labeled ‘Low in Sodium’ or ‘No Added Salt’.
Mind the fat to manage heart disease
High saturated and trans fat foods can contribute to high cholesterol levels, and this increase one’s risk of stroke or heart attack. Limit:
- Fatty meats (pork/mutton/beef)
- Skin and fat on chicken or duck
- Canned or processed meats (sausage, salami or luncheon meat).
- Deep fried foods
- Full cream milk and dairy products
- Coconut milk/oil and coconut products
- Foods containing butter, palm oil, ghee or lard
- Potato chips, pastries, cookies and cakes
- Margarine and shortenings
- Organ meats
Smart carbohydrate choices to control diabetes
In general, people with diabetes are more likely to get a stroke and renal disease than those without. Therefore, it's important to choose healthier types of carbohydrates to control blood sugar levels.
- Have whole grain/brown varieties of bread, rice, noodles, pasta and oatmeal.
- Limit refined grains such as white flour, white rice, pastry and sweetened breakfast cereals.
- Add starchy vegetables (pumpkin, sweet potatoes, corn) and legumes ( beans, lentils, split peas) to your diet. They provide a steady stream of carbohydrates to the body and don't spike blood sugar levels.
- Have more fruits and colourful vegetables (e.g.spinach, kale, chye sim, nai bai, tomato, capsicum and brinjal) to your daily diet.
- Limit sweetened canned/packet drinks, bubble milk tea and the like
- Limit canned fruit with syrup, dried fruit coated with sugar/honey/juice concentrates, fruit punch or fruit juice
Do you have a loved one who needs nutritious food that is easy to chew and palatable for their taste buds? Visit CaregiverAsia's E-store to view Health Food Matters' Delisoft Easy Meals that come in different textures and can be easily served by reheating in the microwave or steamer!