Healthy eating is part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Getting the right vitamins and minerals in our diet can help us feel healthy and energized but it can also help us ward off or manage health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Healthy eating may even help to manage memory loss and depression.
But, for seniors, maintaining a healthy diet can be unexpectedly complicated by life’s circumstances.
Here’s a look at 5 reasons why healthy eating can be difficult and some practical solutions to make it easier!
5 Reasons Why Healthy Eating Is Difficult As You Age
1) Changes to the Body
As people age, their appetite naturally decreases. For starters, the body requires fewer calories which means less food, but there are several other things that can contribute to reduced appetite.
Some medications have side effects that can reduce appetite. While dental problems and digestive upsets may also increase the challenge of healthy eating.
And with the dulled sense of taste and smell that comes with aging, food may be less appealing.
Solution: Try to narrow down the route of the problem. If, for example, it is a dental issue, talk to your dentist or denturist to find a workable solution. If you believe it is a result of medication, ask your doctor if there is another medication that provides the same benefits without this particular side effect. If a reduced sense of taste is the culprit, try to add some more seasoning to your food to enhance the flavour.
2) Dietary Restrictions
For seniors with chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and/or kidney disease, a healthy diet is essential for disease management.
But, changing lifelong dietary habits can be hard and for some, and a point of contention for others. Not everyone fully understands the reasons for the dietary change and not everyone cares. Some people just want to eat what they eat and not make a change at all.
Solution: Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to this one. If a dietary change is recommended, it should be followed. But, if you are struggling to understand the reasons or aren’t sure how to make the changes, talk to your doctor about meeting with a dietitian. A dietitian can provide practical advice on how to make the change.
If you are committed to the change but need help keeping flavour and variety in your foods, there are many recipe blogs online with tasty meals that will fit your new diet. And take a little time to browse the cookbooks at the bookstore. There are many books written for specific health conditions and you’ll be amazed at how many exciting options there are.
3) Difficulty Cooking or Shopping
For people with mobility concerns, vision challenges, or lack of transportation, getting to a store and walking the aisles can be a problem. Even if people can get to the store, these conditions can mean a short shopping trip, grabbing a few things and getting out as quickly as possible.
For some, cooking may be the problem. Perhaps arthritis has made it tough to grip things like knives and low vision makes it hard to read ingredients or read settings on the stove or microwave.
Solution: If you have a loved one or neighbour, reach out to them to see if they can pick up a few essentials for you when they shop. Most grocery stores offer some type of delivery service and since the pandemic, some local organizations have taken it upon themselves to provide grocery delivery. If you are looking for more information on these programs, call the Council on Aging.
For those with cooking concerns, consider ordering prepared meals from the Seniors Association. These meals can be stored in the freezer and require nothing more than a microwave. Frozen meal offerings from local restaurants or even Meals on Wheels can help.
4) Financial Concerns
Retirement living can mean a reduced income and a tight budget. When concerned about money, buying heaps of healthy food can seem impossible. Processed packaged meals, while often unhealthy, are both cheaper and more convenient.
Solution: Healthy eating on a budget requires planning and a little creativity. Consider buying generic brands, shopping at discount grocery stores, clipping coupons, and shopping sales. When essential items are on sale, stock up and store the extras in the pantry or freezer. Make a list every time you go to the store and stick to that list. Often, adding extras here and there can increase costs. Buying lots of fruits and vegetables can help too. These foods are healthier and they are often full of things like fibre that will keep you feeling fuller, longer. So while they may seem more expensive, they provide more bang for your buck.
5) Eating Alone
Preparing meals for one can zap motivation. If you have recently lost a loved one, this can be even more difficult. For many of us, food can be a social affair and when we are on our own, we just aren’t interested.
Solutions: While the pandemic has made socializing difficult, easing restrictions mean an increase in opportunities! Consider planning a regular, rotating meal with friends or family. You can rotate homes and/or cooks, or you can host in your own home and get everyone involved in the process. This perfect if you consider cooking an act of love. Explore community dining groups or plan to meet friends on a regular basis at your favourite restaurant. Should the pandemic prevent gathering, consider eating together online via Zoom. Using this format, you can even teach one another how to prepare your favourite dishes!