No matter how old we are, a well-balanced diet is one of the keys to a healthy and active life. It is, unfortunately, quite challenging for caregivers to ensure that their care-receivers receive optimal nutrition, especially when age-related issues that affect eating arise. Here are some life hacks to help caregivers continue to help their loved ones make the most out of every meal.
Slowly replace ‘white’ (processed) grains with whole grains.
Whole grains contain more dietary fibre and nutrients compared to ‘white’ processed grains, so they are definitely the better option. The taste, texture and colour may take some getting used to, so start small by mixing white rice with whole grain (e.g. brown rice). Over time, increase the amount of whole grain while decreasing the amount of processed grain.
Make sure that your loved one drinks at least 8 glasses of water a day.
This will help keep dehydration at bay and avoid dry mouth. Don’t wait for your loved one to drink only when he or she is thirsty, as your loved one’s ability to detect thirst may decline with age. Instead, encourage them to drink at regular intervals.
Serve 3 portions of vegetables and 2 portions of fruits a day. Make sure to pick different colours each time.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in various nutrients and dietary fibre. Furthermore, they contain unique protective substances (phytochemicals) that may offer many protective benefits against cancers, infections and more.
Experiment with tastes and flavours.
As your loved one loses his or her teeth or experiences a decreased sense of taste, meals may become a less enjoyable affair. So, experiment with herbs, marinades, spices and sauces to intensify the flavours.
Talk when you feed.
If your loved one needs assistance with eating, talk to him or her to keep mealtimes lively. This also allows you to bond closely with your loved one, as well as to help your loved one keep boredom, loneliness or even depression at bay.
Consider liquid foods when your loved one experiences difficulties in chewing and/or swallowing, or is suffering from malnutrition.
Studies show that ageing affects our nutritional needs. Therefore, your loved one may require less of certain nutrients in later life (such as carbohydrates and fats for energy), and require more of other nutrients (such as vitamins and minerals to boost the immune system). Coupled with issues that may arise such as problems in chewing and/or swallowing, this may leave your loved one vulnerable to malnutrition.
Liquid nutritional supplements may be useful as a stop gap measure to help your loved one meet his or her nutritional needs while these issues are being looked into by the doctor or dietitian.