The Scale Tells It All −The Importance of a Healthy Weight for Seniors

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Donna Mae Scheib

The Scale Tells It All −The Importance of a Healthy Weight for Seniors

Posted by Donna Mae Scheib on June 26, 2018

The Scale Tells It All −The Importance of a Healthy Weight for Seniors

For many older adults, maintaining a healthy weight is difficult. Often times, their appetites diminish and their preferences for certain foods change as they age. They lose their sense of taste. These factors can all lead to weight loss, thus, posing additional health concerns as proper nutrition is essential for optimal health. In fact, research studies show that seniors who have a healthy diet and are in a healthy range of weight reduce their risk of certain cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis. They have more energy and engage in more activity.

What are some suggestions on how to help a senior maintain a proper weight?

  • Make sure the majority of foods served at each meal are a mixture of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water.
  • Try to have the senior eat three meals a day on a regular basis.
  • Offer a variety of healthy foods.
  • Avoid foods with lots of calories but few nutrients (soda, alcohol, cake, cookies, and other baked goods).
  • Select foods that are low in fat, saturated fat (usually from animals), and trans-fat (found generally in processed foods, shortening and margarine).
  • Add snacks throughout the day (mid-morning, mid-morning, and early evening).

What if they refuse to eat?

  • Incorporate some of their favorite foods into each meal.
  • Find foods that are both easy to eat and digest.
  • Make the foods and drinks visually appealing.
  • Talk to their physician about adding a nutritional supplement (e.g., Ensure, Boost, Carnation Instant Breakfast) to their meals for added calories and nutrition/vitamins.
  • Assign them tasks to help in the kitchen. They will undoubtedly feel useful and will be more apt to eat some of the foods that are prepared.
  • Start a small garden (indoor or outdoor) with their involvement and then harvest the fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
  • Pair foods/drinks with special events and activities (e.g., watching a sports competition or movie on television, going on an outdoor picnic, studying a foreign country).

What are some foods that help support a healthy weight?

Avocados – Avocados are high in calories and have a creamy rich texture. They can be added to smoothies, salads, and sandwiches or used as a spread on toast.

Nut butter (almond butter, cashew butter, and peanut butter) – Nut butter also have a creamy rich tasty texture. The butter is easier than the actual raw nut to digest. Use the nut butter for dipping assorted fruits and vegetables or mix in a bowl of hot cream of wheat or oatmeal. The nut butter can be served on a slice of warmed bread or toast for an easy breakfast or go-to snack.

Coconut products – Coconut milk can be added to hearty stews, creamy soups, and curry-based dishes as a substitute for the milk or water. You can also try substituting coconut oil for vegetable oil and olive oil for salads and for general stovetop cooking or baking.

Dairy products – Dairy products are another calorie-dense option. Forego the skim milk or low-fat dairy products that boast less fat and calories in cottage cheese, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, and ice cream. Instead, use the “full fat” counterparts to add considerable calories. For example, use full-fat milk to make smoothies for breakfast and snacks, and consider using Greek yogurt (e.g., full-fat plain) as a substitute for sour cream.

Starches (potatoes and assorted whole grains) are staples when it comes to weight gain. Prepare one starch for each meal (e.g., whole-wheat penne, baked potatoes with cheese and sour cream). Experiment with dressing up the starch with caloric-rich toppings to make the taste more appealing as well as to add calories. For example, olive oil can be added to pasta to increase calories and pesto can be substituted for other condiments (e.g., used instead of a pasta sauce or poured over fish and chicken dishes).

In Conclusion

In general, seniors often have a general loss of appetite and disinterest in food. This is attributed to many factors. Thus, significant weight loss is common for this age group which can lead to increased health problems and lack of energy. It is best to be proactive in helping seniors get the daily nutrition they need so they can best maintain a healthy weight and, in turn, have more of a chance for optimal health as they age. 

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