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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Nutrition Challenges When You're Older or Sick

10 strategies for overcoming loss of appetite.

3. Buy Prepared or Convenience Foods

“A growing list of pre-prepared foods at grocery stores make it easier than ever for older people to put together healthy and easy-to-fix meals,” says Niedert.

Many items are available that require a minimum of preparation, including pre-peeled carrots, frozen chopped spinach, salad greens, prepared sauces, and complete meals. Microwaves make prepared meals easy to cook at home.

And just because foods are convenient doesn’t mean they are less nutritious. Vegetables, for example, lose nutrients the longer they sit around after they are picked. So frozen vegetables sometimes contain more nutrients than fresh vegetables that have sat around for days.

4. Try New Flavors and Foods

When taste buds lose their sensitivity and appetite wanes, it’s often hard to get excited about eating. As an antidote, expand the variety of your menu by adding foods or flavors you haven’t tried before.

If new foods don’t sound appealing, take another tack. Choose “comfort foods” that you’ve enjoyed in the past.

“Many of us have emotional connections to certain foods or dishes. When you’re experiencing loss of appetite, those connections can help make food more appealing,” says Wellman.

5. Spice Up Your Meals

If you’re not hungry because food tastes bland, try adding extra spices and other flavors.

Add a spoonful of your favorite fruit preserves to yogurt, for instance, or a dash of mixed herbs to a simple pasta dish.

Make meals more appealing by choosing brightly colored fruits and vegetables.

6. Add Calories to Foods Wherever You Can

If you are underweight, use creative ways to add calories to dishes, especially when you’re ill, says Niedert.

Switch from skim milk to 2% or even whole milk, for example. Add extra butter or olive oil to casseroles or pasta meals. Use half & half on your cereal. Add corn syrup to juice.

Don’t try these tips if you have diabetes, clogged arteries, or are overweight. Seniors with medical conditions affected by food should develop a nutrition plan with their doctors.

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