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Nutrition Challenges When You're Older or Sick

10 strategies for overcoming loss of appetite.

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.

7. Consider Nutrition Drinks and Liquid Meal Replacements

By providing balanced nutrition in an easy-to-consume form, liquid meal replacements can help you make sure you’re getting the nutrients and calories you need. Your doctor or dietitian can discuss options that are appropriate for you.


8. Drink Plenty of Liquids

Dehydration can dampen appetite, so it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of liquids.

Choose beverages that contain calories, such as fruit, vegetable juices, or soft drinks with sugar.

9. Graze on Snacks Throughout the Day

If you don’t feel like eating very much when you sit down regularly scheduled meals, try eating smaller amounts more often throughout the day.

“Eating a small snack can actually spur appetite, making you a little hungrier when you sit down to your next meal,” says Wellman.

10. Get Meals Delivered to Your Home

Most communities have service organizations that provide meals to older people, either delivered at home or served in community senior centers. If you’re not well enough to prepare meals yourself, check with your local social services to find out what options are available. Senior community food programs are open to anyone 60 and older, regardless of income level. If your doctor indicates that you aren’t able to leave the house, you can qualify for meal deliveries. 

Reviewed on May 04, 2012

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