This morning, I had the pleasure of presenting alongside one of my heroes, “Nurse Nancy” Harmon at the Solid Ground Balance class at the Hilliker YMCA. Along with staying strong and flexible as you age, good nutrition can also help prevent falls. Good nutrition can also help prevent fractures if you do happen to fall.
There are plenty of barriers to healthy eating as you age, but they don’t have to become complete roadblocks. Let’s look at some of the issues that can get in the way.
1) “Food tastes different now.” As you age, your sense of smell and taste can change. Medical conditions like Parkinson’s disease can cause a reduced sense of smell. Side effects of medications can also affect taste and smell. If you are struggling with that, ask your doctor if there is an alternate medication that may work. Taste changes can lead to the overuse of salt to flavor foods, which can affect blood pressure and heart health.
2) “Food gets stuck in my throat, especially meats.” If you find that food gets stuck in your throat, it could be that you are making less saliva. This can be a side effect of medications or a sign of dehydration. Try sipping liquids with meals, moistening your meats with broth or gravy, and cutting food into small pieces before eating.
3) “Meat is so hard to chew now, so I just don’t eat it.” If you are having issues with your teeth or dentures, you might be missing out on important nutrients found in some harder to chew foods, like meat, fruits, and vegetables. Discuss these issues with your dentist, instead of just limiting your diet.
4) “I’m just not as hungry as I used to be.” Sometimes a lack of appetite can be related to a medical condition or a new medication. If that is an issue for you, be sure to bring it to your doctor’s attention. Try increasing your physical activity—exercise is great for your whole body, and it increases your appetite!
5) “It’s a lot of trouble to cook a meal for just me.” Those who eat alone frequently may have trouble making nutritious choices. Eating is a social experience! Try having a potluck with friends once a week, or consider having a meal at a senior community center.